Things haven’t exactly gone well for the Dolphins. The 0-4 record is bad enough, but the loss of Chad Henne is a blow bigger than people will realize given his replacement, and the performance on the field has been deeply concerning.
It’s fair to say Tony Sparano looks like a dead coach walking at this point.
But if he wants to buy himself a second chance along with more time then what better way than a victory over divisional rivals the Jets? A team who themselves are on a three game losing streak and need a win desperately to keep up with the dynamic duo in the AFC East.
Which way will this game go? Let’s have a look at some match ups that could decide this one.
1) The Hunter becomes the Hunted
If you watch the Miami Dolphins you’ll look beyond the talking head chatter to realize star pass rusher Cameron Wake (+10.5) isn’t going up one on one with any left tackle. In fact, of the 131 times Wake has rushed the passer this year, all bar two of them have been from the left side. That means Wayne Hunter (-10.5) can expect to see a lot of him.
Hunter started off the season slowly, but has got better in his last two games with positive grades. That said he still has given up three sacks, a hit and a 12 pressures, and Wake will be looking to take full advantage of a man who ranks 37th (out of 58) in our Pass Blocking Efficiency signature stat. Wake has been the bright spot (along with Randy Starks) on a disappointing defense, and already has 22 combined sacks, hits and hurries. We all know bad things happen when Mark Sanchez is pressured, so this match up will be crucial to the Dolphins defensive performance.
2) A Tale of Two Quarterbacks
Welcome to Monday Night Football Matt Moore, where the throws will be great as often as they are garbage, but the passer will never shy away from forcing the ball into a tough spot. The great thing about watching Moore is how he can make a perfect throw to split coverage one play and then over throw a receiver so badly the next, you’re not sure who he is aiming at. The big problem for him will be when pressure gets to him, an area he has traditionally struggled in. Look back at 2010, and in 55 drop backs where he was pressured he threw 17 completions, four interceptions and took 13 sacks. Think Rex Ryan is licking his lips much?
Similarly, Sanchez doesn’t live up to his draft position when pressured. This year he’s completed 13 passes on the (ironically) 55 times he has been pressured, while throwing one pick and getting sacked 13 times. His -6.5 grade when pressured is a terrible indictment of how badly the Jets need to keep him upright. Essentially this one could be very similar to the offensive snorefest that was the Dolphins 10-6 victory in week 14 last year if neither QB can overcome their flaws.
3) On the nose
It’s not been all bad for Miami. Though I personally expected him to be a clone of his overrated brother, Mike Pouncey (+8.9) has been a revelation. Our number two ranked center has shown he has the physical tools to succeed at this level and has avoided those mistakes that were so often evident in older sibling Maurkice’s game. It was particularly impressive how he handled the explosive NT Antonio Garay and now he prepares for another challenge on the nose; Sione Pouha.
Pouha (+2.7) hasn’t been at the top of his game this year, with a surprisingly poor performance against Oakland highlighting this. He hasn’t been terrible, but after two years of being accustomed to superb displays, we’re just a little underwhelmed. He’s not an explosive talent, but for Pouncey to win this battle he’ll need to prevent Pouha narrowing running lanes, and that’s never easy against a man with the strength and talent of the Jets NT. If he can, then it could pave the way for his teammates to get to the second level, where you’ve always got a chance to pick up yards if you can get your hands on David Harris.