FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The Jets expect to have the last laugh.
Few NFL pundits are predicting that Rex Ryan's team is playoff-bound. But that's all right, Ryan said. As he sees it, the Jets always are underrated.
"Oh, absolutely," Ryan said Thursday. "I have no idea where they rank us, but I don't need to. After you flip through one page, page two, and you still aren't up there, and there are like 10 teams or whatever, you're like, 'All right, yeah. We are better than what they say.' ''
The Jets coach spoke at length to Newsday on Wednesday about the collective chip on his team's shoulder.
"Nobody thinks we're going to be good," Ryan said. "They still don't respect this football team. Outside of this building, how much respect is there?
"Nobody has us doing anything, so we'll see. I can tell you one thing: We think we're a lot better than what those rankings say we are."
On Thursday, Ryan's players echoed his sentiments.
"I think to these so-called experts, we're always the laughingstock or we're clowns, or we're this or that,'' linebacker Calvin Pace said. "And that couldn't be further from the truth.
"The thing we have to do is just go out, handle our business, play well, don't give up any big plays on defense and just try to get the ball back to the offense in the best possible situation. If we do that, we'll be fine."
Skepticism is warranted, considering how the Jets have fared in recent years. Since making back-to-back appearances in the conference championship game, they've missed the playoffs three straight years. According to ESPN, the Jets are one of only three teams to do that since the 1970 merger, along with the Dolphins (1986-89) and the Baltimore Colts (1972-74).
Ryan's team will open the regular season Sunday at home against the Raiders, who have lost 13 consecutive games in the Eastern Time Zone. In an attempt to break the cycle, coach Dennis Allen had the team arrive in the metropolitan area Thursday afternoon. But despite their struggles, the Raiders are a revamped team.
"They haven't been what they have been in the past," Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said. He added that the new-look Raiders "can come in here and do some stuff if we allow it to happen."
The Jets have retooled their offense, but their secondary is a major question mark. With injuries to Dee Milliner (ankle) and recent releases, the Jets will be forced to start inexperienced players at cornerback.
"We have guys that most people have never heard of, but they're good players," Pace said. "They just need a chance to go out and prove themselves and get some confidence early."
Turnovers were the Jets' Achilles' heel during the previous three seasons. They've committed a league-high 100 turnovers, according to ESPN. They also have a minus-31 turnover margin, also an NFL worst.
The coaching staff has stressed the importance of causing (and recovering) fumbles. "It's been stressed,'' Pace said. "Now it's about doing it."
Quarterback Geno Smith (25 turnovers in 2013) also will be charged with protecting the football.
"That's what we want," Ryan said. "We want less turnovers and more wins."
Starting Sunday, they'll have a chance to prove they can deliver both.
"At the end of the day,'' safety-turned-cornerback Antonio Allen said, "we've got to come out and do our jobs and prove to the nonbelievers what we are as a team."