3TFO: Jets @ Dolphins, Week 17
One of the games involved in the fight for the sixth seed in the AFC will feature a great divisional rivalry. The New York Jets will try to end the Miami Dolphins hopes to get into the playoffs just a few weeks after they were finally out of the race. The Dolphins depend on other results but they’ll only make it to postseason if they beat the Jets so they better improve from their last outing in Buffalo a week ago when they were shut out.
For the Jets it’s their last chance to prove that Rex Ryan deserves to keep the head coaching job and if they come out and play like they did last week it won’t be an easy decision for John Idzik and his staff to make the call. The Jets have shown all year that they are a tough team to beat when motivated and this Sunday there will be enough motivation, not only to fight for their coach’s job, but also to spoil their opponent’s season. Will the Dolphins bounce back and do their part to get to the playoffs?
Rex Ryan said weeks ago that Dee Milliner would end up the season as the best rookie cornerback of the season and at that time it sounded crazy. The Alabama product didn’t look quite ready for the NFL – his technique and lack of confidence made him one of the worst-graded cornerbacks in the league and that got him benched three times during games. But something has changed in the last three games. In Week 14 (versus Oakland) Milliner earned his first ‘green’ grade in coverage and two weeks later earned his second in what was his best game so far. He was targeted 18 times against the Browns and allowed 10 completions for 113 with two passes defended and one interception and a coverage grade of +1.9.
Milliner is the most-targeted cornerback in the league at 4.4 cover snaps per target, as you expect with a rookie. Teams try to exploit him and until these last games that strategy was working. In the first meeting with the Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill threw 11 times into Milliner’s coverage who allowed five catches for 82 yards and one touchdown. Mike Wallace scored the touchdown but it was Brian Hartline who saw the most of the rookie. Let’s see if that matchup repeats on Sunday or if the coaches let the rookie go against Wallace after playing fairly well vs. Josh Gordon last week. It’ll be a great chance to show that Rex Ryan wasn’t wrong back then.
Dolphins Pass Rush vs. Jets Offensive Line
Pressuring Geno Smith is one of the keys to beat the Jets and the Dolphins have the weapons to do so. Cameron Wake ranks third in Pass rushing Productivity with 64 total pressures in 373 pass rushing snaps and has the second highest pass rushing grade among 4-3 defensive ends. He plays over 90% of the time on the left side so he’ll go against Austin Howard. This will be the third time these two players meet each other on the field and so far Wake is winning it. In Week 13 Wake earned a +1.5 grade after posting three hits and one hurry in 28 pass rushing opportunities. Howard hasn’t allowed a sack in the last four games but his pass blocking grade in that stretch was -1.1 so he’ll have to step up his game in front of Wake.
On the inside Randy Starks and Jared Odrick rank fifth and sixth in total pressures among defensive tackles and are also in the Top-10 in pass rushing grade. In the last four games they haven’t performed so well, as Odrick has recorded only five pressures and Starks six. Neither was able to make an impact in the first game vs. the Jets and this time they could try to exploit Brian Winters who is rated as the sixth-worst offensive guard in pass blocking. In that game he allowed two sacks with a pass blocking grade of -3.1. He earned his first positive grade in that area last week allowing just one hurry and it would be a great game for him if he could repeat that performance on Sunday.
Jets Wide Receivers vs. Dolphins Cornerbacks
The last games have been especially positive for the group of Jets’ receivers. After a disappointing season for most of them, David Nelson and Jeremy Kerley have been able to step up and help their young quarterback. They combined for 21 catches in 29 targets, 245 yards, three touchdowns and a total receiving grade of +3.9 in the last three games. Kerley has been the most reliable receiver in the Jets’ offense but he was out in the first game against Miami so he could make a difference on his own and create a mismatch from the slot.
The Dolphins have the fourth-highest rated cornerback in the league in Brent Grimes. He has 13 passes defended and allowed a passer rating of 65.2. Grimes is one of the three cornerbacks with at least 300 snaps who hasn’t given up a touchdown. He was impressive in the first meeting with the Jets surrendering just two catches in four targets for seven yards getting his hands on both incomplete passes, intercepting one of them. Jimmy Wilson is slot cornerback and he ranks second in passer rating in the slot at 61.0.
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