And so it begins. It's been as an erratic start to the regular season, six weeks of peaks, valleys and everything in between that, at times, made the Patriots look unbeatable and the Jets appear destined for the top pick in next April's NFL draft. And yet here we are, heading into Week 7, the Jets are coming to Foxboro and both teams are 3-3.
In the weeks leading up to this Sunday's get-together, Jets coach Rex Ryan was unusually quiet. This is the by-product of some pretty awful football, a circus at the quarterback position and a rash of injuries that left New York without cornerback Darrelle Revis and wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Yet, through it all, the Jets have managed to win half their games, and that's good enough for first place in the suddenly mediocre AFC East.
New York's convincing 35-9 victory over Indianapolis in Week 6 rejuvenated not just a moribund running game but Ryan's rosy disposition. The bluster and bravado have returned just in time for the biggest game of the season for both teams.
"I want (the Patriots) to know and they know that I think we're going to beat them," Ryan said on Monday, according to the Boston Globe. "I don't buy into all that other stuff. But I recognize they're a great football team and [Bill] Belichick's a great coach. I've never once said that he wasn't. But again, we're not going to back down or concede anything."
Ryan wasn't done: "They're going to get our best shot. We know we're going to get theirs. So it really doesn't matter who says what, but we're going to be ourselves. We're coming up there to take our swing. We'll see if we land that punch to win the game."
We're guessing the irony of saying "it really doesn't matter who says what" was lost on Ryan as he did just that.
But this isn't a surprising development: Ryan likes to flap his gums. Even less surprising: New England coach Bill Belichick was using a bunch of words to say absolutely nothing.
"We've had big wins, we've had tough losses, unfortunately, but that's all part of turning the page and moving onto the next opponent and dealing with a new challenge," the coach said on Monday. "Certainly the Jets are a big one this week, but we face big ones every week and we'll just go through that process and try to get our team and our performance level to the highest point we can on Sunday."
Ryan likes to talk, yes, but the man's also a realist as evidenced by his response to the news that every team in the division is 3-3 (the Jets are in first place by virtue of a tiebreaker).
"It's good news/bad news," he said. "Let's face it. We're tied for first in our division. That's great. We're also tied for last."
Perhaps most amazing: Tim Tebow somehow isn't a storyline. Not yet, anyway.