The Miami Dolphins are 0-4 on the season against the AFC East, having already lost to both the New York Jets and New England Patriots once each and being swept in the two-game series by the Buffalo Bills. Miami can end that streak today with a road game against the Jets, a team Miami is 3-0 against in MetLife Stadium since 2012.
When Dolphins have the ball
The Dolphins have to bring back the running game. The temptation to pass will be there, especially against a secondary that will not have Darrelle Revis, but until the Dolphins offense gets back to running the ball regularly, they will continue to struggle moving the ball. Last week, running back Lamar Miller averaged 8.2 yards per carry in his limited first-half touches, but was simply taken out of the game by penalties and play calling. The Dolphins continue to get into third-and-long situations, but they will not use the fact that Miller can gain five yards per attempt (his season average right now) to get ahead of the chains early. Running the ball will be key this week, especially in a week where the top two receivers, Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews, both come into the game with potential limitations. Landry has a knee issue which slowed him all week in practice and Matthews has an illness which added him to the injury report on Saturday.
Getting Miller and rookie Jay Ajayi going early will help quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the passing game get into rhythm as well. If the defense has to worry about an effective running game, they cannot focus solely on getting pressure on Tannehill. The play action pass will become a weapon. The Dolphins can get ahead of the chains and not have to rely on throwing the ball on third-and-long every series, which should open up more of the playbook as well. The Dolphins were best this year when the screen pass was used early in downs, when the deep out-routes were used to move the ball in chunks, and when Miller was given the ball.
Too often the Dolphins set themselves into long-yardage situations, and turn to a two-yard pass to Landry to try to make the entire opposing defense miss him. Miami has to actually try throwing the ball past the sticks on third-down for once, if they want to actually convert third downs.
When the Jets have the ball
Miami has to stop Chris Ivory. That is really to what this game may come down. Ivory ran for 166 yards in Week 4 against the Dolphins defense. Changes to the head coach and defensive coordinator positions have happened since then, the Dolphins have, sometimes, been more aggressive, and they are starting to see Ndamukong Suh become the dominating, disruptive defensive tackle. All of that has to come together to force this game onto the shoulder of Ryan Fitzpatrick, rather than allowing Ivory to dominate again.
Fitzpatrick is starting to look more like the Fitzpatrick of the past 10 years, rather than the one who was putting up passer ratings over 90 seemingly every week (six times in the team's first eight games, including three over 100). He has four interceptions the last two games and is completing lass than 50 percent of his passes. Miami has to take advantage of mistakes from Fitzpatrick, with Brent Grimes and Reshad Jones getting back to their ball-hawking ways.
Miami's special teams have had their own issues as of late, with penalties or mental mistakes putting the team in a hole, both on offense and on defense. Plays like Landry's decision to let the ball bounce in the endzone on a kickoff cannot happen anymore. This week could be more interesting on special teams than normal, with Landry's knee potentially meaning the Dolphins have to use Damien Williams as a returner more than they would like. Whoever is back returning kicks and punts, they have to get the Dolphins better field position than what the team has had over the past few games. Until the Dolphins are starting out of the shadow of their own endzone, the offense will not be able to find a rhythm that actually moves the ball, rather than playing in an offense that just does not want to make a mistake and give up points - again.