Rex Ryan was asked at his news conference today about facing a guy like Tom Brady, who, "like he's a vampire, you've got to put a stake in his heart, you've got to keep trying to kill the guy, and he keeps coming back."
"I thought about doing all that stuff," Ryan deadpanned, "but I think the league would fine you. I've been fined enough by the league so I'm going to pass on that."
But it's an interesting question for the Jets this week. Yes, Brady and the Patriots are coming to town on Sunday, and we know the Jets' track record against the Beasts of the AFC East for the past three seasons.
But while the visitors will be wearing their familiar red-white-and-blue laundry, they won't be coming in with all the old familiar faces. Brady will be there, but on offense TE Rob Gronkowski remains iffy, and neither WR Danny Amendola nor G Dan Connolly practiced today. Both have concussions.
On defense, OLB Jerod Mayo (pectoral) was placed on Injured Reserve to join DT Vince Wilfork (Achilles), who went on IR two games ago. And CB Aqib Talib, who's been having a fine season against the Jets and everyone else, also was a DNP with a hip injury.
As a New England reporter asked Brady on Tuesday, "How difficult is it for you to keep this thing going with pieces falling down around you?"
So what are the Jets to do? Go up against their old rivals quietly and respectfully and carefully? Or swagger into MetLife Stadium looking to knock some more pieces off the pedestal?
Not surprisingly, the players were playing it down the middle after today's practice.
"They've still got guys out there making plays," G Willie Colon said. "[Brandon] Spikes is still playing well for them. They have an active front, guys that just get it done. Obviously you've got to respect the kid, 95, Chandler [Jones] — he's geting better and better each week. They're just playing at a level where they're competing and they're getting it done."
"A lot of teams won't change, specifically during the middle of a season," T Austin Howard said. "These games are always going to be, depending on what's in your plan, typically built around the same things they have been before. The players may change, but the atitude, the mentality isn't going to change. We know they're going to come with everything they've got, so we have to prepare that way."
Our rushing game will be without Mike Goodson, who showed promise and electricity for two games before going on IR himself this week, but we still have Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory ready to tote the rock for the 14th-ranked rush offense against the 24th-ranked run defense.
"They lose a huge piece in their run defense, because Vince Wilfork was huge," Ryan said about Wilfork (program weight: 325 pounds). "They've got some guys in there that are battling, kind of no-name types compared to Vince, but they seem to be doing a decent job on the run."
Some numbers there favor the Jets, though. In three games plus 10 plays at Atlanta when Wilfork was playing, opponents averaged 4.1 yards per carry. In the almost three full games since he went out, the opponent average has risen to 4.4 per carry. The Jets are at 4.1 per attempt.
Other numbers aren't as favorable. As Colon counseled, Chandler Jones was too hot to handle back in Week 2 when he had two of the Pats' four sacks of Geno Smith.
Yet Geno's been trending like his team, playing well in wins, scuffling in losses in alternate weeks, improving parts of his game all along. It's reasonable to think he may have learned from those four sacks and those three fourth-quarter interceptions and will help himself and our offense rise to the occasion.
"I'm not making any guarantees," Smith said at his locker today. "I believe we do have enough talent to beat any team. If we come out and play our A-game and play sharp and stick to what we've been coached to do, I think we can beat anyone."
"You know what?" said Howard. "I don't think we've ever gone into any game thinking we were going to lose, despite what the newspapers may say. I believe that fuels us, actually. We'd rather go out there and show those who don't believe that we can that we will. There'll be ups and downs, maybe some guys hurt, but we have guys who replace them come up and do good things for us."
On the injury front, it's true we placed Goodson and WR Clyde Gates on Injured Reserve on Tuesday. But on the other hand, there are 13 players listed in the first report this week — the fewest in a Jets daily injury report since the last game of the 2011 season.
Santonio Holmes (foot/hamstring), CB Kyle Wilson (concussion) and newly signed WR Greg Salas (knee) didn't practice, but CB Dee Milliner (hamstring) and WR David Nelson (hamstring) were limited. Rex, asked if he's optimistic that Milliner, his rookie corner, could be active Sunday for the first time in three games, said, "Yeah, I am. Absolutely."
The Patriots' list is hefty. Did Not Participate —Amendola (concussion/groin), Connolly (concussion), DT Tommy Kelly (knee), Talib (hip), RB Leon Washington (ankle). Limited — RB Brandon Bolden (knee), WR Julian Edelman (thigh), Gronkowski (back/forearm), TE Michael Hommanawanui (knee), S Devin McCourty (shoulder), WR Matt Slater (wrist), S Tavon Wilson (hamstring).