- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Head coach Rex Ryan knows his Jets are the most-hated team in the NFL.
And he's just fine with that.
"You want to be the enemy going into everybody's territory," Ryan said Thursday. "Because, generally, if you feel that passionately about us and all that, then you've got a pretty good football team. That's what you want."
And at this point, do they really have a choice?
Ryan's team has been in critics' cross-hairs since August, when the coach started spouting off on HBO's "Hard Knocks" that his team would win Super Bowl XLV.
In 2009, Ryan's first year as head coach, the Jets finished 9-7 and needed plenty of help to make the playoffs. So, many outsiders looked at Ryan's Super Bowl proclamation as empty rhetoric.
The fact that controversy and scandal have a permanent residence in Florham Park these days only adds fuel to the critics' fire.
But most Jets have learned to take the heat and the hate.
"I'm sure a lot of people want us to crash and burn so bad. That's OK," Damien Woody said. "We know what we have in this locker room."
For the most part, the Jets have stuck in verbal lockstep with Ryan, backing up his sound bites with boasts of their own.
"Rex sets the standard. We're trying to cash the check right now," Woody said. "Rex put it out there and now it's time to back him up."
Said Ryan: "We plan on going to the bank."
That all starts Saturday night at Lucas Oil Field, where the Jets take on Manning and the Colts in a rematch of last year's AFC Championship Game.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis sees Saturday night as a chance to earn revenge against Manning, who threw for 377 yards and three TDs in the Colts' 30-17 win last year. He also sees it as a chance to show the NFL that all of the Jets' Super Bowl talk has merit.
"This is a big week to prove that," he said.
To prove Ryan right, the Jets will likely have to go through Manning and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in successive weeks just to return to the AFC title game. From the sound of things Thursday, it seems Ryan is confident that they can make it back.
"I believe we have the best team in football," he said.
It's the kind of statement that has made the Jets the most-hated team this side of the Miami Heat.
And, again, Ryan is OK with that. Because, as he noted Thursday, you have to be good to be hated.
"The Yankees are the most-loved team in baseball [by their fans] and the most-hated by everybody [else]. Now that would be ideal. We're short about 26 championships, but that's going to take a few years to catch up," the coach said with a chuckle. "Now, that's what you want. ... If people love you and feel good about you and all that, they want to schedule you for homecoming because they can beat you every time. We want to be a team that is respected. You might dislike us and all that kind of stuff, but we want you to respect us."
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
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