FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Forget the records.
The 3-3 Jets and Patriots may be part of a four-way tie for first in the AFC East, but New England remains the litmus test for Rex Ryan and his players.
The Patriots are more than just the team to beat, however. They're "the new America's Team," according to Antonio Cromartie.
"Honestly, you can't say they're not," the Jets' new No. 1 cornerback said with a laugh. "Everybody talks about New England. If they're losing, they're talking about New England. Even if they're winning, they're talking about them."
Forget Dallas. It's the Patriots who are the talk of the town, especially at 1 Jets Drive. And thoughts about the Pats will continue long after this week's game in Foxboro.
Ryan freely admitted he's crafted his roster with New England in mind. On Sunday, he and the front-office executives will find out if their offseason moves will propel them past their rival.
Safeties Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry headline the Jets' revamped secondary, which despite losing All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis is confident it can keep up with any group of receivers. The Patriots have some of the best weapons in the NFL, and their increased use of the no-huddle makes quarterback Tom Brady all the more dangerous.
That is precisely why the Jets signed Bell and Landry to one-year deals this past offseason. "I think this is a game we definitely have to make a statement," Bell said.
The former Dolphin said the knock on the Jets' secondary was "they didn't have good safety coverage. Those are things that me and LaRon want to erase. So is it a big game for us? Yeah, it's a big game. And we welcome the challenge."
Cromartie admitted the secondary "never communicated in the right way" the past two seasons. But adding Bell and Landry has improved the communication, athleticism and speed. Even in Revis' absence, a bond remains, Cromartie said.
"I don't think we had that much trust in each other because we were flipping so much on the back end, from Jim Leonhard last year to Brodney Pool to Eric Smith," Cromartie said. "I think now we have a steady group where we know exactly where these guys are going to be and how they're going to play."
The Jets are hoping Sunday's outcome is far different than the 37-16 home loss to the Patriots last Nov. 13. The Jets came into that Sunday night game on a three-game winning streak, while the Patriots were on a two-game skid. With a win, the Jets would have been alone in first in the AFC East.
Asked for his memories of their last meeting, Cromatie said: "The one where we got our ---- whooped? It's a sour feeling. Going against your division rival, at home, and you get whooped. There was nothing you could do but sit there and take it. But I think we have a different group of guys. We're going to make sure that we're fighting for every single guy that's on the field beside us."
The Jets' secondary may be much improved, but to them, the Patriots are the media darlings -- for good reason.
"Every single year they're coming up and having a chance to win the Super Bowl," Cromartie said. "And when you have a dynasty team like coach Belichick has put together, they're always going to be talked about."
And there's only one way for the Jets to become the "new America's Team."
Said Cromartie: "We've got to win a championship to be talked about."