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Ryan, Jets ready for playoff gauntlet

In case you were wondering whether Rex Ryan was humbled or chastened or dare we say it -- muzzled by a regular season pockmarked with drama off the field and a 1-3 December slide on it um, no.

The Jets coach barreled into the playoffs Sunday with a 38-7 victory over the Bills and the same smirk he wore when he was talking Super Bowl last summer.

"I thought we'd win it last year; I think we're going to win it this year," he said, in effect telling the pundits and fans troubled with his trademark uber-confidence what he thinks of their concerns. "Regardless of who we play, we think we are better than any team out there. We have to go prove it, though."

This was after the Chiefs lost, at which point Ryan knew it was likely that his next opponent would be the Colts. And if the Jets were to win that game, then next would be the Patriots, who beat them, 45-3, on Dec. 6.

So, to review, Rex believes his team is better than any team out there, even though his next two games would be on the road against the best two quarterbacks of the 21st century.

This apparently was based in part on dominating an inept Buffalo offense that couldn't recover from the loss of starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

"This football team is ready," said Ryan, playing both to the cameras and to cheering fans watching his news conference in the New Meadowlands Stadium Coaches Club. "We have no excuses, not one excuse. We're going to Indy or wherever and our goals are intact. We want to win a Super Bowl and we want to do it right now."

If that does not happen, critics will pounce, as they do every time his gums flap and his team flops. That's their right, I suppose. But why?

The guy reached the AFC Championship Game in his first season and has won 11 games in his second -- only the third time the Jets have won 11 or more in 41 seasons since the AFL-NFL merger -- all while making the team consistently relevant in noisy New York. (For reasons both good and, well, less good.)

Ryan's players certainly seem to have bought in, and stayed in. They also know enough to take his pronouncements in the spirit in which they are intended.

Told Ryan had declared the Jets the team to beat, quarterback Mark Sanchez smiled and said, "That sounds like Coach. He tells us how he feels and we're proud of that, but that doesn't mean you win.

"We need to play well."

Said tight end Dustin Keller: "We know whenever he says things, he's saying it from the heart and he truly believes it. We're behind him. We believe the same thing."

What about Ryan's superiors?

Someone asked General Manager Mike Tannenbaum about Ryan's tumultuous tenure and he said: "Rex has been a great partner for the last two years. We disagree behind closed doors and then at the end, it's a Jet decision. He's a great partner.

"We've done some good things together and look forward to the future, starting next weekend."

Even playing in a less-than-full stadium in a mostly meaningless game against the comically inept Bills, the Jets stayed true to form, living on the edge between pro football and pro wrestling.

Their first three touchdown celebrations featured Marquice Cole channeling John Travolta, circa 1977, Santonio Holmes flapping his wings and Braylon Edwards pantomiming revving up a lawnmower engine. Or maybe it was an outboard motor. Whatever.

Bottom line: The circus was back in town, and the ringleader was undaunted and unapologetic.

"I said the day I took this job that I came here to win Super Bowls," Ryan said. "That's the truth. I have none right now, but I know one thing: They're going to get my best shot; they're going to get our team's best shot.

"We'll see if we're not good enough to win this whole thing."

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