A visit to Gillette Stadium to face the New England Patriots always brings the confidence out of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan. And this season's Week 7 trip -- with both teams surprisingly knotted atop the AFC East at 3-3 -- is no different.
"'I want them to know, and they know, that I think we're going to beat them," Ryan said. "I don't buy into all that other stuff. Look, I recognize they're a great football team and (Bill) Belichick's a great coach. I've never once said he wasn't, OK, but we're not going to back down or concede anything."
The chatter flows freely whenever New York faces New England, though the matchup has been particularly one-sided lately as Team Belichick has outscored Team Ryan, 112-40, in the last three games. Sunday's winner remains the standard-bearer of the division.
If it's the Jets, they'll be 3-0 in divisional play and have a leg up in potential tiebreakers.
"I've never stopped not thinking about them," Ryan said. "That's the team you have to beat to win our division. You always think about them."
As usual, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was more measured with his vitriol. He has a 112.7 passer rating and 10 touchdowns in his last four games against the Jets, including 329 pass yards and two scoring tosses to tight end Rob Gronkowski last November in a 37-16 win.
New England last lost to the Jets in January 2011's divisional playoffs, dropping a 28-21 verdict at home.
"A division opponent is critical. We've only played one of those games this year," Brady said. "We play a team that we know pretty well that always gives us challenges defensively. They're always a very good team. They're very much a game-plan defense. They're going to try to figure out what they need to do to stop us and we've got to figure out ways to move the ball and really put the ball in the end zone."
Brady completed 36 of 58 passes for 395 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in Week 6, but a late Seattle rally wound up handing the Patriots a 24-23 defeat -- their third of the season by a combined four points. New England lost by two to Arizona and by one each to Baltimore and the Seahawks.
Wide receiver Wes Welker caught 10 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown last week.
"We're 3-3. We haven't earned a better record than that," Brady said. "We haven't played well enough and consistently enough to be better than that, but I don't think six games defines a season and I think that what will define our season is what we do over the course of the next 10 weeks."
For the Jets, sitting at 3-3 through six weeks is more of a success story.
New York lost cornerback Darrelle Revis with a torn ACL against Miami on Sept. 23, then saw top receiver Santonio Holmes shelved for the year with a left foot injury against San Francisco a week later. Tight end Dustin Keller (hamstring), wide receiver Stephen Hill (hamstring) and center Nick Mangold (ankle) have all been impacted by nagging injuries as well.
Last week, the Jets whipped Indianapolis, 35-9, to end a two-game skid against San Francisco and Houston. Quarterback Mark Sanchez completed 11 of 18 passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns, including a five-yarder to Hill, a second- round draft pick.
"It was big, especially having some losses like we did," Keller said. "This is a big win for us. It's going to give us a little momentum going into this next game."
Running back Shonn Greene rushed 32 times for 161 yards and three touchdowns in a breakout effort against the Colts. In the first four games, he ran 49 times for 123 yards and no touchdowns.
In last November's game, Greene rushed for 61 yards and Sanchez threw two interceptions.
"I think we can do it every week against any team," Sanchez said. "It's just a matter of us executing, not stopping ourselves and working hard during the week."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Patriots have become an exclusively up-tempo bunch on offense, running a league-best average of 81 plays per game - 27 percent more than the No. 2 team in the league, the New York Giants. By contrast, the Jets' defense was on the field for 81 plays just once in 2012, in an overtime game against Miami.
So, expect New England to once again try and test New York's capacity for quickness and spontaneous personnel matchups.
"With this offense they're running this up-tempo it's going to put a lot of stress on us," safety Eric Smith said.
The Patriots have scored 10 touchdowns apiece on the ground and through the air and running back Stevan Ridley is fifth in the league in rushing, which could make situational substitutions a nightmare for Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. And, while they work fast, the Pats also manage to hold the ball for more than 32 minutes a game - a warning sign for a Jets offense bent on ground and pound.
Still, New York defensive lineman Mo Wilkerson remains insistent.
"The performance from Sunday (against the Colts) has just got to roll over," he said. "We just got to play physical up front like we did and we won't have a problem with New England running the ball."
Rex is loud. Rex is controversial. Rex is fun. But with a team that's been fortunate just to get to .500 through six weeks, Rex is also just a game or two away from 2012 irrelevance.
And barking loudly at a coach and a team that's usually more than happy to engineer a blowout might not be the best strategy. Brady and Co. have remained closer to the pack this year thanks to some late-game trip-ups, but the Week 7 reality is that a team less than a touchdown from being 6-0 is at home against a team that's one opposition field goal from being 2-4. And you can bet that the idea of driving an early season nail in his tormentor's coffin is making Belichick smile as he stirs his game-planning cauldron.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Patriots 30, Jets 17