Rex Ryan issued a challenge in training camp, asking for someone other than the Jets to beat the Patriots in 2011.
So far, three teams have stepped up to the plate and done just that -- the Giants, Steelers and Bills. The Jets had their shot to take down New England a month ago, but dropped a 30-21 decision in Foxboro.
However, their next shot comes in four more days, and Ryan wasn't about to sugarcoat the huge implications surrounding Sunday's AFC East primetime tilt with the Patriots at MetLife Stadium.
"You want to win your division," Ryan said this afternoon. "That was our goal. The two years I’ve been here, obviously, New England has won the division both times. They’ve beat us already. So we know what this game represents. We’re not afraid to talk about it. It’s not one of those, 'If we don’t [win], there’s still a lot of season left.’
"No, we’re approaching it like we have to have this game. We want to win our division. We think it goes through New England. Obviously, it’s a three-way tie for first right now. Buffalo is playing well, us, and New England. But that old saying [goes], 'To be the champ, you’ve got to beat the champ.' And they are sitting right in front of us."
"We think we’ve improved as a football team," Ryan added, repeating a line he said on Monday, "and we’re going to find out on Sunday because this is a measuring stuck."
Asked what's the biggest difference with the Jets now compared to the team they were when they faced Tom Brady & Co. a month ago, Ryan said: "We’re playing Jet football.
"We’re playing more to our style, more runs and completions and I think our defense is playing much better than the first time. Again, I think we were ready to play that game against New England. The last time we played them, they were better than we were. That’s why I’m saying, 'We’ll see.' We’ll see if we’ve improved enough to beat New England."
Ryan thinks the Jets will need that 12th man to knock off the Patriots this week, and he's imploring the fans to be boisterous and extremely into it, hoping to create an atmosphere similar to the carnival-like one surrounding the Jets' 2009 win over the Patriots at the stadium that's now a parking lot.
"I love the fact that we are playing at home," Ryan said, "and our fans could be the difference when two teams go at it. There’s a reason why there's homefield advantage and all that. I know the first year that we beat New England, our fans -- and we gave them a game ball and everything else -- they were the difference. [It was] two football teams going at it, but they were the difference.
"It affected their communication. They had penalties, they had to use timeouts and all that. Now that's the challenge I'm taking to our fans this week. We’re here, undefeated at home, and let’s make it miserable."