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By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Welcome to the Week 3 battle of extremes.
At home in Sun Life Stadium are the Miami Dolphins, who were routed at Houston in Week 1 of this 2012 season before rebounding to hand out a pounding of their own last Sunday against visiting Oakland, dealing the Raiders a 35-13 loss.
Visiting their teal-and-orange rivals this week are the New York Jets, who looked Super Bowl-ready in a schedule-opening 48-28 thrashing of Buffalo before looking first-overall-pick-ready in a 27-10 setback at Pittsburgh a week later.
Come Sunday in South Florida, the realities will be exposed.
The Dolphins used marked personnel changes during the offseason to try and erase the bitter sting of three straight losing campaigns -- dispatching head coach Tony Sparano in favor of former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and pushing holdover quarterback Matt Moore down the depth chart to make room for rookie starter Ryan Tannehill.
It's already produced a new September gain on last season, when Miami went winless during the month en route to a 0-7 mark to start the year.
"We want to be a team that gets better as the year goes along," Philbin said. "We've made a couple of strides, but we've got a million miles to go."
Ditto for New York, where Sparano landed as offensive coordinator this offseason. The Jets' starting offense went touchdown-less in the preseason, accounted for 34 points in the opener against the Bills and crashed smokily back to Earth in a smothering 17-point road loss to the Steelers in Week 2.
The Jets had 384 total yards and converted 10 third-down chances against Buffalo. They plunged by 165 yards and six third-down conversions last week.
"We can't get negative plays, it always hurts when you do," said backup quarterback Tim Tebow, who took three snaps against the Steelers. "I felt like we had things rolling for a little (bit). But it's a game of momentum. When you lose it, it's hard to get it back."
Starting signal-caller Mark Sanchez had 266 passing yards in the opener and just 138 last week. Tebow, whose role in Sparano's Wildcat offense was the topic of breathless conjecture all summer, has rushed exactly six times for 33 yards in two games and has not thrown a pass.
Sanchez is 2-4 in his career against Miami, while Tebow defeated the Dolphins last season while starting for the Denver Broncos. Still, any speculation about a brewing quarterback controversy has been just that.
"Right now, we think Mark gives us the best chance to be successful in that particular situation against that particular opponent," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. "Those are things that we'll always look at. I believe Tim can pass. We'll make the decision on when a guy is out there, not out there, or whatever."
Priority No. 1 for Gang Green's coach this week is stalling Miami's Reggie Bush.
The standout running back has averaged 126.7 rushing yards in his last six games, the best in the league since Week 13 of 2011. In two career games against New York, Bush has run 16 times for 108 yards.
"He's doing a tremendous job," Ryan said of Bush. "Obviously we've got to do a great job of getting a lot of guys to him and get him on the ground -- put some hot sauce on him, if you will."
The Steelers converted 8-of-15 times on third downs against New York last Sunday in the absence of Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who's questionable again this week after suffering a concussion in the late stages of Week 1.
No matter...Ryan remains confident.
"Bet against us and we'll see where it ends up," he said. "I know where it's going to end up."
Jets lead 48-43-1
2011 Meetings: Jets 24, Dolphins 6 (Oct. 17 at New York) Dolphins 19, Jets 17 (Jan. 1 at Miami)
Jets HC Rex Ryan vs. Dolphins: 2-4 Dolphins HC Joe Philbin vs. Jets: 0-0 Ryan vs. Philbin Head-to-Head: First Meeting
Notes: Dolphins have won five of the last seven matchups between these longtime rivals, though Jets have prevailed in four of their six most recent trips to Sun Life Stadium and handed Miami a 31-23 home loss in 2010. The visiting team has come out on top in six of the last nine games in the series. The Dolphins and Jets also squared off in the 1982 AFC Championship, with Miami recording a 14-0 victory at the Orange Bowl.
