After a week of stormy words, the Jets and Dolphins will bring their AFC East grudge match to the playing field Sunday.
But "Frankenstorm," the winds and rain forecast as the Northeast braces for Hurricane Sandy, might have a lot to say with how it plays out.
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The Jets (3-4) are looking to sweep the Dolphins (3-3) for the first time under Rex Ryan. With a win, the Jets will be at .500 and, more importantly, 3-1 in their division. They needed overtime to eke out a 23-20 road win over the Dolphins Sept. 23, but this time the Jets -- who lost on an overtime field goal last week in New England -- can't allow the Dolphins to push them to the brink of regulation again.
Despite not having No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes, starting quarterback Mark Sanchez said he and the offense are "starting to find our groove now that I've really had the chance to mix it up with these wideouts . . . Really, since the San Francisco game, just looking back at it, we've played some of our best football since then."
Sanchez, however, still has a lower passer rating (74.6) than Miami's Ryan Tannehill (76.5). And the rookie quarterback, who threw for only 196 yards and a pick-6 to LaRon Landry last month, has improved. Tannehill posted passer ratings of 86.5, 92.3 and 112.0 in the Dolphins' past three games.
Ryan often has said he has "an all-weather offense," one that's able to run the football regardless of the conditions. The forecast at game time calls for a 60-percent chance of rain, with winds out of the northeast kicking up to 20 miles per hour.
With the wind expected to pick up as the game progresses, that could open the door for Tim Tebow's Wildcat. Jets offensive coordinator -- and former Dolphins coach -- Tony Sparano said Thursday that he needs to do "a better job" of using the backup quarterback and exploring more passing situations for Tebow. But throwing the ball Sunday might be tricky, and this probably isn't the time for a Tebow air show.
The wet conditions could be good news for Shonn Greene. He had only 40 yards on 19 carries in the last meeting against the Dolphins, but his production has picked up since, including a 161-yard, three-touchdown game Oct. 14 against the Colts.
The Jets' defense needs to bottle up Reggie Bush, the focal point of the Dolphins' 11th-ranked running game. He collected 61 yards on 10 carries against the Jets last month before he was forced to leave the game with a knee injury just before halftime. Bush has since rushed for only 132 yards on 48 carries (2.8 per carry). His injury in the Sept. 23 game -- and Darrelle Revis' subsequent season-ending ACL tear -- set off a flurry of smack talk between both camps.
But the time for words is over. There is much at stake for both teams, who trail the Patriots heading into the second half of the season.
"It's a challenge across the board," Ryan said of the rested Dolphins, who are coming off a bye. "One team is going in fresh. But I'll tell you about our football team, we're going to empty the tank. Whatever we have left, we're pouring it out there."
Jet streamsThe Jets signed TE Hayden Smith from the practice squad and released WR Jason Hill. The move came just days after backup TE Jeff Cumberland revealed he has a dislocated hand, an injury suffered in the first quarter last week.