Here’s a look at how the Miami Dolphins (8-8) and New York Jets (7-9) match up in six key areas ahead of Sunday’s Week 18 game at Hard Rock Stadium (1 p.m., Fox):
When the Dolphins run: Expect this to be a big part of the game plan since quarterback Tua Tagovailoa again won’t be available to play due to his most recent concussion. Backup Teddy Bridgewater’s status is also in doubt, so Miami is starting third-stringer Skylar Thompson. It showed in last Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots that coach Mike McDaniel will run often on first down with a backup quarterback in.
Both Jeff Wilson Jr. and Raheem Mostert were around 3.0 yards per carry with their opportunities in Foxborough. The availability of left tackle Terron Armstead will be pivotal in order for Miami to get the ground game going. The Dolphins also now have Liam Eichenberg back at left tackle for Robert Jones.
The Jets have a middle-of-the-pack run defense, ranking 16th in the league at 119.1 yards allowed per game. The Dolphins’ rushing offense is 27th at 95.3 yards per game. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams will be a challenge to block. Middle linebacker and fellow Pro Bowl selection C.J. Mosley has a whopping 151 tackles on the season, which ranks eighth in the league. Edge: Jets
When the Jets run: Breece Hall was a problem for the Dolphins in the first matchup this season, but he’s on injured reserve now and the New York ground game is not nearly as intimidating. The Jets haven’t surpassed 100 rushing yards as a team in their past four games.
Rookie Zonovan Knight had a stretch where he looked impressive, but he has since hit a wall. Michael Carter and Ty Johnson haven’t found room to run either throughout New York’s five-game losing streak. The loss of right guard Alijah Vera-Tucker, a first-round pick in 2021, to a triceps injury has proved vital to the Jets’ blocking up front.
Expect Miami’s eighth-ranked run defense to dominate when New York goes to the ground, forcing the Jets into passing downs and third-and-longs. Christian Wilkins leads all NFL defensive linemen with a career-high 92 tackles, so expect him to continue to be a menace. Edge: Dolphins
When the Dolphins pass: Thompson could not get the offense moving when he was thrown in at Gillette Stadium until a late touchdown drive with the Patriots already up two scores. Veteran Mike Glennon was signed to the practice squad in case he’s needed as a backup’s backup’s backup. Bridgewater appeared to be managing the offense well in New England until he threw the costly pick-six that turned the tides and injured his pinky finger in the process.
Having Armstead available to protect the blindside of any of these right-handed quarterbacks will be critical, but he’s doubtful to play. Thompson needs to simplify things and get the ball to Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle for big plays. Arguably the league’s most dangerous receiving duo needs to make things happen for whoever’s at quarterback.
With rookie Pro Bowl cornerback Sauce Gardner leading the secondary, the Jets have the NFL’s No. 2-ranked pass defense. The pass rush is a big reason why. Williams leads the team with 12 sacks, and the Jets rank seventh in the NFL with 44 as a team. Edge: Jets
When the Jets pass: It’s 37-year-old Joe Flacco at quarterback with Mike White, the Broward County high school product out of University School, which is located on the Nova Southeastern University campus, just like the old Dolphins facility, dealing with hurt ribs from the week of practice. The former Super Bowl MVP is 1-2 in three starts this year, completing passes at a 58-percent clip with five touchdowns and three interceptions. It’s the third straight season Flacco gets a start against Miami.
Garrett Wilson is an impressive rookie wide receiver, already surpassing 1,000 yards this year. Tight end Tyler Conklin is used frequently in the Jets offense, and former St. Thomas Aquinas High wide receiver Elijah Moore has gotten back into the mix of the offense somewhat after a midseason funk where he was not utilized.
With Vera-Tucker on injured reserve, the Jets also have injuries to monitor to three current starting linemen. While the Dolphins have struggled in pass defense with a banged-up secondary, they need to get a pass rush going against an ailing New York offensive line. Cornerback Xavien Howard and edge rusher Bradley Chubb could provide a boost after missing last Sunday’s loss to the Patriots. Edge: Dolphins
Special teams: Missed kicks from the Dolphins’ Jason Sanders are a thing again. Four of his six missed field goals on the year have come from 50-plus yards, however. Although special teams overall has been a struggle for Miami, punter Thomas Morstead has been a bright spot, and he had a tremendous coffin corner punt in New England. The Dolphins now have punt returner Cedrick Wilson Jr. dealing with a hip injury.
Jets kicker Greg Zuerlein has also missed six field goals this season. He’s 28 of 34. Former University of Miami standout Braxton Berrios is always solid in the return game. Standout special teamer Justin Hardee made his first Pro Bowl this season. Edge: Jets
Intangibles: Both teams come in on five-game losing streaks, so something’s got to give. The Dolphins are fighting for their playoff lives and need the Patriots to fall against the Bills in order to get in.
Miami has more to play for as New York is simply playing spoiler. Edge: Dolphins
PREDICTION: Dolphins 24, Jets 20