By Simon Evans
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - The New York Jets have been in the spotlight throughout the NFL off-season but on Monday, Rex Ryan's team face a stern test of their confidently proclaimed Super Bowl ambitions when they take on the Baltimore Ravens.
Sunday sees new Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb make his full debut, after 11 years with Philadelphia, and he has a tough task with the visit of the Dallas Cowboys -- who will be hoping to become the first team to reach the Super Bowl when held at their own venue.
While eyes will be on rookie quarterbacks Sam Bradford (St Louis) and Tim Tebow (Denver, it is two former first round picks, Mark Sanchez at the Jets and Joe Flacco at Baltimore, who will clash in the first Monday Night Game of the season.
First Ryan underwent a lap-band procedure to deal with his all-too evident weight problem and then the team became something of a soap opera in a television reality show which offered fly-on-the-wall coverage of their pre-season training camp.
Ryan's colorful language on the show generated plenty of discussion on sports talk radio but the documentary also illustrated how the Jets management battled to get their top class cornerback Darelle Revis signed up to a new deal.
The coach and his players have certainly not been shy to talk up their chances of reaching the Super Bowl with some saying that anything else would simply be failure.
"Is it going to be easy? Hell no," Ryan said. "There's no guarantee that this is going to happen but I sense it's going to happen. I really believe that we're going to do this thing. In my heart, I think this is the time."
For their opening game at the New Meadowlands Stadium, which they share with city rivals the New York Giants, the Jets face a Ravens team that Ryan knows very well, after serving as their defensive co-ordinator before moving to the Big Apple.
However, the vocal confidence in the Jets camp has not been well received by everyone in the game with Ravens' fearsome linebacker Ray Lewis particularly unimpressed.
"The game ain't played through tongues," Lewis remarked.
"The game is played when you buckle up your chin straps. All this pressure he (Ryan) wants to put on his team, I hope they can cash the check that he's writing," he added.
Ryan, in turn, shrugged off the reaction.
"If you have confidence in your team, then I don't think there's anything wrong with that. These are my opinions. Everything comes from me. Hey, I feel like we have the best team in the National Football League, and the beauty of it is, we get to go out and prove it," he said.
The first piece of evidence comes on Monday.
(Editing by John O'Brien)