When the Jets knocked the Patriots back in Week 2, Rex Ryan figured there would be a wee bit of significance to their Dec. 6 rematch in Foxborough, Mass.
"I think clearly I expected that we would have probably the best two teams in football," Ryan said today. "I expected the Colts to be there, the Ravens and Pittsburgh. This is tough, but you knew going into this one that this is going to be a huge game. The NFL, when they put the game together, was probably anticipating the same thing. I mean two 9-2 teams squaring off on Monday Night Football, it's going to be huge.
"We'll see what happens. They're extremely confident. They should be. Their offense is moving the ball up and down the field on everybody. They got the best coach in football on their sideline, but I think our team is just as confident as New England is. So we'll see what happens."
Both teams are technically tied atop the AFC East standings, but the Jets hold the current tiebreaker given their triumph over the Patriots earlier this season. So if they can win, they'd have essentially a two-game lead over New England with games left against Miami, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Buffalo.
But the Patriots are as hot as can be. They've won 25 straight regular-season games at home with coverboy Tom Brady as their quarterback, and are coming off a convincing 45-24 pasting of the Lions yesterday. Brady threw a season-high four touchdown passes -- all in the second half -- leading the Patriots back from an 11-point deficit late in the second quarter.
"First off, I watched that game yesterday," Ryan said. "Obviously, they're playing great. They're making big plays on defense, but their offense, that's where you start with. They seemed at times, almost looked like they were unstoppable. I'm pretty confident where our team is right now. We’ve got the exact same record. There's a reason why both our teams are 9-2, tied for the best record in football.
"Again, we're going down there and we'll see what happens. I know it's going to be a huge challenge, but our guys, I think, are looking forward to the challenge."
Just like he's looking forward to going against Bill Bellichick.
"Yeah, no question," Ryan said. "You always want to put yourself against the best. That's what we get to do every time we go up against them. There's a lot of really good coaches in this league, but there's only one guy that's the best. I like a challenge. It motivates you. It's like anything else, almost like going up in a championship fight, you're going to have to fight the best guy. I pride myself on being a good football coach. With the guys that I have around us, I feel confident. But I'm still not in Bill Belichick's class, and I know that. But I know one thing, he's going to get my best shot."
Ryan added: "I know everybody in our locker room believes we'll win. We know what New England represents, how good a football team they are, how well-coached they are. But, again, as much as we respect them, we also think we can beat them. ... This is going to be a heck of a game."