In an early-year clash that could have significant late-season ramifications as well, the Jets and Dolphins renew their bitter rivalry this Sunday in a primetime showdown between divisional foes that both harbor lofty expectations.
After failing to live up to their considerable hype in an ugly 10-9 home loss to the equally-optimistic Baltimore Ravens in Week 1, the Jets were able to back up their preseason braggadocio with an extremely impressive win last Sunday. Getting a shutdown performance by its highly-regarded defense and a coming-of-age effort from young quarterback Mark Sanchez, New York soared past defending AFC East champ New England in a 28-14 verdict that once again forced everyone to take notice.
The Jets scored 21 unanswered points to overcome a 14-7 second-quarter deficit and overwhelmed the Patriots' dangerous offense over the game's final 30 minutes, limiting Tom Brady and company to a paltry 80 total yards and intercepting the superstar signal-caller two times after halftime.
Six days after mustering an anemic 74 passing yards against a rugged Baltimore defense, Sanchez outplayed his more-decorated counterpart by completing a sharp 21-of-30 throws for 220 yards and a career-high three touchdowns versus a New England team that's finished atop the AFC East in six of the past seven seasons.
The win did come at a price, however, as standout cornerback Darrelle Revis aggravated an injury to his left hamstring that will sideline the training- camp holdout for Sunday's test.
Wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who caught one of Sanchez's three scoring strikes against the Patriots, is expected to play this week despite an arrest for drunken driving early Tuesday morning, though Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said the inconsistent sixth-year pro would be held out of the starting lineup.
While the Jets have grabbed most of the headlines among the AFC East contingent, it's the still-unbeaten Dolphins that actually stand atop the division at the moment. Tony Sparano's troops were able to raise a few eyebrows with their most recent result, a 14-10 triumph on the road over Brett Favre and the suddenly-slumping Minnesota Vikings this past Sunday.
Miami showed it could play a little defense as well in that one, intercepting a rusty Favre three times and producing three sacks of the legendary quarterback, one of which caused a fumble that rookie linebacker Koa Misi recovered in the end zone for the Dolphins' only touchdown.
The unit's opportunistic display helped compensate for a less than desirable output from a Miami offense that's still trying to find its way in the season's initial stages. Following a ho-hum showing in a 15-10 win at lowly Buffalo in the season-opener, the Dolphins managed only 226 total yards and 12 first downs against the Vikings.
Miami hopes to better those numbers when it faces an aggressive New York defense that now counts longtime Dolphin Jason Taylor as a member. The 36- year-old former NFL Defensive Player of the Year spent 12 of his first 13 professional seasons with the Fins and is the franchise's all-time leader with 124 sacks.