TODAY'S PAPER
Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon
SportsFootballJets

Jets glad for chance to back up bold talk

Jets head coach Rex Ryan and Nick Folk

Jets head coach Rex Ryan and Nick Folk celebrate with fans after they defeated the Buffalo Bills 38-7, Sunday. (Jan. 2, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - They've been yapping about it for a while, letting everyone know they have a Super Bowl-caliber roster and that anything less than raising that Lombardi Trophy will be a bitter disappointment.

Now it's time for the Jets to back up that brash talk.

Their postseason begins in Indianapolis Saturday night, and the sixth-seeded Jets (11-5) hope it starts with a victory over the third-seeded Colts (10-6) in their AFC wild-card matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"It's awesome," Rex Ryan told Newsday. "It's right there in front of us. The thing is, we had the courage to say it, where everybody else does it maybe behind closed doors or whatever. But to be a champ, like I always say, you have to believe in yourself when nobody else will. And that's how you become a champion."

To even earn that opportunity, the Jets have to get past someone who already has won a Super Bowl and knocked them out in the AFC Championship Game a season ago: Ryan's nemesis, Peyton Manning. But after those optional practices in April and May, the two-a-days in upstate Cortland and 16 regular-season games, the Jets think they're ready.

"Man, it's exciting because you work hard in the offseason, and minicamps and training camps, regular season, and only a select few get to this point," tackle Damien Woody said. "That in and of itself is a feat. But realistically, there's only one winner and 31 other losers when it all boils down to it. So at the end of the day, we want to be the one hoisting that trophy.

"Before you get to that point, there's little steps that you have to take. For us, we are going the wild-card route and have to win each game and build toward hopefully that ultimate goal in Dallas."

The Jets stacked their roster to win this season. They tried to improve the secondary by dealing for Antonio Cromartie and drafting Kyle Wilson, and they signed safety Brodney Pool after shipping Kerry Rhodes to Arizona, thinking that Pool would bring more physicality.

They also signed free agents LaDainian Tomlinson and Jason Taylor and traded for Santonio Holmes.

"It's a different team," tight end Dustin Keller said. "I think in the offseason, Rex and [general manager] Mike Tannenbaum made an emphasis to go get guys to finish games, these types of huge games. L.T., Jason Taylor, Cromartie, Santonio, that was a big point of emphasis, and they put this thing together to beat teams like the Colts."

Holmes recalled his initial conversation with Ryan after the Jets acquired the Super Bowl XLIII MVP from Pittsburgh on April 12 for a fifth-round draft pick.

"When I got the call, the first thing Rex talked to me about was, he had a chance to win a Super Bowl and I was the guy that took it away from him," Holmes said, referencing the Steelers' 23-14 win over Ryan's Ravens two years ago in the AFC Championship Game. Holmes' 65-yard touchdown reception helped Pittsburgh build a 13-0 lead.

"I know that he believes I'm here for one reason, and that's to win championships. Having L.T. as a part of this team also, Jason Taylor, Pool, Braylon [Edwards] - he's a big-play guy - you can't forget any of these guys that we have here that have been making plays for us all season that have to continue to make plays come Saturday."

Holmes give Mark Sanchez an explosive weapon and has that big-game experience, something very few Jets had last season during their unexpected run. That includes Sanchez, who might have benefited from last year's three postseason encounters more than anyone else.

"You can feel the intensity," the second-year quarterback said. "You just feel what's riding on the game and you don't want your season to be over. You want to play again, and we want to play again next week. It definitely helps. I don't know how to describe it.

"Once you've played a playoff game, you know what it's like. Just like starting your first game, you kind of get the jitters out. We've done it before. We've been in Indianapolis' stadium before, so we're ready for the challenge."

Ryan certainly is. He's essentially used a bullhorn since the summer, making sure people are aware he believes the Jets are going to be rubbing elbows with commissioner Roger Goodell on a stage at Cowboys Stadium the night of Feb. 6.

"Do you set yourself up for failure or getting egg on your face? Maybe you do," Ryan said. "But unless you truly have that belief, I don't think you'll have success. I don't think you'll be a champion. At least I don't think I'll be a champion. So that's why I said what I said."

New York Sports