Not long ago, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan stepped on a scale, looked in a mirror and described himself as “morbidly obese.” He gambled on Lap-Band surgery and eventually trimmed down by more than 100 pounds.
Ryan deserves credit for losing weight, and this is the time for him to prove he has not lost his touch as a defensive wizard.
His calling cards are big talk and a tough defense, and his credibility in both areas will be questioned if the Jets can’t take down the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. It’s a game Ryan cannot afford to lose.
In Week 1, with the Jets coming off an abysmal preseason, it was popular to bet against them. I bet on them. In Week 2, after the Jets blew out Buffalo, it was popular to bet on them at Pittsburgh. I bet against them.
A key factor in NFL handicapping is recognizing spots, bad and good. The Jets were in a bad spot last week against a Steelers team coming off a road loss. It looked like one of the best bets on the card, and Pittsburgh pounded the Jets, 27-10.
Although it’s the second of back-to-back road games, this is a more favorable spot for the Jets, who are laying 2½ points against one of the worst teams in the league, a team with a first-year coach and rookie quarterback.
Ryan knows exactly how to beat the Dolphins, which is to turn them into a one-dimensional offense by loading up to stop the run. Ryan Tannehill, in his third start and with pedestrian receivers, is not going to beat the Jets through the air.
Reggie Bush rushed for 172 yards on 26 carries in Miami’s 35-13 victory over Oakland a week ago, but the Raiders are a train wreck in every aspect. The Jets are better equipped to put the brakes on Bush.
The return of cornerback Darrelle Revis, who has recovered from a concussion and plans to play, gives Ryan’s defense more flexibility and should make Tannehill’s task even tougher.
The wild card is Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, who throws too many wild pitches. He completed only 10 of 27 passes against Pittsburgh, and he was 6 of 22 after the Jets’ opening touchdown drive. Tim Tebow is warming up.
And waiting on deck for the Jets are heavyweights San Francisco and Houston. So if Ryan loses this one, the season could turn into a morbidly obese disaster.
Four more plays for Week 3 (Home team in CAPS):
■ CARDINALS (+3½) over Eagles: Arizona has not won nine of its past 11 games with smoke and mirrors. The Cardinals proved their defense is legit by going to New England and shutting down Tom Brady. The fear with this bet is it looks too obvious. Eventually, Michael Vick will play a turnover-free game and the Eagles will put it all together. Hopefully that doesn’t happen this week.
■ BRONCOS (+2) over Texans: Despite three first-quarter interceptions thrown by Peyton Manning, the Broncos were in position to win Monday at Atlanta. Manning rarely plays poorly in consecutive weeks. The Denver defense is aggressive and impressive. Houston has not proved a lot by beating the Dolphins and Jaguars.
■ Patriots (+3) over RAVENS: A good case can be made for Baltimore in this spot, but I’ll take the points and avoid overanalyzing it. Simply put, Patriots coach Bill Belichick is 6-1 ATS in his past seven games as an underdog, and he’s off a loss.
■ Packers (-3) over SEAHAWKS: Away from Green Bay last season, Aaron Rodgers threw for 21 touchdowns with two interceptions, so the hostile crowd in Seattle won’t rattle him the way it did Dallas’ Tony Romo. Rodgers is a better bet than Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, and laying a field goal looks like line value.
Last week: 5-0 against the spread
Contact sports betting columnist Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM, 98.9 FM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.