There's only a day left on the countdown clock. The most anticipated game of the season is upon us. You can even throw out all of the verbal sparring that has gone down between these two teams over the past two seasons. Overlook the animosity between them, and we still have a huge division showdown with first place on the line.
If the Dolphins can get the job done at home, they will have a commanding two game lead over the "favorite" to win the AFC East, and an opportunity to land the Partiots an early round TKO next week. If the Jets win, though, it's certainly not the end of the world for the Dolphins, but the Jets would have beaten their two biggest competitors in the division in back-to-back weeks.
While Miami would be tied with an identical 2-1 record with the Jets, and probably the Patriots, they need to take care of business at home in the division. If not, they will likely have to go to New Jersey in December, and to New England in January, and pull off difficult victories on the road in frigid conditions to win the AFC East. A tall order to say the least.
That's not even mentioning how tough the Dolphins' first half of the season schedule is. After these two games at home, which are both pretty much toss-ups, they probably won't be favorites again until November. Even then, Tennessee and Chicago coming to town in succession are no easy wins.
The bottom line; despite having a one game lead in the division right now, it's no time to let up on the gas. A win tomorrow night is essential, not only because how bitter this rivalry is, but because the Dolphins can't afford a loss with the schedule they play, and the division they play in.
Avoid third and long situations
I have said it before, but it's so crucial I might as well say it again. The Jets are a great defense no matter what down it is, don't get me wrong. But it's how dominant they are on third down, that truly separates them from the pack. They are going to blitz everything but the kitchen sink, and, despite Revis being out of the lineup, are going to play great man to man converge on the outside. The pressure gets there too quickly to read the defense.
When you force the quarterback to make decisions instantaneously, you usually have the offense beat. That's why your only hope is to get the ball out quickly. Something like a slant won't likely pick up enough yardage for a first down, so a jump ball down the sideline becomes your best option. Brandon Marshall has done well against Cromartie in the past, and the Ravens exposed him on a few jump balls in Week 1, but I still think the Dolphins offense will operate much more smoothly if they can pick up solid yardage on first and second down. That really comes down to the running game.
We've seen some good signs from the ground attack in the first couple weeks, especially against an elite front seven in Minnesota, but we've also seen some inconsistency at times. A three or four yard loss on first or second down will surely kill the drive against this Jets defense.
Force Sanchez to beat you
I know Sanchez had a great game last week, and maybe that's a sign of things to come, but the Jets' running game is too good to not make him prove that last game wasn't a fluke. When you add Braylon Edwards being out of the starting lineup, it's even more reason to load up the box to stop LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonne Green.
The Jets had the league's best running game last year, and even after ridding themselves of 1400 yards in Thomas Jones, they are currently tied with none other than the Dolphins for seventh best after two games. It's going to take more than one good game from Sanchez to compete with that. We did see a completely inept offense in Week 1, after all. Grant it, against a very stout Ravens defense, but still, you can't tell me that was all Baltimore's D', the Jets were playing awful on offense.
One player that does concern me is Dustin Keller. Shiancoe tore up the Dolphins last week, and Keller is certainly capable of doing the same. We should see a mix of Yeremiah Bell, Karlos Dansby, and even Sean Smith in coverage
Feed off the crowd's energy
Sun Life Stadium hasn't produced many playoff-like atmospheres over the past few years, but Sunday night will surely be an exception. The majority will be wearing orange and howling like a wolf when the Dolphins are on defense. Word is, they will also be passing out orange rally towels, contributing further to what should be an actual home field advantage.
Obviously, just having loud fans isn't going to win you a football game. But you've never watched football before if you don't think it makes a difference. If the Dolphins can feed off that energy, we should see a defense flying all over the field and a refreshingly fiery offense. One thing they can't let happen, though, if they want the stadium to be rocking all game long, is let the Jets get off to a quick start. If the Jets can quiet the crowd out of the gates, it will become a neutral turf in a hurry.