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Published September 15, 2015
Rex Ryan is hoping his New York Jets don't strike out.
It's only Week 4, but the Jets are off to a shaky start with a 1-2 record. And with two straight losses, Ryan isn't downplaying his team's game Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
"Staying in the baseball-type deal, in the NFL, it's the equivalent of a 10-game losing streak when you lose one game," Ryan said. "So, we're on a 20-game losing streak. If that talks about sense of urgency, then yeah, there's a huge sense of urgency."
Because by Ryan's math, another defeat would equal a 30-game skid. In other words, the Jets are in a tough spot against the Lions (2-1).
Must-win in September? Not quite, but being 1-3 with San Diego, Denver and New England on deck would be ominous.
"In Major League Baseball, they play 162 (games)," Ryan said. "That's why I think football is one of the greatest things and people love it because it's that important. Yeah, look, we don't want to dig ourselves in any further hole than we're in, so we've got to find a way and, albeit, against a good opponent."
The Lions, meanwhile, are looking for their second straight 3-1 start. They're coming off a 19-7 victory over NFC North rival Green Bay and opened some eyes that maybe Detroit is a legitimate contender in the division.
Having the top-ranked defense and a high-powered offense, despite its early struggles, that includes quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson are two huge reasons.
"I can tell you it's a resilient group," said coach Jim Caldwell, in his first season with the Lions.
"It's a tough group and a group that you're going to see that's going to be right in there fighting each and every week. It may not be pretty. We're not worried about pretty, we're worried about the results. I think our guys are buying into that."
Here are some things to watch for when the Lions take on the Jets at MetLife Stadium:
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Both offenses might have some problems in this one, particularly running the ball.
While the Lions have the top defense, based on overall yardage allowed, the Jets are No. 2 in the league. New York is also No. 1 in rushing defense, allowing just 35 yards per game on an average of 14 carries. That spells possible trouble for Reggie Bush and Joique Bell.
But guess who has the No. 2 defense against the run? Yep, the Lions. And they'll face an offense that ranks second in rushing, led by the trio of Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell.
SMITH ON HOT SEAT?: Ryan publicly backed his starting quarterback — twice — this week, and Geno Smith insisted he feels no pressure as far as his job security.
But Smith has five turnovers in three games and is coming off a poor performance against the Bears last Monday night in which he threw two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown on his first pass of the game. That has some anxious fans already calling for the Jets to put backup Michael Vick in and see if he can provide a spark.
"What people have got to understand," Vick said, "is you've got to allow a young guy to work through the tough times."
SPUTTERING LIONS: Detroit is off to a bit of a sluggish start on offense, scoring just 17 total points on that side of the ball in the past two games.
While the Lions are 11th in overall offense and second in third-down conversions, they also had six turnovers against the Packers and Carolina Panthers. The running game is also 25th in the league.
"It's just little plays here and there," Stafford said. "Any time you turn the ball over three times (a game), you're not going to score a whole lot of points."
STOPPING MEGATRON: Johnson is still one of the most dominant receivers in the league, and he already has 19 catches for 329 yards and two touchdowns.
Next up: a matchup against a secondary still trying to steady itself. The Jets have started converted safety Antonio Allen and backup Darrin Walls at cornerback, and they've faired OK. Oh, and Johnson needs one game of 200 or more yards receiving to break a tie with Hall of Famer Lance Alworth for the most in NFL history with six.
Johnson might be licking his chops this weekend since he's going up against a defense that allowed the Packers' Jordy Nelson 209 yards receiving in Week 2.
KICKIN' IT: The Lions quickly pulled the plug on rookie kicker Nate Freese, who missed a 41-yard field goal last Sunday and was 3 for 7 this season.
They signed former Eagles kicker Alex Henery to replace him, and with both defenses being stout, field goals could be a factor. Henery set an Eagles' accuracy record on field-goal attempts in 2011, but he had a key miss in last year's 26-24 playoff loss to New Orleans. He also missed two this preseason before being cut.
AP Sports Writer Noah Trister and Freelance Writer John Kreger in Allen Park, Michigan, contributed.
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