These are not Rex Ryan's Jets. And that could make all the difference on Sunday.
The brash trash-talk of recent years was noticeably absent in the locker room this week, although the rivalry between the Jets and Patriots is as intense as it ever was. And for the first time in a long time, the boys in green are playing for more than just pride.
A victory would ensure that the Jets (4-1) leave Foxborough tied with New England (5-0) atop the AFC East standings. It also would indicate that they might be the team most capable of knocking the Patriots off their perch.
Coach Todd Bowles has taken the opposite approach of his predecessor, opting for sound play-calls over witty one-liners and self-aggrandizing statements. No longer do the Jets need to generate headlines to prove a point. All they have to do is win.
"Right now, I think that the play really says the most. It speaks the loudest," said Jets running back Stevan Ridley, a Patriot during the previous four seasons. " . . . Forget talking and blowing it up, let's just go out there and do our jobs. And that's what we're trying to do. I'll say that [Bowles is] a lot like Bill Belichick in that way: It's week-to-week, it's game-to-game. We're not getting too high or too low, we're just playing football every week."
The Jets' top-ranked defense -- which has allowed a league-low 15 points a game -- will have to slow down quarterback Tom Brady and his top-ranked offense, which is putting up an NFL-best 36.6 points a game.
"I can't sit here and give you any other adjective that every other coach hasn't given you," Bowles said when asked about Brady. "He's competitive, he's smart, he's tough, he studies, he's accurate, he gets the ball out quick, and you can say the same thing, a whole bunch of things. He's one of the ultimate quarterbacks of our time."
Nevertheless, the Jets are feeling confident.
"I like our chances," outside linebacker Calvin Pace said. "We're going into hostile territory against a very good team, but it's about us."
The Patriots are banged up this week. Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon (toe), linebacker Rufus Johnson (illness), guard Shaquille Mason (knee) and defensive end Jabaal Sheard (ankle) already have been ruled out. But mastermind Belichick has proved over the years that he can adapt to the loss of players regardless of how talented they are.
"I'm looking forward to it," said cornerback Darrelle Revis, who re-signed with the Jets in March a month after winning the Super Bowl with the Patriots. "It's going to be a fun matchup."
Asked which unit -- the Jets' defense or the Patriots' offense -- has the edge, Revis smiled and said: "We'll see on Sunday. They're talented, we're talented. And we'll see, man."
A win over the Patriots, division champs in 12 of the previous 14 years, would be huge for the Jets. It also would speak volumes about Bowles, a first-year head coach tasked with changing the culture of a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since the 2010 season. But Bowles won't allow himself or his players to think about anything but the present. So if they win Sunday, "It just means we're 5-1 and we have to get ready for Oakland," Bowles said.
Unlike in the past, there were no bold predictions made by Jets players this week, nor were there any grandiose guarantees issued by their coach. Instead, just quiet confidence and a focused intensity. But "we're not saying we're backing down or anything," Revis said.
"We're hungry," added Ridley, who was not activated Saturday but is close to returning to action. " . . . We're not going to give anybody the victory early. Yeah, they're going to be fired up. It's a lot of people talking bad about the Patriots right now.
" . . . However you slice the cake, we're trying to get this 'W' as much as they are. I don't care what their motivation is, I don't care what they say about the Jets, we're trying to get a win too . . . And may the best team win."