THE CRYSTAL BALL

It's strange to call the second game of any season is a must-win game, but it's almost not a stretch to do it this season after the Dolphins started off with a shocking upset loss to Houston. Here's how we think Sunday's game against the Jets will play out.

OK, so we were totally wrong about the Dolphins routing the Texans, but who could expect the Dolphins to play this poorly?

Missed tackles, bad penalties, suspect coaching — you name it, the Dolphins were guilty of it.

The Dolphins felt many emotions after the game against Houston, and the most prevalent probably was embarrassment. And that's good news for them as they head into the Meadowlands.

See, instead of spending the week explaining why they haven't beaten the Jets on the road since 1997, they were being asked to talk about the loss to Houston.

Now, let's not make it sound like the Dolphins will be operating at full efficiency here. Make no mistake, this is a team with a fragile psyche right now.

But maybe their anger will help them.

More importantly, they need to play much better defense and maybe get back to more man coverage on defense instead of playing zone and soft coverage and then going for the tackle.

In Vinny Testaverde, the Dolphins will be facing a quarterback who is not mobile and will be throwing the ball short most of the day, just as Houston did.

We expect the Dolphins to make adjustments.

The run defense had its moments against Houston but also had too many breakdowns. Look for that to be shored up and for Curtis Martin to have to fight for every single one of his yards.

On offense, the Dolphins will focus more on getting Ricky Williams the ball, and don't be surprised if he has a big day. Also look for Derrius Thompson to be a factor from the start.

As was the case with Houston, the Dolphins have the better team on paper. But remember this is the Jets and anything and everything usually happens in these games.

Still, we just don't see the Dolphins looking as bad as they did last week. If they do, it's going to be a long season.

The call: Dolphins 20, Jets 10.


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