- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- This will be one of the most physical, intense games of the season. Ah, so many juicy storylines between the Jets and Dolphins.
Bad blood? Yep, it has that, with all the trash talk between the Jets' defense and Reggie Bush.
Emotion? Definitely. At halftime, the Jets will honor one of their most inspirational players ever, Dennis Byrd, by retiring his No. 90 jersey.
Stakes? They're huge for the Jets, who can't afford to go into their bye week at 3-5 on a two-game losing streak.
Kickoff is 1 p.m. Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Here's what to watch for:
1. Hot sauce, anyone?: The Jets don't like Bush, not at all, and they're talking tough about shutting him down. Keep an eye on S LaRon Landry, who believes the Dolphins' leading rusher will be intimidated because of the hit he delivered on him in Week 3. Landry is a violent player, and there should be some bone-rattling collisions. Bush hasn't been the same runner since hurting his knee against the Jets. He was held to 132 yards and a 2.8 average in the past three games, but he could recharged after the bye week. For the Jets, it's all about shedding blocks and wrapping up. They've allowed a league-high 448 yards after initial contact, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
2. Hold the fort: The Jets played the past two games without a true nose tackle; they got away with it because the Colts and Patriots are primarily one-back offenses. This week, NT Sione Po'uha is likely to play after a three-week back injury -- and just in time, because the Dolphins employ a power-rushing attack. The Jets' interior will be tested, especially if ILB Bart Scott (toe) can't play. He'd be replaced by Demario Davis. The rookie moves well in space, but he might not be ready yet for a smash-mouth battle in the trenches. If Po'uha's back doesn't hold up, they could be in trouble.
3. Stop the long ball: Dolphins rookie QB Ryan Tannehill is developing into a very good deep passer. In fact, he has a league-high 57.9 completion percentage on throws of 20-plus yards downfield, per ESPN Stats. (By the way, that's a few points higher than Mark Sanchez's overall rate.) Tannehill's favorite target is Brian Hartline, but here's the thing: CB Antonio Cromartie will cover Hartline, which means Tannehill might have to look elsewhere. Cromartie is playing the best ball of his career. As long as he doesn't get fooled on double moves, Cromartie should be able to neutralize Hartline.
4. Third-down survival: Sanchez will face the best third-down defense in the league (25.8 percent conversion rate). The Dolphins confuse teams with a tremendous volume of plays. They've used 15 different coverages on one particular down and distance, according to Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. The key is blocking DE Cameron Wake, who has a team-high 6.5 sacks -- all in the past three games. This will be a tough assignment for RT Austin Howard, but it won't fall on him alone. Wake moves around, sometimes lining up over the left tackle or in the middle. It will be a long day for the Jets if they struggle with Wake. DE Jared Odrick also killed them in the previous meeting.
5. Let Sanchez throw: Sanchez proved last week he can carry the offense with his right arm. He'll have to do it again, because it will be very hard to run against the Dolphins, who allow only 3.3 yards per carry. The Jets should use the pass to set up the run. They will face a secondary that won't have starting CB Richard Marshall (back), who got abused by WR Santonio Holmes in the first meeting. Marshall will be replaced by nickel back Nolan Carroll. Remember that name: It'll get called a lot Sunday. TE Dustin Keller, in the lineup after sitting out the last game with an injured hamstring, has enjoyed some big games against Miami.