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A Tasty Primetime Buffet Featuring Jets, 'Fins


Sione Pouha was asked a question during the week and the Jets defensive tackle had a delicious answer right at the tip of his tongue:

"To me it's chow time. And it's my decision, all our decision: Are we gonna eat or are we gonna skip the entree?"

Pouha's response was to a specific line of inquiry, about the Jets defense rising up to stop the New Orleans Saints on fourth-and-1 twice during last week's loss. But it captures a certain element of the mentality of the Green & White this season and could be converted into a pithy question for the Jets' key game at Miami tonight:

Do they diet? Or do they feast on Dolphin?

"It's a big game for us," rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "It's on Monday night. This one is for the whole country. We need to play smart and elevate our play as we need to every week. We need to bounce back from last week and play better."

This game on ESPN "Prahm Tahm," as long-time Jets fan Chris Berman will put it a few times tonight, is big for any number of reasons. Let us count the ways:

*  The Jets meet the Dolphins for the first time this season — indeed, for the first time since the 2008 finale, when the 'Fins beat them at home, 24-17, to annex the AFC East title — with the chance to go 2-0 in the division.

*  They would like the win to rise to 4-1 and stay ahead of the perennial powers from New England, who played at cold (but not snowy) Denver on Sunday.

*  They would like to wipe the bad taste of last week's 24-10 loss to the Saints out of their mouths, and the only way to do that is to take a bite out of the Tuna's team and present Sanchez, Rex Ryan and themselves the first nighttime victory of the Ryan era.

The guy who Jets fans want to see play better, of course, is Sanchez, who quaffed three straight Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week awards before last week's hiccup in New Orleans. But Ryan has no doubt that game is behind his precocious signalcaller.

"He's already back," the coach said. "The main thing is just be yourself. Bad games are going to happen. Is he going to be perfect the rest of the season? He's going to try to be, but we all know that's not going to happen. He's human just like anybody else. He'll bounce back. He's ready to go. He can't wait for Monday night. He knows its going to be a big challenge. The Dolphins are a good defensive team, but he's ready to go."

Sanchez and the offense are also ready to go with a slightly different group at the buffet line. Gone in trade to Cleveland is WR Chansi Stuckey. In his place is a big-play receiver with a fresh start in Braylon Edwards. And even though Edwards just arrived, he thinks the transition to Brian Schottenheimer's offense won't be too difficult.

"I've already been in this system for two years, 2007 and 2008. It's the same system," he said. "They're giving me all the chances and they're breaking everything down. We've been working well together so far. Anytime there wasn't a period for Mark and me, we are working on things. I feel pretty confident. We have a lot of time before game time to really beat it in to me and make sure we are on the same page."

It wasn't known early today about No. 1 wideout Jerricho Cotchery's availability due to his hamstring injury, which has him listed as questionable for this game. But with J-Co or without him, the Jets will go at the Dolphins defense, which has been No. 1 in the NFL in rush defense and 20-yard runs allowed in the first four weeks but also last in pass defense and 20-yard receptions allowed.

On the defensive side of the ball, the challenge will be in slowing down the Dolphins' Wildcat. Even with second-year QB Chad Henne taking over the reins after the season-ending injury to Chad Pennington, there has been no dropoff in the performance of Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and the single wing formation of the new millennium that coach Tony Sparano's offense has been executing with a flair for two seasons.

"It's a pain in the tail. It's just a body punch," Ryan said. "It takes preparation time. They may run it, they may not run it, but you've got to be prepared for it. It takes some practice time. They're going to run their regular offense, but if you're not prepared for it, they're going to run that all day long."

The Jets have given up some runs in the 10-to-20-yard range, two games ago to the Titans' Chris Johnson and last week to the Saints' Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush, to fall from their No. 6 ranking against the run after two games to No. 13 heading into this past weekend's action.

But the Green & White "D" also made 19 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage the last two games, topped in the Big Easy by a first-quarter first-and-goal-at-the-1 goal line stand and Pouha's third-quarter stop of Thomas on fourth-and-1. Kind of a sweet and sour dish of run defense.

The Jets are emphasizing the sweet part heading into this battle against the Dolphins' top-ranked rushing offense.

"One of the things that Rex has always emphasized is that teams have different ways of running the ball," Pouha said. "Sometimes you might get caught up in what they do and forget what you do. So it's basically not placing the whole emphasis on what they do but having a balance of understanding what they do but really knowing who you are and what you do."

DT Marques Douglas said: "Ronnie Brown, in my opinion, he's more deadly in the Wildcat than when he's in regular running back mode. But at the same time, we don't have to do anything but be ourselves and play like jets to stop the run."

Said Coach Rex at the end of the Jets' week of preparation:

"I'm not flinching. We'll be ready."

Like Pouha at the top of this advance, Rex was talking about something specific, in this case about whether he and his defense are ready for the Dolphins' Wildcat.

But like Pouha he could just as easily have been talking about his Jets on the Monday night stage.

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