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MIAMI (AP) – The Miami Dolphins are hoping to break their winless streak Monday night when they take on the Jets in New York.
However, Rex Ryan and the Jets want a win in the worst way.
Three straight losses and rumblings about possible locker room disharmony have many fans and media speculating that the Jets could be on the verge of falling apart. It’s just Week 6, but New York’s game against the winless Miami Dolphins is being considered by many as a must-win — and Ryan remains confident his team can turn things around.
“We haven’t performed to our expectations, our fans’ expectations and all that,” Ryan said. “We certainly understand that, but this season’s not over. And people want to throw some dirt on us, well, we can affect how this season ends.”
On the surface, a 2-3 record is far from a near-crisis situation. But, the fact the jokes haven’t been flying as frequently from the usually brash Ryan and his bunch of chatterboxes fuels the feelings that this Jets team isn’t as loose as past groups. Getting back home after a brutal three-game stretch on the road could be exactly what New York needs.
“I think Monday night is the time to definitely turn it around,” wide receiver Santonio Holmes said. “The spotlight’s on us, everybody’s watching. It’s time to really play some football and turn this organization around.”
Except for the fact the Dolphins (0-4) are coming off a bye-week break and hungry for a win, too.
“Quite honestly, you’re talking about a caged animal, so to speak, in the Miami Dolphins and they’re looking at one when they see us,” Ryan said. “Both teams have not performed to expectations and can’t wait to play this game, so it should be a physical game.”
Just as most of the other matchups between these two AFC East rivals have been over the years. That includes “The Monday Night Miracle” in 2000 at the old Meadowlands, when the Jets stormed back from a 30-7 fourth-quarter deficit and beat the Dolphins 40-37 in overtime.
Miami has also won both road games between the teams in Ryan’s first two seasons as New York’s coach.
“When the Jets and Dolphins are playing, you can kind of throw out the record books sometimes,” said newly signed Dolphins quarterback Sage Rosenfels. “I know we’ve had a lot of success going up there and playing these last few years, it’s been some great rivalries. There’s a reason they put this game on Monday night because the entire Eastern seaboard is interested in this game.”
It also might mean a little more than usual. For the Jets, it’s a chance to prove that the last three weeks — losses at Oakland, Baltimore and New England — were nothing more than a bump in their Super Bowl road and not the start of an ugly spiral.
“Nobody feels desperate,” tight end Dustin Keller said. “We just have to stick to our game plan and stick to what we do individually, and that’s worked for us in the past.”
For the Dolphins, it’s an opportunity for coach Tony Sparano to turn his team around after a miserable start. He’s already working without his starting quarterback after Chad Henne was lost for the season with a separated left shoulder. Matt Moore replaces Henne — for this week, at least.
“There’s no pressure on him,” wide receiver Brandon Marshall said. “We’re under, under, under, under, under, under, under, underdogs. so there ain’t no pressure on anybody.”
Moore will also become the 16th quarterback to start for the Dolphins since the Dan Marino era ended at the beginning of the 2000 season, the most among NFL teams in that span.
“Obviously, Marino was a great one,” said Moore, who was 10-13 as a starter with Carolina. “It doesn’t matter who’s back there, the guy who’s going to make the plays and win ballgames ultimately is going to be the guy. Whether that’s 15 guys in 15 games, or one guy, they’re going to find the right guy.”
Sparano’s job might depend on it. Miami is in danger of starting 0-5 for first time since losing its first 13 in 2007, en route to 1-15 season. There has also already been speculation about Sparano’s job security.
“That’s a hard place to be, 0-5,” he said.
Sparano says he has been through this before, including as an assistant for Marty Schottenheimer’s Washington Redskins in 2001. That team won eight of its last 11 to finish at .500, giving Sparano some hope for this Dolphins team.
“It just takes a win to get yourself going and right now that’s all we’re worried about,” he said. “We’re worried about making our football team better, using this time to develop some of our players here and figure out how to win a game.”
While the Dolphins’ offense is trying to regroup after the loss of their starting quarterback, the defense has perhaps been an even bigger disappointment. Miami is ranked 28th in overall defense, and 31st in passing defense — despite having two of the best young cornerbacks in the league in Vontae Davis, who missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, and Sean Smith.
New York has had its share of problems on defense, too, giving up an unexpectedly large number of big runs and being anything but dominant. But the offense has been the consistent trouble spot, with Sanchez taking lots of hits behind an inconsistent offensive line, a running game that is slow to get going and a group of wide receivers still trying to jell with the quarterback.
Sanchez has one less receiver this week after the Jets traded veteran Derrick Mason to the Houston Texans after not making as big an impact as expected.
“We thought we had a pretty good group of guys here, and it’s unfortunate that the organization felt another way,” Holmes said. “We have to deal with the punches that are thrown at us and continue rolling.”
Otherwise, the Jets could suddenly find themselves just a half-game ahead of the Dolphins in the standings. Not that Ryan is even entertaining any of those thoughts. In his mind, his team still has its sights set on the Super Bowl.
“I can guarantee that we’re going to chase it, that’s for sure,” Ryan said. “Do I think we’ll win it? Yeah, absolutely.”
(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)