FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- In Rex Ryan's eyes, there's no alternative.
After all his chest thumping and bombastic statements about the Giants, constantly poking at them as if they were a piñata, Ryan knows he's put himself directly into the crosshairs of the crosstown rivalry. So when the Jets host the Giants in their pivotal battle Saturday, Ryan understands he's going to look mighty small if his team doesn't win.
"I feel like I have to win this game because I put it out there, I want to be the better team in our city," Ryan said Tuesday. "I want to be the team that people talk about, that are interested in, and you do that by winning. That's who I want to be, and I want to be the best team in the National Football League. It's not just in this city, but clearly, when you have two teams that share the same name and share the same stadium, it's much bigger than that and I realize it."
That's why he knows he'll have to break out a spatula and scrape a plateful of eggs off his face if the Jets lose.
"It's coming right on top of me, and that's fine,'' Ryan said. "And when we win, it'll be about the Jets, and that's where I want the attention to be. If we lose, it's coming right down on me, and I can handle it. I hope I don't have to."
"Rex always puts pressure on himself," linebacker Bart Scott said. "He can't get the opportunity to play, so he's a tremendous motivator and we feed off that passion and confidence. Sometimes when your coach or your mom or somebody you look up to has more belief in you than sometimes you may have in yourself, it inspires you to make them right."
Yet there shouldn't be a need for any extra motivation with the playoff implications for both teams.
"It's going to be us or them," Scott said. "For one of us, the dream is over with. We call it 'Death Ground.' ''
Just don't call it a siblinglike rivalry between the teams.
"Everyone is blowing it up as 'Big brother, little brother,' " cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. "I really don't give a damn what it is. It's just football. But people blow it out more than it is. This is a chance for us to go into the playoffs and that's how we are treating it."
Still, Cromartie didn't dispute Ryan's assertion the Jets are a better team than the Giants.
"That's what we believe," he said. "We believe on that back end and our front seven, the playmakers that we have on both sides of the ball, we feel like we are better than them. It's our time to step up, and do the things that we need to do."
Ryan wouldn't want it any other way.
"I recognize the rich tradition of Giant football," he said. "I'm not trying to take a run at the Giants or a shot at them. I want to be the best team in the National Football League, and the fact we [are] both New York teams, I don't want to be the one that is not looked at as the best team in my own state. There's no way. I want to be the best team, period.
"Now, do I have the courage to say it? Absolutely. And if it doesn't happen and we get beat by the Giants, I'll be the first one to tip my hat to them."