East Rutherford, NJ - At 8:30 p.m., the New York Jets officially welcome in their division rival to MetLife Stadium with the chance to spoil playoff dreams. The Miami Dolphins (8-5) can overtake the Denver Broncos (8-5) for the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture with a win over the green and white Saturday night. If the Jets want to cripple Miami's postseason chances, the game will come down to one oversized matchup - New York's offensive line vs. Miami's defensive line.
Members of the Jets offensive line have rotated in and out of the weekly lineup almost as much as Ryan Fitzpatrick cost New York games this season. The injury list keeps growing longer and longer but the makeshift offensive line the Jets were forced to construct has done an admirable job through 13 games. The treacherous task gets more daunting on Saturday night.
The Dolphins have four players taking the neutral colored MetLife turf, who plan to give the Jets young and inexperienced offensive line issues the entire night. On paper, Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Jordan Phillips and Mario Williams strike fear in any opponent's head. In reality, Miami's defensive line has underperformed this season - like the Jets. Phillips has just 17 tackles and Williams is benched in favor of Andre Branch for Saturday night's contest.
Despite Miami ranking 30th in the league in rush defense and 15th in sacks with 29, the aforementioned four defensive standouts have the advantage over New York's plug-and-play offensive line. Suh is third on the team with 57 total tackles and five sacks while Wake compiled 23 tackles with 9.5 sacks through 13 games.
When evaluating the cards New York was dealt this season, the offensive line has survived. Gone are Nick Mangold and Ryan Clady. They may never suit up in green-and white again. Breno Giacomini started the season on the injury reserved list and is finishing it in the same place - he too, may be a cap casualty in the offseason. Ben Ijalana, Wesley Johnson, Brent Qvale became starters as injuries opened up the door for these young or unproven linemen.
Even if you take off the damaged rose-colored glasses, one of the few bright spots of the miserable Jets season is the offensive line. Together, the unit helped bring the Jets rushing attack into the Top 10 in the league. New York averages just over four yards per carry while totaling 111 yards on the ground per contest. Matt Forte and Bilal Powell have not missed a step since the first week of the season - this includes Powell's masterful performance against the San Francisco 49ers last week.
It is also worth noting Jets quarterbacks - all three of them - have been sacked 29 times this season. The number is up from a season ago but given the circumstances and challenging opponents New York has faced, the number is still better than 15 other teams including playoff caliber teams in Seattle, Denver and Kansas City.
Tonight, the Jets have another challenge. Suh and Wake are major threats. The offensive line has the task to give young quarterback Bryce Petty enough time in the pocket to spread the wealth around the field. In this game, New York will have to let Petty loose. That starts and finishes in the trenches.
Joe Barone is a staff writer for JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone) or via email (email@example.com)