Every week I make these posts highlighting the main ingredients for a Miami Dolphins win. But I never go back and take a look at whether or not my thoughts were even remotely accurate.
Unfortunately for the Dolphins, last week's "recipe" to beat the Browns was actually pretty darn accurate. This week, I'm going to say that there's a good chance the "recipe" will again be pretty accurate - mainly because these are very obvious keys. It's just a matter of if the Dolphins can execute and do what needs to be done to leave what will be a very soggy Meadowlands with a much needed victory.
The weather is where we start this week:
1. Make the Jets one-dimensional. This is obviously a no-brainer and has been the defensive key for the Dolphins for the past several weeks. In fact, their sudden resurgence against the run the couple of weeks has been the prime reason that the defense is now the fourth ranked defense in the NFL. They are now giving up under 100 yards per game on the ground and are tied for fifth in yards allowed per carry (3.7) - thanks to holding Darren McFadden to just two yards rushing and following that up by holding Peyton Hillis to just 57 on the ground.
The Jets, meanwhile, are the fourth ranked rushing offense in the NFL and gashed the Dolphins for 146 rushing yards back in their week three meeting. The Jets base their entire offense around their ability to run. With the weather expected to be an issue on Sunday in Jersey - mid 40s and lots of rain - the Jets will take to the ground and limit the number of times Mark Sanchez has to throw the football.
There's good reason for NY to limit their pass attempts, too. In their three losses this year, Sanchez has completed only 47% of his passes and has no touchdowns to go with his five interceptions. And speaking of turnovers, after starting the year with five consecutive games without an interception, Sanchez has thrown 11 interceptions in his last seven games - including at least one in every game over that span.
With the ball expected to be slick and the winds expected to be whipping, the Dolphins would really do themselves a favor by containing the Jets on the ground and forcing that NY offense to put the ball in Mark's hands. He's not built for this kind of weather. The Dolphins have to take advantage of that.
2. Limit Brad Smith's impact on the game. I'm going to be the first one to tell you that I'm going to be thrilled when the Jets lose Smith in free agency after the season. I can't stand playing against this guy. Come to think of it, I would love to see him in Miami next year. But that's a discussion for another time.
Here's what I know - Smith is an "X factor" every game. This season he's been outstanding in so many ways. But his biggest impact on a weekly basis is as a kick returner. Smith currently ranks third in the league, averaging over 27 yards per return, and has four returns of 40+ yards - including one touchdown.
And we're all aware of Miami's struggles to defend opposing returners. There's no need to rehash that.
But Smith impacts the game in other ways, too. Back in week three, Smith had one reception - an 11 yard catch on a 3rd & 10 to keep an eventual touchdown drive going. We also saw Smith's impact as a runner that game when Brad carried for 41 yards on three carries out of NY's version of the Wildcat. One of those, a 16 yard gain, converted a 3rd & 15 on another drive that eventually resulted in points for the Jets.
Brad Smith can impact the game in many ways. The Dolphins need to pay special attention to him on Sunday and limit his impact.
3. Pound the rock. For those that don't remember, that used to be a battle cry here at this site. We loved to watch the Dolphins run the football over and over while opposing defenses wore down. But the Dolphins haven't done too much of that in 2010 - thanks in large part to an offensive line that gets very little push at the point of attack and gives these backs no room to work. The Dolphins actually rank 25th in the league in yards per carry, averaging only 3.8 per attempt. That's borderline ridiculous and is obviously something that the team will address in the offseason.
Oddly enough, though, the Dolphins ran well back in week three against the league's third ranked rushing defense. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combined for 82 yards on the ground. Not a huge number by any means. But their 4.55 yard-per-carry average in that game was over a yard more than the Jets have allowed per carry all season.
Like I said, it's going to be cold, wet, and windy at the Meadowlands on Sunday. Some old-time power football will be necessary to leave Jersey with a win.