On the surface, it shouldn't be much of a fight. The band from Houston will bring about 45 players in uniform into New Meadowlands Stadium today. And about 78,045 will be waiting for them in green and white.
It's no secret this week the Jets want their 12th man with them even more than usual for this key return-home game against the Texans. Head coach Rex Ryan sounded the siren for the fans at his midweek news conference.
"This team is a good team we're playing," Ryan said, "but I have a tough time believing they're going to beat us with our team at our best, our fans at our best. No. Let's make sure they're getting everything we've got from the fans, from the team, our preparation. That's my responsibility and our team is going to be up to it this week. That's my challenge out to our fans."
Of course, it's a two-way street. Jets fans are a tough crowd, a tough crowd, but they have reasons. They're not happy when the offense can't score touchdowns (Baltimore) or points (Green Bay), when the defense gives up third-and-longs by the Farveful (Minnesota).
"It's certainly not our fans' fault that we've started slow," said Ryan, meaning slow starts to games and a slow start to life at NMS, where they're 2-2 (compared to 5-0 on the road) and preparing to start the second half of their first home schedule in the new place against the 4-5 Texans. "We should always start fast at home and we're going to finish fast at home."
"We need to change that to more wins than losses," said CB Darrelle Revis. "Coach always says we have to protect our home-field advantage and we have to do a better job at home of winning these games."
The players have no doubt that their followers, similar to the new Denzel Washington vehicle, can be unstoppable.
"Jets fans, I feel, are on another level of fanhood," said defensive tackle Sione Pouha.
"They're very knowledgeable. They understand the game," said fullback Tony Richardson, in his 16th year of observing fan bases around the NFL. "They come out, they tailgate, they support us, and they make a lot of noise."
There will be plenty of noise triggers at today's 10th game of the season. The Jets offense laid a goose egg in their last home outing, the 9-0 loss to the Packers three weeks ago. But they took their show on the road and (admittedly using some overtime in both games) started to show the dynamic nature that they could become. At Detroit they gained 437 yards, at Cleveland they went for 456.
Now they're home and angling for their third consecutive 400-yard game. How often has that happened in franchise history? Not a lot. Just twice, in fact. In the second half of the 1985 playoff season, and somehow at the start of the second half of the one-win 1996 season.
Prospects for that next 400-yard game happening today are good, not just because of heating up of Mark Sanchez and company but the cooling down of the Texans "D," which is allowing averages of 301 net passing yards (32nd and last in the NFL) and 410 total yards (31st) every game.
The Jets defense hasn't been at their No. 1 peak of last season, but they've been pretty good and getting better in a lot of areas. The unit's rankings rose to fifth in the league in yardage allowed and remained at third overall in points allowed even despite playing virtually a whole extra quarter of football in the OT win.
And now come the Texans, no question dangerous with their triumvirate of Pro Bowl MVP Matt Schaub at QB, league-leading rusher Arian Foster at tailback, and arguably the best WR in pro football in Andre Johnson.
But Schaub is coming off knee bursitis, which had him hospitalized through Tuesday, while Johnson is playing on a sore ankle. And the last time the Texans and Jets met, it was in the 2009 season opener at Reliant Stadium, when the Jets defense allowed 183 yards and no offensive points and Revis led the charge in holding Johnson to four catches for 35 yards.
All that's fine but the Jets as a team have what it takes to keep their 12th fan alternately buzzing and roaring all game long. They have a very good chance to rise to 8-2 on the season, which would be their second-best record after 10 games in franchise history, trailing only the '86 team's 9-1 start. And with the Patriots, also 7-2, hosting the Colts at 4:15 p.m., the Jets can vault back into sole possession of first place in the AFC East, for three hours or perhaps for the next week or longer.
It's all up to how they play in front of their fans today. And LaDainian Tomlinson has an idea of what his new fan base will bring to the table.
"The passion," said Tomlinson, "stands out to me."
That's a noteworthy statement coming from one of the most dynamic running backs this franchise and this league has ever known. In his first year in green, Tomlinson has provided a few of his signature teardrops at the end of the latest TDs of his storied career, and fans have responded in a way that takes him back a few years.
"The passion that they come with every time we play at home, how loud they are, the atmosphere — that's contagious for us," LT said. "They're some of the best fans I've ever been around, especially in pro football. It kind of reminds me of the passion where I grew up in Texas. They're just unbelievable, so it reminds me of being right at home."
And wouldn't it be fitting if the Jets and their fans apply a Texas-style whupping to the team from named the Texans to start the second half of their home schedule off loudly and proudly?