Once every decade, the New York Jets suffer a franchise-altering loss to the Miami Dolphins. There was the Mud Bowl in 1983, the Fake Spike in 1994 and the Chad Pennington revenge game in 2008 -- all of which led to head-coaching changes.
Rex Ryan isn't going to lose his job based on the outcome of Monday night's game at MetLife Stadium, but a loss could rob the Jets of a chance to fulfill Ryan's Super Bowl guarantee -- and that would be devastating.
With a three-game losing streak and a locker room on the verge of blowing up, the bickering Jets (2-3) are desperate for a victory. So are the Dolphins (0-4), who haven't won a game in 309 days -- not since their 10-6 win over the Jets on Dec. 12.
"Oh, we need it, there's no doubt about it," Ryan said. "We need to get back to winning and we know this team is gunning for a win, as well. It's not like, 'Oh, the Jets need one.' Well, so does Miami. We're going to get everything they have, there's no doubt.
"But, yeah, we don't need to lose another game. I mean, everybody knows what our goal is, and what we expect from each other. We need this win."
On paper, this looks like a layup for the Jets, but this is a strange, unpredictable rivalry. Just when you think it's going one way, it turns in a different direction. Remember the Midnight Miracle in 2000? Ryan, too, hasn't been immune to the fickle nature of the series.
Check this out: Ryan has a better record against the New England Patriots (3-3) than he does against the Dolphins (1-3), who are 3-0 under Tony Sparano on the Jets' home turf.
In each of Ryan's three losses to Miami, one unit suffered a major meltdown. In 2009, the Jets lost 31-27 when their defense made Chad Henne look like Dan Marino, as Ryan put it, and lost again 30-25 on two kickoff-return touchdowns by Ted Ginn Jr. In 2010, the Jets lost 10-6, thanks to a no-show by the offense.
"We have to find a way to end that streak," said Ryan, who has a losing record against only two teams, the Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens (0-2).
This could be a tougher-than-expected game for the Jets because the Dolphins are coming off a bye week. That gave them extra time to prepare new quarterback Matt Moore, replacing the injured Henne, for the complexities of the Jets' defense. It also gave Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan extra time to create new wrinkles for Mark Sanchez.
With the Jets' recent offensive struggles and the Dolphins' season-long funk, this could be a defensive struggle.
"It's going to be ugly," Dolphins running back Reggie Bush said, "so we're getting ready for a street fight."
What to watch for:
• Team turmoil. The spotlight will be on the Jets' offense, which appears to be cracking. Derrick Mason was traded because of concern about his attitude, Santonio Holmes and Brandon Moore engaged in a war of words and embattled coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can't seem to keep everybody happy. If the Jets start slowly again, things could get tense on the sideline.
• Run D. In two of the past three games, the Jets' run defense was exposed. The Dolphins are a running team, and they'll lean heavily on the run to take pressure off Moore, who makes his first start of the season. The Dolphins reportedly used the bye week to create different ways to get the ball to Bush, who is rotting away as a traditional runner. They will try to get him into space to exploit the Jets' linebackers. Rookie nose tackle Kenrick Ellis is expected to make his NFL debut.
• Marshall's plan. Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall, in one of the most bizarre rants in years, predicted that he'll be so amped for the game that he'll be ejected by the end of the first half. One thing is certain: Marshall will get more TV face time because of those comments.
• Welcome Matt. If the Jets don't get at least four sacks, something is wrong. The Dolphins are 28th in sacks per play, with right tackle Marc Colombo -- a human E-Z Pass lane -- on a 12-sack pace. The Jets will have to keep a close eye on Moore, who can scramble.
• Complementary football. The Jets haven't won back-to-back quarters since Week 2 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The offense and defense take turns suffering letdowns. If the defense makes a big stop, the offense goes three-and-out. If the offense scores, the defense gives up a big play. They need consistency.
"We've got to get this taste out of our mouth," defensive tackle Mike DeVito said. "Three in a row is awful."
Four would be disastrous.