- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There he goes again.
Emboldened by Sunday's jayvee victory over the Buffalo Bills -- 38-7, if anybody cares -- Rex Ryan did what Rex Ryan does best. He came out swinging with his mouth, making the New York Jets perhaps the most targeted No. 6 seed in playoff history.
"I thought we'd win it last year. I think we're going to win it this year," said Ryan, providing a preview of what he probably will tell his players every day until they kick off their wild-card game against the Indianapolis Colts.
"Regardless of who we play, we think we're better than any team out there. We have to go prove it, though."
Say this for Ryan: He's got guts. Imagine what he might have said if the Jets had defeated a team with a pulse.
Does he really think they're the best team? Didn't the Jets turn Jay Cutler into Sid Luckman last week in Chicago? Didn't they fail to score a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins, the same team that choked away its last three games? Didn't the Jets embarrass themselves against the New England Patriots, 45-3, not too long ago?
Yes, the Jets won in Pittsburgh, and that was impressive. Yes, they finished the regular season with more victories (11) than any Jets team since Bill Parcells, Vinny Testaverde and the gang in 1998. That will look good in Ryan's coaching bio, but it didn't warrant a "we're the best" claim.
But we all know Ryan by now. He doesn't do humility. That's not in his DNA.
"This football team is ready," Ryan said. "We have no excuses, not one excuse. Our goals are intact. We want to win a Super Bowl and we want to do it right now."
Fittingly, the road to Dallas will start in Indianapolis, where Ryan gets to meet his personal nemesis -- Peyton Manning, the one quarterback in the league who has consistently humbled the brash coach. The Jets will face the Colts on Saturday night, a rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game and a made-for-TV matchup that will tell us a lot about the Jets.
"We're ready to go out and do what we set out to do," Ryan said. "If somebody is going to beat us, they must be really good."
The Colts are good, but not as good as a year ago. The Jets have a shot, assuming their defense decides to show up. Looming beyond Manning & Co. are Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, whom the Jets would face in the divisional round. Yeah, they're really good. Way in the distance could be the Pittsburgh Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger.
So to reach the Super Bowl, the Jets will have to beat Manning, Brady and Big Ben, who have won a combined total of six championships -- a lot of rings for Ryan not to kiss.
A year ago, Ryan made a similar boast at the start of the playoffs, claiming the Jets deserved to be the favorite to win it all. That was downright laughable, considering they finished 9-7 and needed Curtis Painter and a miracle to make the postseason.
Ryan almost got the last laugh, as the Jets came within 30 minutes of reaching the Super Bowl. This time, his big talk doesn't sound as outlandish, although it's not often the coach of a No. 6 seed pronounces his team the best in the field.
"We're not in it to be one-and-done," guard Brandon Moore said. "We're all expecting [the Super Bowl]. Anything short of that is a failure."
The Jets are in an unusual situation. Even though they're seeded one spot lower than last season, the expectations are greater, in part, because of their yapping and chest beating and hard-knocking (some say obnoxious) attitude.
Now it's money time.
"All of our goals, all of the checks we've written, are still ahead of us," linebacker Bart Scott said -- and, no, he wasn't referring to the fine money that owner Woody Johnson has paid to the league.
The Jets like their position. They believe they're well-rested and playing well on both sides of the ball. What did we learn Sunday? Not much. This was a glorified preseason game against a third-string quarterback, Brian Brohm, and a bad team that seemed disinterested.
Unless you're a member of Joe McKnight's family or fan club, nothing that happened on the field will impact their playoff run. The defense caused a month's worth of turnovers (six), but don't get too giddy. That wasn't Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas out there. The most significant development occurred after the game, when Mark Sanchez admitted that his throwing shoulder still is "pretty sore."
That should be a concern, considering he didn't throw a single pass. Sanchez was limited to eight snaps -- all handoffs -- in an abbreviated outing that was expected. He didn't dismiss the possibility of postseason surgery, which isn't what you want to hear out of the quarterback.
Is Sanchez's shoulder capable of withstanding the rigors of three more games? At least he'll be playing indoors against the Colts, which should help. That is the Jets' biggest worry. Otherwise, this is a confident team. The coach? That goes without saying.
Told of Ryan's championship prediction, Sanchez smiled.
"That sounds like Coach," he said. "He tells us how he feels and we're proud of that. But that doesn't mean you win."
1dMel Kiper Jr.
2dEric D. Williams