Miami, FL - First-year New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez won't be the only ones getting their first taste of the team's intensifying AFC East rivalry with the Miami Dolphins on Monday night.
Controversial wide receiver Braylon Edwards will also attract plenty of attention in prime time in his Jets debut, but the matchup between New York's physical defense and the Dolphins' prolific rushing attack could determine the outcome in Miami.
Oddsmakers from online sports book BetOnline have made the Steelers –10.5 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Monday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 83% of bets for this game have been placed on the Steelers –10.5 (View NFL bet percentages).
The combination of Ryan and Sanchez led the surprising Jets to an impressive 3-0 start, but the team will be trying to rebound from its first loss of 2009 following a 24-10 defeat at New Orleans on Sunday.
New York's defense, ranked fourth in the NFL in yards allowed, held the Saints' potent offense to 10 points, but it was a pair of Sanchez mistakes that led to the decisive margin.
One of Sanchez's three interceptions was returned 99 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, and his fumble was recovered by New Orleans in the end zone less than six minutes later to give the Saints a 17-0 lead.
"He's like a tiger. He's going to come roaring back," Ryan said. "There's no doubt. I have 100 percent confidence in him, and I have confidence in our football team.
"I can't wait to play again," the coach added. "It's almost like you've got a volcano inside of you like, 'Man, let's go.' I think that's the way our team feels."
The Jets (3-1) are certainly eager to take the field for the first time with Edwards in green. The team traded wide receiver Chansi Stuckey, linebacker Jason Trusnik and two undisclosed draft choices to Cleveland on Wednesday in exchange for Edwards, who had 1,289 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in 2007 but has found the end zone just three times since.
Edwards has also had problems with dropped passes, and he has made headlines this week for allegedly punching a friend of NBA MVP LeBron James, but the Jets believe he can provide an important boost to their offense despite his apparent baggage.
"I know he's going to add something great to this offense," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "We've got to smile about that because he's a great player and he's going to demand a lot of attention."
New York's defense could also get a boost this week, as standout linebacker Calvin Pace is eligible to return following a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
That could make things even tougher for the Dolphins, but Miami (1-3) will be bringing the league's best running game. Thanks in part to their dedication to the wildcat - a formation from which they still haven't attempted a pass this year - the Dolphins average 183.5 yards per game on the ground.
"Coming into this season, a lot of people were saying the wildcat is a fad and this and that," running back Ronnie Brown said. "It works for us. So we'll see."
The Dolphins racked up 250 rushing yards in a 38-10 blowout of Buffalo on Sunday for their first win of the season, giving quarterback Chad Henne a victory in his first NFL start. Henne, a college teammate of Edwards at Michigan, is filling in for Chad Pennington after the veteran suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
Henne was unspectacular but efficient, going 14 for 22 for 115 yards and his first professional touchdown without an interception while Brown rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
That duo may have to step up even more with a challenging road ahead. The Dolphins' next four games are against the Jets, Saints, Jets again and New England Patriots as they try to rebound from their slow start and defend their AFC East title.
"Things aren't getting any easier," guard Justin Smiley said. "We got that first win, and we realize we can play with anybody. We know that, we just needed that win to prove it. We're going to have to keep doing it, or we'll be right back in the same place."
The Dolphins clinched the division in the final week last season with a 24-17 road win over New York, ending the Jets' late-season stumble that cost the team a playoff spot.
The Jets, however, won 20-14 in Miami in the 2008 season opener, holding the Dolphins to a season-low 49 rushing yards to take their third straight victory at Land Shark Stadium. Miami managed just 52 yards on the ground in a 27-9 postseason loss to Baltimore, which had Ryan as its defensive coordinator.
That should help ease the new coach's transition into the rivalry, which has featured no shortage of chatter ahead of Monday's game even though both starting quarterbacks have changed.
Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder led the way with some verbal shots at Jets back Leon Washington, a college rival of Crowder's when the two played at Florida (Washington) and Florida State.
"We do not like each other,'' Crowder said Wednesday. "With Florida State, I hated him. I hate him now. If I see him out, I'm not going to talk to him. I'm not going to slap him, but I'm not going to be pleasant."
Crowder has also traded barbs with Ryan, and he promised to give Sanchez an earful, but his own coach has refused to get involved.
"The game's not won or lost based on that kind of garbage," Miami coach Tony Sparano said.
Injuries to key defensive players, however, could be crucial. Linebacker Joey Porter was one of three Miami defenders to miss practice Wednesday. Porter, who sat out last weekend with a sore right hamstring, did light exercises on the side. His status for this week is uncertain.
Posted: 10/7/09 11:45PM ET