WHEN THE DOLPHINS RUN THE BALL
Reggie Bush was the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Week last week after gaining 172 yards on the ground against Oakland. That hangs a target on his back. It is clear that any defensive coordinator studying the Dolphins’ offense realizes that stopping the run will put the game on the shoulders of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a questionable group of receivers. That’s a much better choice than letting the NFL’s second-leading rusher have running room. So look for the Jets to pack the line of scrimmage and try to make Bush and his backup — either Lamar Miller or Daniel Thomas — nonfactors. The Jets are yielding 104 yards per game so far this season but the got lit up by C.J. Spiller in the opener when the Buffalo running back gained 169 yards on only 14 carries. That game is the reason Spiller leads the NFL in rushing over Bush. ADVANTAGE: Even.
WHEN THE DOLPHINS PASS THE BALL
If Darelle Revis plays as he is expected to, it could signal a long day for Miami receivers because he can basically erase either Brian Hartline (his likely matchup) or Davone Bess and give the rest of the secondary freedom to roll coverages or double other players. Without Revis, the skies would be much more clear. The Jets limited the Dolphins to only 128 passing yards the final game last season and still lost the game, but that was more a product of Mark Sanchez throwing three interceptions than the defense being unable to stop Miami from moving the football. It will be truly interesting to see how Tannehill fares against perhaps the most confusing defense he has ever faced. Ever. ADVANTAGE: New York.
WHEN THE JETS RUN THE BALL
The Jets have made a renewed commitment to “Ground and Pound.” Yeah, that’s been kind of overrated so far as the Jets are tied for 18th in the league in rushing the football. Shonn Greene produced his first 1,000-yard season in 2011 and averaged a respectable 4.2 yards per carry. But he is not a breakaway threat and his backup, Joe McKnight, has gotten only two carries this season. The major issue here is whether the Jets will unveil their much talked about Wildcat package, something offensive coordinator Tony Sparano brought with him from his days as the Miami head coach. So far, the package has been relatively dormant. The Dolphins have been outstanding against the run. They basically shut down both Arian Foster and Darren McFadden the past two weeks, so it’s a good bet they will be loaded up to stop Greene. ADVANTAGE: Miami.
WHEN THE JETS PASS THE BALL
To look at Sanchez’s numbers is deceiving. He has a 95 quarterback rating and has thrown four touchdown passes and only one interception. That suggests he’s doing well. But Sanchez simply isn’t very efficient. He’s completing only 53.7 percent of his throws and the Jets are the 24th-ranked team in the league in passing. Tight end Dustin Keller, who has been the security blanket of sorts for Sanchez in the past, has only one reception this year as the team is trying to target Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley more. Holmes is a legitimate threat — assuming he’s not whining and complaining in the huddle as he did during his last visit to South Florida. The Miami secondary has shown enormous holes in coverage the past two games. The fact Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer was inaccurate on a surprisingly high percentage of his throws saved the Dolphins from suffering more damage than they did. ADVANTAGE: Even.
Former Dolphins special-teams coach Mike Westhoff remains one of the best in the business. And as usual, he has core players such as Josh Bush and Kerley who seem to enjoy sacrificing body and soul for the team. Kerley had a 68-yard punt-return touchdown in the season opener. The Dolphins are seemingly the equals of the Jets’ special teams so far this season. They also have a punt-return touchdown from Marcus Thigpen, and Westhoff called kicker Dan Carpenter, punter Brandon Fields and long snapper John Denney one of the better groups of specialists in the NFL. Onside kick, anyone? ADVANTAGE: Even.
Rex Ryan knows how to prepare a great defense. Joe Philbin gained a reputation in Green Bay for being a fine offensive coach. Something’s going to give. The fact is, both staffs include former NFL head coaches and prized assistants. Interestingly, Ryan and his crew have had precious little success against Miami the past three seasons. They are 2-4, which is precisely the same record they managed against perennial division champion New England. We shall see if Philbin can maintain the advantage against Ryan that his predecessors enjoyed. ADVANTAGE: New York.