Unfortunately we don't get to enjoy any Miami Dolphins football today. Fortunately, we will see the team face the New York Jets on Monday Night Football in front of the entire nation. This is a great opportunity for the Dolphins to show the country what they are capable of, but also the type of must-win game that Dolphins teams of old have failed to produce in.
However, this year feels different. This Dolphins team has made obvious progression and is improving each week at many spots on the field. This team seems up to the challenge of facing a division rival in primetime to continue their playoff push. The feeling that the Dolphins will lay an egg is far less prominent then in past years.
That being said, the Dolphins still need to go out and play the game. And if Miami wants to avoid a disastrous and rather embarrassing loss to the 2-7 Jets on Monday night, they will need to key on these five Jets players:
1. RB Chris Ivory
Chris Ivory is a tank with the ball in his hands. Ivory is a punishing runner who requires multiple defenders to be brought to the turf and, despite being covered in bodies, still falls forward. The Dolphins will need to be ready to fundamentally tackle this guy and not allow any extra yards as they did against the Denver Broncos when they missed 14 tackles.
Ivory averages 4.5 yards per carry and is the Jets leading touchdown scorer with five. Ivory splits time with the dynamic Chris Johnson, so Miami will need to know who is in the game at all times in order to play them appropriately. Buckle their chin straps for Ivory, be ready to run for Johnson.
If the Jets get a power running game going with Ivory and are able to pound the ball down Miami's throats then it's going to be a closer game then many would expect.
2. DL Sheldon Richardson
Though the Dolphins dodged a bullet with Muhammed Wilkerson (who would've been on this list) not going on Monday night with a toe injury, they still have to deal with Sheldon Richardson, the 2013 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Richardson is a force on the inside of Rex Ryan's defense and could cause problems for the interior of the Dolphins offensive line. If Richardson is getting penetration, blowing plays up in the backfield to force negative gains and effecting down-and-distances then the Dolphins offense will have trouble. The plan is likely to tandem-block Richardson for most of the game to avoid that issue.
3. WR Percy Harvin
Percy Harvin, who will be playing his fifth game as a Jet, is the Jets' most explosive weapon on the field (though the aforementioned Chris Johnson is a close second).
The Jets use Harvin in many different ways. Since being traded to New York, Harvin has 18 receptions, 11 carries and has been returning kicks.
With the Dolphins thin at cornerback right now, Harvin could find himself open alot in this game. Harvin has potential to change a game with one play, so the Dolphins defense will need to key on Harvin whenever he is on the field.
4. SS Dawan Landry
Landry is an enforcer in the Jets secondary. Landry, at 6'1", 215 pounds, is a big hitter who is the second leading tackler on the Jets defense.
Landry isn't as effective as he once was now that he's 32 years old, but Landry is still a very good in-the-box safety who is part of the reason the Jets are the fourth ranked run defense.
Landry isn't afraid to stick his nose into the wash in the middle of the field and make a tackle. Landry will be key for the Jets in their attempt to stop the Dolphins running game.
5. WR Eric Decker
Eric Decker is the Jets most reliable and consistent weapon. Decker leads the team in receptions and reception touchdowns despite missing a game this season. But the thing Decker does is create a tough decision for the Dolphins defense.
Where do they field their shut-down corner Brent Grimes?
Will Grimes shadow Decker, leaving Harvin to be matched up with a less talented cornerback? Will Grimes stay on the left side of the field like normal and shut down that side of the field, leaving the right side susceptible to air attack?
It will be interesting to see what Miami does, but my guess would be to keep Grimes on the left and play primarily zone coverage, except in crucial game situations.
The Jets don't have many playmakers, but the ones they do have are dangerous. Miami needs to make sure they handle these few Jets' players and keep them from putting their stamp on this game.