Two potential playoff squads square off, as Miami heads up to Jacksonville to battle the Jags for a possible spot in the postseason.
Miami Dolphins (6-6) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5)
Miami officially sits one game behind a struggling New England team for the lead in the AFC East. Miami has completed their divisional games and sit at 4-2. The Patriots, 3-2 in the division, still must play the Bills. If the Pats come up short this week against Carolina, Miami has a real chance to repeat as divisional champs. But first, the Dolphins must conquer a tough road game against Jacksonville to make that feat more attainable.
The Phins are a very comparable team to this Jags unit, as both squads focus on running the ball down your throat, and defensively are almost equal to one another statistically. The Jaguars have found more success in the air, but wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker is currently listed as doubtful with a calf injury and might not play. That would obviously place more focus on vet Torry Holt to carry the load for the Jags, something Miami will be keying in on if Sims-Walker does not play.
Both teams have been poor while attempting to stop the pass, which is seemingly good news for Miami after they ignored the Wildcat strategy and beat the Pats last week in the air. Maurice Jones-Drew and Ricky Williams will both see their fair share of carries, but look for each offense to test the secondary early and often. The Jaguars have been porous while attempting to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks, so expect Chad Henne to have another big game if Jacksonville can not produce sacks and hurries.
Davone Bess will look to lead the Dolphins unit once again this week, and is developing into quite a threat. Henne will target Bess as often as possible and should be the Phins main offensive producer in this game when all said and done. The Dolphins have been converting on third downs nearly 50% of the time, so Bess will expected to help the Phins move the chains.
The Jaguars have struggled attempting to stop opposing teams on third down, allowing over 42% of their opponents conversion attempts. This is a key stat, and could be Miami's biggest advantage heading into this ball game considering the Phins domination while converting on that down. Both teams focus on eating up the clock, so whoever keeps the chains moving should win this matchup.
If the Patriots are able to hold onto the division lead, this game will be looked back as extremely critical considering its wild card implications. If the playoffs started today, the Jags would be in, the Phins would be out. Jacksonville is currently one game up on Miami, so this is the Dolphins chance to break even with their potential wild card foe. A Miami loss could also be devastating to the Dolphins' chances to even make the playoffs.
The Phins need to use the momentum from that big win against the Pats to keep it rolling against the Jags. Miami finishes off the season against four teams that still have a shot to make the playoffs, with their first test coming against the Jags this Sunday. With Mike Sims-Walker unlikely to play, the Jags troubles applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks, and Miami being so good while converting on third down, the Phins should be able to win this road game when considering those factors. If the Dolphins can come away victorious, they might just find themselves sitting atop of the AFC East once again.
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Written by Josh Souder