Photos and VideosMore Photos and Videos
Rex Ryan has coached more important games during his tenure as head coach of the Jets than Sunday night's game with the Ravens.
It is just Week Four, after all, and, no matter what happens in Baltimore, there's a lot of football left to be played when the game comes to an end.
Playoff games are always bigger as are games that have to be won to get your team into the postseason.
All of those games have been more important for the Jets than this matchup with the Ravens, but none of them have been more important to Ryan personally than the Sunday night affair.
His defense, the defense that is at the core of every boast and every wild proclamation, is under attack and Ryan needs to show that he can fix what's wrong against a good team on the road.
Watching the Raiders game unfold was like watching a snuff film. It was so ugly that your stomach turned with every big run, yet you couldn't turn away because it was so unusual that it was captivating in spite of itself.
If things don't get better, though, it will cease to be something as exotic as a snuff film. It will ust be a bad movie, predictable and uncomfortable enough to sit through that you won't think twice about shutting it off and moving on to other things.
That would go for Ryan as well. His style has had many critics in his short time as a head coach, but those critics have mostly seemed like uptight prigs because Ryan's team backed up his boasts by being one of the toughest kids on the block.
When your team does that, you aren't just some blowhard who is too in love with the sound of his own voice. You're arrogant, but it is an arrogance that comes honestly because your words are merely representations of the truth.
If Ryan's defense keeps playing the way it did in Oakland (and, to be honest, the way it played in Week One as well), his critics are going to have a field day and they'll be dead right. The group of critics will also grow, because spewing nothing but hot air doesn't impress too many people.
This week will be crucial for the effort of stemming the tide. The Ravens are a very good team, well balanced on offense and capable of hanging a big number on a defense that doesn't come ready to play.
That makes them a team the Jets have to smack in the mouth from the first snap and keep on smacking until the final whistle sounds with the scoreboard in their favor.
They need to control the line of scrimmage, terrorize the quarterback and punish every mistake with a fervor usually seen in the members of a cult.
They need to do those things because Ryan has staked his reputation to coaching a team that does those things. If they can't do that, Ryan will start having to answer a lot of questions about why the Jets aren't able to do those things and why, if he's such a great defensive mind, why he can't get them back to the basics.
There are definitely issues with the talent on hand, starting with the loss of Kris Jenkins and Shaun Ellis from a defensive line that hasn't impressed and ending with safety play that's never been good enough in the Ryan era.
The defense looks a step slow, Antonio Cromartie has played two awful games that make you wonder if he's capable of hanging in against any good receivers and the team signed Aaron Maybin again because the pass rush has been a myth.
But Ryan still has Darrelle Revis, David Harris and Bart Scott to use as the tip of the sword. And he's still the coach who is supposed to come up with schemes that befuddle and embarrass opposing offenses.
Ryan needs to recapture that magic against his old team on Sunday night if the Jets are going to win the game. Another failure and it will be okay to start wondering if this year's team is destined to fall short of the lofty expectations their coach set for them.