Jets vs. Dolphins, key matchup: Mark Sanchez vs. Dolphins secondary

Jared Wickerham

The Miami Dolphins sport a good run defense but are weak against the pass. That's not the New York Jets' strong suit, but can they enjoy success in the air on Sunday.

Hurricane Sandy and this crazy "Frankenstorm" or "Snowicane" or whatever The Day After Tomorrow-type thing is supposed to be coming New York's way, and for the New York Jets' sake, let's hope it doesn't hit until after Sunday at 4:00 PM ET.

The Jets host the Miami Dolphins at 1:00 on Sunday, a big divisional game that both teams need. At 3-4, the Jets cannot afford to lose their fifth game of the season heading into their bye and a trip to Seattle in Week 10. Miami is looking to stay in the mediocre AFC playoff race, and a win would put them in a surprising place under rookie coach Joe Philbin and rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

If the weather is sloppy, it would probably favor the Dolphins, and this coincides with what we think could be the key matchup on Sunday. The Dolphins have one of the league's best run defenses, but their secondary and pass defense is among the league's worst. The Jets have turned a bit of a corner as of late in their running game, but have also seen improved play from Mark Sanchez in the past few weeks. The Jets have hit some big plays down the field recently, and if the weather cooperates, there could be some more downfield opportunities for Gang Green on Sunday.

Chances are the Jets will look to establish their suddenly-resurgent running. It would be silly for them to abandon the run altogether, but it would also behoove the Jets to actually trust their quarterback. When the teams met in Week 3, Sanchez didn't play a great game but still cracked the 300-yard mark, engineered a long drive to give the Jets a late lead only to see it given up by the defense (which is what happened last week in New England as well), and also hit the then-healthy Santonio Holmes on the key play in overtime that set up the game-winning field goal.

While the Jets haven't won as much as they had hoped, and despite a lot of negative attention towards their quarterback, the fact is that Sanchez has played very solidly for the past three weeks. If he plays like he did in Week 7 in New England, in particular, the Jets should get back to .500 heading into their bye. Rex Ryan's defense has generally done well against rookie quarterbacks, especially at home, and Miami just isn't very good against the pass.

If the Jet show a little faith in Sanchez, and he continues his elevated level of play, it could be smooth sailing for the Jets. Now it's certainly on Sanchez to execute and keep improving, as he has in each of the past three weeks. Because if they lean on him heavily on Sunday and he puts up a stinker, the only storm hitting New York next week won't be the one coming in off the coast.

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