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NFL Preview - Dallas (0-0) at N.Y. Jets (0-0)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Coaching purists need not apply.
Those fans who routinely tune in to NFL games to bask in the glow of cool, composed, spotlight-deflecting sideline bosses like Bill Belichick, Chuck Noll and Tom Landry might want to find some alternate television options come Sunday night.
Because when the NBC cameras go live to the newly-named MetLife Stadium in the swampy outskirts of New York City on Sunday night, there's no telling what the cameras and microphones might pick up.
While the occasion is understandably reverent on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks just a few miles away in Lower Manhattan, the reality of a sibling matchup between the league's most-outspoken head coach -- the New York Jets' Rex Ryan -- and its most identifiable assistant, Dallas defensive coordinator and twin brother Rob Ryan, has warranted a build-up more similar to those commonly reserved for WrestleMania.
And leading the way, as usual, is the Jets' third-year boss, who kicked off the preseason with another of his attention-grabbing proclamations.
"Put your negative comments out there and we'll see what happens at the end," said Rex Ryan, whose team has reached -- and lost -- the AFC Championship Game in each of his two seasons. "I wouldn't trade this defense for anybody's in the league. You're not going to be perfect, but will we end up being the best defense in football? I think so. Believe me, the least concern I have is about our defense."
New York was sixth in the NFL in points allowed and third in total defense last season, holding seven of 16 regular-season opponents and one of three foes in the postseason to less than 300 yards.
"I think our defense is going to be outstanding," Rex Ryan said.
Rob Ryan, hired in the offseason by former interim and now permanent Dallas head coach Jason Garrett, was defensive coordinator in Oakland for five seasons and Cleveland for two before heading to "America's Team."
The 2010 Browns were 13th in the league in points allowed and 22nd in yards under Rob Ryan's direction. Dallas was 31st and 23rd, respectively, in those categories last season.
"I've been an assistant coach of the year in pro football and in college football, so apparently I'm pretty good," the Cowboys' Ryan said. "No one else believes it, but they all will after this game."
Sunday's tilt also features the official return of new Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress to the NFL following a two-year absence. The former New York Giant sat out the entire 2009 and 2010 seasons while being imprisoned on a well-publicized weapons charge, then signed with the rival Jets shortly after being released in June.
Garrett replaced Wade Phillips after eight games in 2010 and went a respectable 5-3 down the stretch with a team already bumped from the playoff chase by a 1-7 start.
He'll be playing a bit shorthanded on Sunday, however, as Dallas disclosed a lengthy injury list during the week that includes starting cornerback Terence Newman, who didn't practice with a groin problem and likely won't play in the game.
During Wednesday's practice session, Newman's fellow starting cornerback, Mike Jenkins, left with a knee injury, as did starting right tackle Tyron Smith, the ninth overall pick in April's draft.
An MRI was scheduled for both Jenkins and Smith, who are considered day-to-day and questionable to suit up.
If Smith doesn't play, the Cowboys will go with relative novices Bill Nagy (left guard), Phil Costa (center) and Jermey Parnell (right tackle) on a new- look offensive line. Costa is the only one of the group that has started an NFL game other than veterans Kyle Kosier at right guard and Doug Free at left tackle.
"Against our defense, I'd be nervous," Rex Ryan said of Dallas' offensive line issues. "There's no question."
Dallas has won seven of the nine all-time meetings between the teams, the most recent of which took place at Cowboys Stadium on Thanksgiving Day of 2007. The Cowboys recorded a 34-3 rout in that contest, extending their win streak over New York to three games. Dallas is 5-1 on the road against the Jets in its history and will be facing them in Gotham for the first time since 2003, when the Cowboys came away with a 17-6 victory under then-Dallas head coach and former Jets sideline boss Bill Parcells.
Both Garrett and Rex Ryan will be facing one another, as well as their counterpart's respective franchises, for the first time as head coaches.
