Must-win? It's still early, but Dolphins & Jets know latest showdown is a big 1

Sure, it's only Week 8 and there's plenty of season to go. The way Rex Ryan sees it, though, this is one the New York Jets need in a major way.

They've got a bye-week break coming up and they refuse to consider the possibility of heading into it with a loss Sunday to the Miami Dolphins.

"I'll tell you about our football team, we're going to empty the tank," Ryan said. "Whatever we have left, we're pouring it out there."

If it sounds like a playoff-style approach, well, the postseason hopes of the Jets (3-4) might hinge on how they perform against the rival Dolphins (3-3). After a depressing 29-26 overtime loss to New England last week, New York has an opportunity to bounce back and improve to 3-1 in the tightly contested AFC East.

A loss and the Jets fall to last in the division, with their season on the verge of spiraling out of control.

"This game is a must win," safety LaRon Landry said. "We can sweep those guys and also go into the bye 4-4. That's what we're striving to do and that's what we will do."

Yep, that was a guarantee from Landry, who insists his team is confident and ready to rebound. Ryan would like to sweep Miami for the first time in his three-plus seasons as coach. The first win, a 23-20 overtime victory last month, certainly wasn't easy, and the Jets know the Dolphins are better this time around.

"Obviously, we know we're going to get the very best Miami has," Ryan said. "They're going to be well-rested coming off the bye. They've won two games in a row. They have to be feeling pretty good about themselves, without question. The last game was anybody's game. We were fortunate enough to win that game."

It came on a 33-yard field goal by Nick Folk in overtime after Miami's Dan Carpenter missed field goals of his own in the fourth quarter and the extra period. Since, the Dolphins have become a dangerous team with rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill performing like a veteran.

He threw two interceptions in a 24-21 overtime loss at Arizona on Sept. 30, but has two touchdowns and no picks in the two games since.

"I feel more confident," Tannehill said. "I think that myself, as our offense, we've gotten better every week. Haven't been perfect, but we've learned and gotten better every week. Just small things that have gotten cleaner throughout the time that we've been together. The last six weeks have been huge for us as an offense and as a team, just learning from our mistakes and moving forward."

The Dolphins are a half-game behind the first-place Patriots, a spot Miami is happy to be in at this point. The Dolphins haven't made the playoffs since 2008, under current Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. Things are starting to feel positive in Miami again under rookie head coach Joe Philbin, and a win this week could establish the Dolphins as very real playoff contenders.

"It's a big game," Philbin said, "no question about it."

Tannehill won't have to worry about throwing against Jets star cornerback Darrelle Revis, who tore a ligament in his left knee the last time the teams played and is out for the season. Antonio Cromartie has stepped in and been terrific as New York's top cornerback, but Tannehill has seen a slight difference in the defense without Revis.

Not that he expects an easy time, of course.

"It's the same guys minus one guy," Tannehill said. "They're playing more zone coverage now, which is the biggest major change, but they still throw exotic blitzes at you. They'll play man. They still play a lot of man, just not quite as much as they did previously."

The Dolphins-Jets rivalry has always been one of the more entertaining in the league, with even a Wikipedia page devoted to the series in which New York holds a slight 49-45-1 edge.

There was the 1982 AFC championship game, known as "The Mud Bowl," remembered for Dolphins linebacker A.J. Duhe intercepting Richard Todd three times, including returning one for a touchdown in Miami's 14-0 win. In 1986, New York's Ken O'Brien and Miami's Dan Marino went back and forth in one of the NFL's biggest slugfests, with Wesley Walker catching the winning touchdown in overtime for the Jets' 51-45 victory.

Marino pulled off "The Spike" in 1994, when he faked downing the ball late in the game and instead threw a touchdown pass that gave the Dolphins a 28-24 victory. The Jets lost their remaining games, and the Dolphins went on to win the division.

And, of course, there was the "Monday Night Miracle" in 2000 at the old Meadowlands stadium, when the Jets stormed back from a 30-7 fourth-quarter deficit and beat the Dolphins 40-37 in overtime.

"I get excited for every game," Tannehill said, "but a division game against the Jets in New York is really exciting."

This one also has added spice with both sides getting into a bit of a war of words early in the week. It all stems from the first meeting, when Ryan said the Jets needed to put "hot sauce" on Dolphins RB Reggie Bush — explaining that he meant extra attention on the playmaking running back. Well, Bush hurt his knee in the game and took Ryan's comments to mean the Jets intended to injure him, so he said it was karma that Revis was knocked out for the season.

Ryan said this week he would expect Bush to apologize for his comments because he did for his, adding they were misinterpreted. Bush didn't buy Ryan's apology, and Landry fired things up further by saying the running back will "remember that hit" he put on him that injured him briefly last month.

Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin added they want to take Bush out, but legally. Miami center Mike Pouncey fired back: "He's a joke."

Whew. Got all that? Just another Dolphins-Jets showdown.

"I expect for it to be a tough game, probably some trash talking going on, but it's going to be a physical game," Bush said. "It's going to be a tough game. It's a divisional opponent and that's a great thing about playing divisional opponents is that you get a chance to see them twice. It'll be fun this time around."


AP Sports Writer Steven Wine in Davie, Fla., contributed to this story.


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