Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets stands...

Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets stands on the sidelines during a preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. (Sept. 2, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

What, you're surprised that Ray Lewis would go word-for-trash-talking-word with the Jets in the run-up to Monday night's game?

If there's any surprise, it's that it took Lewis this long.

Lewis has been talking smack for all of his 15 NFL seasons, so you knew he couldn't go much longer without taking a few shots at the Jets and Rex Ryan, who worked alongside Lewis for a decade with the Ravens. Lewis unloaded yesterday, telling reporters in Baltimore that the reverence being accorded this year's Jets team is out of whack.

"The bottom line is . . . we're talking about the Jets like they're the Saints," Lewis said. "That's the Super Bowl champs. They're the only people that can be dethroned - Drew Brees and the Saints, not Mark Sanchez and the Jets . . . You listen to all this yap, yap, yap; the bottom line is you got to buckle up your chinstraps."

Lewis went on to suggest that Ryan is putting too much pressure on his team with all the Super Bowl talk. "I hope they can cash the check that he's writing," he said.

Not surprisingly, Ryan fired back later in the day that the pressure isn't on the players, it's on the coach. "My players haven't made those comments," he said. "I've made those comments. So the pressure is on me. Not on our players . . . If it doesn't work out the way I think it will work out, then who's it going to be on? It's going to be on one person, and it's going to be me. Not on our team."

Another day, another team, another player, same story: The Jets continue to have that big, fat bull's-eye on their chests, thanks to the incessant chatter that all starts with the uber-confident head coach.

Will it have a negative effect on the Jets moving forward? Perhaps at some level, but I think the more important message that Ryan sends to his team through his words actually will work to the Jets' benefit.

You saw that message in the first episode of "Hard Knocks'' as Ryan addressed his team for the first time in training camp. He started off talking about how people thought last year's team came from under the radar and managed to exceed expectations by the end of the season. Ryan said he'd have none of that this year; instead, he wanted his team to be out front in saying where they wanted to go - namely Dallas in February. And he was willing to back it up.

He said as much again yesterday. "If you want to win it, you ought to be man enough to stand up there and say, 'We expect to win,' '' Ryan said. "And I've got news for you: We expect to win this week, next week and every week. Now does it happen? No, it doesn't happen all the time, but we expect to win.''

Nothing wrong with that message, even if it's a highly unconventional approach in a league that mostly features buttoned-down coaches who speak in clichés. In fact, it's so unconventional that we've never seen another head coach - not even Rex's daddy, Buddy - be so publicly emboldened.

It's certainly rubbing off on his players. How about this zinger: In an appearance last night on SNY, nose tackle Kris Jenkins fired right back at Lewis, suggesting the linebacker ought to be glad he isn't playing offense.

"I know Ray is on defense and I think he can thank God for that this Monday," Jenkins said. "Because if he had to stand across from me, I think he would understand that if I was a saint or a sinner, I'm not the man to talk like that . . . I'm glad that he can talk like that. I just hope this time he doesn't hide behind the other linebacker that's taking all the hits for him."

Woo-hoo! Jenkins didn't identify the linebacker, but Dannell Ellerbe is listed as the other inside linebacker alongside Lewis.

Ladies and gentlemen, we've got ourselves some good old-fashioned trash- talking, some of the best we've ever seen, in advance of this nationally televised game between two legitimate AFC contenders. And with Ryan not backing down one inch from his bravado, we can expect plenty more in the weeks to come.