WHEN THE COWBOYS HAVE THE BALL
Quarterback Tony Romo, who'll be making his first regular-season appearance since fracturing his collarbone in a loss to the New York Giants last October, won his only career start against the Jets while completing 21-of-28 passes for 195 yards with two touchdowns, an interception and a 102.5 passer rating. The Cowboys are 28-5 when Romo has a 100-plus rating in a game. Running back Felix Jones has 10 career touchdowns and averages an astounding 45.1 yards per scoring play. Wide receiver Miles Austin had 1,041 receiving yards in 2010, his second straight 1,000-yard season, and in his past seven games against AFC foes, has compiled 816 yards (116.6 per game). Tight end Jason Witten had 94 catches for 1,002 yards in 2010, his second consecutive 90-catch, 1,000-yard season. He is one of two tight ends in NFL history with back-to-back 90-catch seasons. Elsewhere, wide receiver Dez Bryant scored eight touchdowns (six receiving, two on punt returns) as a rookie last year.
The Jets allowed 291.5 yards per game in 2010 and were led by linebacker David Harris (100 tackles) and three-time cornerback Darrelle Revis, who participated in all of this year's training camp after sitting out last season's practices due to a prolonged holdout over his contract. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was the 30th overall pick in the NFL Draft and will be counted on to help replace veteran Shaun Ellis, who signed as a free agent with New England.
The Cowboys were seventh in the league in both points scored and total yardage in 2010, while the Jets -- as mentioned previously -- were sixth overall in points allowed and surrendered the third-fewest yards in the NFL.
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
Third-year quarterback Mark Sanchez is 19-12 as a starter and the Jets are 6-1 when he has a 100-plus passer rating. Running back Shonn Greene has averaged 4.9 yards per carry (66 attempts, 325 yards) against the NFC over his career, while backfield colleague LaDainian Tomlinson (13,404 career rushing yards) needs 259 rushing yards to surpass Jerome Bettis (13,662) for fifth in league history. Tomlinson has averaged 91.7 rush yards per game in September in his brilliant career and has two rushing touchdowns in his last two games against Dallas. In his only career meeting with the Cowboys, which came while with Pittsburgh in December of 2008, wide receiver Santonio Holmes had three receptions for 82 yards. Burress scored a single-game best three receiving touchdowns against Dallas while with the Giants in September of 2007. Another first-year Jet, wide receiver Derrick Mason, needs 109 receiving yards to become the 18th player in league history to reach 12,000.
For Dallas, linebacker DeMarcus Ware topped the NFL with 15 1/2 sacks in 2010, his second time as league leader. With Newman, who had a career-best five interceptions in 2010 and returned an interception 50 yards for a touchdown against the Jets in 2007, and Jenkins both likely sidelined, Orlando Scandrick and Alan Ball are the favorites to line up as the Cowboys' starting corners. The inside linebacker corps is headed up by veteran Bradie James, who led the team with 163 tackles in 2010.
The Jets were 13th in the league in points scored and 11th in total yardage in 2010, while the Cowboys were 31st and 23rd, respectively in those categories on defense under Phillips and Garrett.
KEYS TO THE GAME
With injuries altering the makeup of the Dallas offensive line, the New York defense is certain to ramp up its attempts to harass the mobile Romo. The Cowboys may have to combat the Jets' heavy rush by feeding the ball to Jones on runs and screen passes.
The Jets' new personnel group was inefficient at best on offense in the preseason and will need to show improvement, as the unit will be challenged out of the gate by a revved-up defense led by the Cowboys� new coordinator.
New York lost special-teams ace Brad Smith to Buffalo during the offseason, meaning rookie fifth-round draft pick Jeremy Kerley will be counted on to make an immediate impact.
Motivation shouldn't be a problem with both an all-Ryan circus and a somber remembrance on tap, which could make adrenaline-fueled mistakes common for both teams in the early going. Given that they're healthier and also at home, expect the Jets to be a bit more successful in controlling the tempo during a tight contest that quite likely comes down to the final quarter.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jets 17, Cowboys 13
09/08 18:56:48 ET
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