On Dec 29 2013, the Miami Dolphins were one win away from playoff contention when the New York Jets came to town for a Week 17 divisional matchup. The Dolphins infamously choked that game away and missed their shot at postseason contention.
Now these two teams will meet nearly a year later. Both teams are eliminated from the playoffs, but these two teams are on completely different paths. Miami (8-7) is on an upswing, in large part due to the emergence of Ryan Tannehill, and the Jets (3-12) are getting ready to fire their head coach and general manager after a major regression in wins from last season.
Here is what you need to watch for when these two teams crash helmets for the sake of winning one last time in 2014:
1. Trench play
This game will likely highlight what Miami needs to add in the offseason. And that is a mauling interior lineman and a nose tackle.
The Jets interior defensive line, the "Sons of Anarchy" as they were once called, is full of game-wreckers. Coincidentally, that's where the weakness of Miami's offensive line lies. The line will be exposed as some point in this game, likely more than once. The Dolphins just have to stop the Jets defensive line from destroying their offensive gameplan.
The Jets ran for 277 yards when these two teams met in New York on the first of the month. The Jets gameplan was to run the ball. Whether that was due to lack of confidence in quarterback Geno Smith or confidence in their power running game against Miami's smaller defensive line is unknown, but I'd be willing to bet both factor in. For that reason, we can expect to see a similar offensive attack from the jets, but with a lot more...
2. Play action
If the Jets have a lick of brains they will run play-action off of the successful run attempts they have, something they didn't do as much when these two teams met in early December.
The Jets had a clear advantage in the run game in that contest. It's a mystery to me why they didn't try to fool the Dolphins linebackers with play action and take advantage of the vacated space in the middle of the field.
I don't expect the Jets to make that mistake again, especially with the Dolphins depleted secondary. Jeremy Kerley or Percy Harvin will have a big game off of play action passing plays.
3. Another Tannehill takeover
Now that he's done it once, there's no reason to expect he can't do it every time. That is the new expectation if we are crowning him as franchise QB after the Minnesota Vikings game.
Tannehill's 396-yard, four touchdown performance against the Vikings in which he led his team to a dramatic fourth quarter victory was just the beginning. Now, we need to see Tannehill play that well every week.
4. A strong finish
The Dolphins haven't been able to close this year. But a new mindset for 2015 can be built today. The Dolphins need to learn to close out games and successfully doing so in vs the Jets will provide a platform to build from. The season was a disappointment, but the tone for 2015 can be set in this game. The Dolphins need to make it a positive tone.
It's been a roller coaster ride of a season, one that's caused some of us to hop off feeling a bit queasy. But it's the last game of the season, nothing at stake but pride. Here's to hoping the Dolphins send themselves and their fanbase off into the 2014 sunset as winners.