FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Smack talk from Kerry Rhodes is one thing. But Jerricho Cotchery? Really?
Rhodes was at it again yesterday, talking up the underdog Jets' chances against the Chargers. But so was the soft-spoken Cotchery, who is as reluctant as they come to provide bulletin-board material and rarely has uttered anything even close to incendiary during his six years with the Jets.
"We're very comfortable in this position, and we know we're capable of taking a run at this thing," Cotchery said, referring to the Super Bowl. "We know we have the players in this locker room to make that run. It doesn't matter who's in front of us."
Even if it's the Chargers, winners of 11 straight?
"We know they have a great team, but we still feel comfortable with our chances," Cotchery said. "We're not overconfident, but if we play up to our expectations, then we have a great shot at winning the game."
Just a shot?
Cotchery amended his statement. "We feel very strongly about this," he said. "We feel like if we play up to our expectations, we will win the game. We feel like that every week. This is just another week in the process."
Holy Rex Ryan! The coach's bravado now has seeped into every possible corner of the Jets' locker room, even to among the lowest of the low-key: Cotchery.
The receiver is especially looking forward to playing the Chargers, whose quarterback, Philip Rivers, was Cotchery's teammate at North Carolina State. "We still talk on a regular basis," said Cotchery, who spoke to Rivers the day after the Jets' 24-14 wild-card win over the Bengals.
But now Cotchery is trying to come up with a few pointers to give to his defense about any flaws in Rivers' game. He hasn't come up with any. "He's got the whole package," Cotchery said.
If he does come up with something, he'll share it with Rhodes, who has to deal directly with Rivers on defense. But Rhodes is familiar with Rivers, too; he has known him since high school, when both were hotshot quarterbacks in Alabama.
"He's matured so much as a quarterback," Rhodes said. "It's tough to find any flaws."
Rivers' top targets, Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson, totaled 2,324 yards and 17 touchdowns. Rhodes will be seeing plenty of both. But he will do so with the confidence - or cockiness, if you will - that has permeated the Jets' locker room under Ryan's brash and infectious leadership style.
"I know we're not perceived to be the favorites," Rhodes said, "but we don't think there's that big of a gap. Sure, they've had a great year, but a couple of games here or there, and we could be sitting in a totally different spot as well."
One more reason for optimism on Rhodes' part: that the Bengals kept pace with the Chargers Dec. 20 in San Diego. The game wasn't decided until Nate Kaeding's last-second field goal gave the Chargers a 27-24 win.
That's the same Bengals team the Jets beat like a drum the last two weeks. "I talked to some Cincinnati players about that, and they were saying that the way we're so physical against other teams, we'll have a good chance against the Chargers," Rhodes said. "We think we've got a real good chance."
Is he willing to guarantee it?
"I'm not saying that, but we still feel very good."
As does the coach, who said last week he believed the Jets should be favored throughout the playoffs. And that includes Sunday.
"If it's trash talking that I believe in this football team, then I'm the biggest trash talker there is," Ryan said. "I just have such a confidence in our football team. I don't mean it to be disrespectful to opponents, and I don't think I am. I'm just taking my team in, and I expect to win."
Bring it on, fellas.
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