BY THE NUMBERS
Offensive Team Rankings
N.Y. Jets: 26th overall (301.5 ypg), 18th rushing (104.0 ypg), 24th passing (197.5 ypg), 7th scoring (29.0 ppg)
Miami: 12th overall (363.5 ypg), 2nd rushing (171.0 ypg), 27th passing (192.5 ypg), 20th scoring (22.5 ppg)
Defensive Team Rankings
N.Y. Jets: 16th overall (360.5 ypg), 22nd rushing (130.5 ypg), 16th passing (230.0 ypg), 22nd scoring (27.5 ppg)
Miami: 18th overall (366.5 ypg), 4th rushing (53.0 ypg), 30th passing (313.5 ypg), 11th scoring (21.5 ppg)
N.Y. Jets: +2 (4 takeaways, 2 giveaways) Miami: -3 (1 takeaways, 4 giveaways)
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (offense)
N.Y. Jets: 57.1 percent (7 possessions, 4 TD, 3 FG) -- tied 15th overall Miami: 50.0 percent (6 possessions, 3 TD, 1 FG) -- tied 20th overall
Red Zone Touchdown Percentage (defense)
N.Y. Jets: 80.0 percent (5 possessions, 4 TD, 1 FG) -- 29th overall Miami: 37.5 percent (8 possessions, 3 TD, 5 FG) -- tied 7th overall
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
Sanchez has shown at least some affinity for South Florida, throwing six touchdowns against three interceptions for a 90.1 passer rating in three lifetime games at Sun Life Stadium. He's also been an early-season standout during his career, tossing 20 touchdown passes against seven interceptions for a 93.9 rating in September. The Jets are 8-2 when his rating creeps above 100.0 and 4-0 when running back Shonn Greene runs for 100 yards or better. Also a fan of the Dolphins is wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who's averaged 18.7 yards per catch in seven career games against them with the Jets and Steelers. He scored his initial touchdown of the season last week against his former Pittsburgh mates. Speaking of 18.7, fellow wideout Jeremy Kerley has averaged the same number on six catches through two 2012 games. And although he was importantly absent due to a hamstring injury last week in Pittsburgh and questionable to play in Sunday's tilt, tight end Dustin Keller had a touchdown catch in New York's last game against Miami.
For Miami's defense, end Cameron Wake needs two sacks to become the seventh Dolphin to reach 30 during his tenure with the team. Alongside him, tackle Randy Starks had a pair of interceptions the last time Miami faced the Jets and linebacker Karlos Dansby has two sacks in his last three games against New York. In the backfield, safety Reshad Jones picked off his first pass of the season and the third of his career in the Week 2 defeat of the Raiders.
WHEN THE DOLPHINS HAVE THE BALL
While winning his first game as a starter against Oakland, Tannehill - the eighth overall pick in April's draft - also threw for his first NFL touchdown and ran for his first score. Behind him, the resurgent Bush has averaged 6.8 yards per carry (16 rushes, 108 yards) in two career games against the Jets. If he gets to the 100-yard mark again this week, it'll be the fourth straight home game in which he's reached triple digits in rushing yards, following games of 100 and 103 with 172 against the Raiders. Bush is averaging 126.7 rushing yards in his last six games overall and needs 74 yards from scrimmage to get to 6,000 for his career. In five games against AFC East foes with Miami, he's churned out an average of 91.4 yards on the ground. Rookie running back Lamar Miller went for an average of 6.5 yards per carry in his NFL debut against the Raiders and added a touchdown as well. On the outside, wide receiver Brian Hartline had career bests in both catches (9) and receiving yards (111) against Oakland, while tight end Anthony Fasano hauled in the 20th touchdown catch of his career in the win. Four of those 20 have come against New York.
On defense for the Jets, iffy cornerback Revis has four career interceptions against Miami, second only to his five against Buffalo for the most against any team. His partner in coverage, Antonio Cromartie, picked off a pass in the Jets' last game against the Dolphins as well. Joining them in the backfield is safety Yeremiah Bell, who spent eight seasons with Miami from 2004-11 before joining the Jets in the offseason. Hard-hitting outside linebacker Garrett McIntyre had a career-best two sacks against the Steelers last week and inside starter David Harris added to his team lead of 17 tackles in the loss. Finally, outside linebacker Calvin Pace has three sacks in his last three games against the Dolphins.
The pick here comes down to perceptions. Had this game occurred after Week 1, the Jets might have been favored by 20 points. But after the Week 2 role reversals, the spread has narrowed to three and many are assuming the Dolphins at home will have enough. It's Ryan's assumption that reality lies somewhere closer to one end of the scale than the other, and that his defense will be able to make Tannehill look closer to the rookie he looked like against the Texans than the playmaker he was versus the Raiders. With San Francisco, Houston and New England on the Jets' schedule horizon - and an always-rabid New York media ready to label his office seat "hot" - Ryan had better be right.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jets 27, Dolphins 13
09/20 10:49:16 ET
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