Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.


"Way too strong a word,'' Rex Ryan said.

"I don't think so,'' Mark Sanchez said. "No vindication at all.''

So it went most everywhere Jets and journalists encountered one another Sunday -- the latter wondering whether a 48-28 de-winging of the Bills might lead to some gloating and the former doing their best not to do so.

Sure, linebacker Bart Scott stayed true to form by using colorful language to blow off reporters in protest of their treatment of the Jets. But his teammates echoed the company line set by the coach and quarterback.

It went something like this:

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"We've got 16 more weeks, man,'' receiver Santonio Holmes said. "This is only Week 1.''

Well, darn it, if the Jets won't brag, we'll do it for them. They were very good by any standard and shockingly so by the lowly expectations for their offense after a 31-point preseason.

No one, the Jets included, saw them building a 41-7 lead before losing their edge down the stretch and allowing the Bills to make the score a bit more respectable.

The real shock was not the defense discombobulating Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the worst beat-down of a former Harvard jock since the Miami Heat smothered Jeremy Lin. And it was not Jeremy Kerley returning a punt 68 yards for a touchdown.

Nope, the revelation was an offense that had been widely dismissed entering the season.

Despite Sanchez throwing an early interception and Tim Tebow accomplishing next to nothing in the much-touted Wildcat offense, the Jets still managed to produce, and produce big.

The one area where they did not meet expectations was on the quote sheet, following a lead Ryan set after the 2011 season when he swore off Super Bowl guarantees.

"Regardless of what the opinions are outside our building, they don't affect us,'' said Sanchez, who appeared to emerge unscathed psychologically from a spring and summer of questions about Tebow.

"We don't care what people are saying in the media,'' tight end Dustin Keller added. "When people are down on us and saying these negative things, I think that's where we're at our best.

"So I would appreciate it if you guys could find some way to put a negative spin on this. We can use it for bulletin-board material.''

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There wasn't much negative to say, other than the reality check the Jets kept giving themselves: That it was one game, with a visit to Pittsburgh looming in Week 2.

Let's not forget what happened around here the last time a team of which nothing was expected got off to a strong, exciting start and had fans dreaming big dreams as late as midseason.

Remember the Mets?

Barring a rash of injuries, the Jets should avoid that sort of free fall. But Ryan won't take chances.

"Obviously, we need a lot more to get to where we want to get to, which is the playoffs,'' he said.

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When someone asked the newly svelte coach whether he thought the Jets played with a "chip on their shoulder,'' he initially said, "I certainly do, absolutely.''

Two sentences later, he was softening the mood again. "Maybe not a chip, but 'urgency' is a better word," he said. "I think 'vindication,' or 'chip on the shoulder,' maybe that's not the right thing. We were just excited to play.''

Jets fans will take it. It was one exciting day after weeks of angst. In the locker room afterward, Sanchez reminded teammates this was no time for thinking or saying: "Hey, yeah, we told you so. We're the best.''

Said the previously beleaguered quarterback: "That's not our deal here. That's not what we want.''