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2011 NFL Playoffs, Part One: Familiarity Breeds Contempt In The AFC East

No one can say that New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, doesn't know how to work a crowd. He's been promoting this weekend's match-up between his team and Bill Belichick's New England Patriots, as if it was a WWE pay-per-view cage match. You almost expect him to arrive at the podium through a wall of smoke, with his own theme music blaring in the P.A. system. The AFC East rivals will play the last game of the Divisional Round weekend, and if the reality is equal to the rhetoric, it'll be quite a game, indeed. The AFC North Baltimore Ravens Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers meeting is likewise already producing enough quotes to require extra bulletin boards to be shipped into their respective locker rooms.

In comparison, the NFC's Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons, and Seattle Seahawks vs. Chicago Bears rematches, seem almost tame. Probably because, while the teams have met this season, they don't see each other enough to clultivate the enmity the AFC division rivals have. Maybe if the Packers and Bears meet for the NFC Championship game we can work up some good old-fashioned divisional hostility. 

I'm not sure what Rex Ryan is trying to accomplish with his seemingly endless banter, and his public attempts to draw the focus of his team's upcoming playoff game on himself and Belichick. Is it an attempt to rally his team? Does he think he can get into Belichick's head, maybe make him lose his cool? 

The former seems more likely. Ryan has repeatedly maintained that the two teams are evenly matched, even though results-based evidence suggests otherwise. The Jets beat the Pats 28-14 in Week 2, but were beaten fairly convincingly by a score of 45-3 in Week 13. Tom Brady is healthy, not to mention the smart money favorite for the league's MVP this year, while the Jets' Mark Sanchez is playing with an injured shoulder. Not a very favorable comparison, in my opinion.

But The Jets are buying into the Rex Ryan swagger. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, had some salty words about Tom Brady, the nicest ones being that he "hates him". The rest were far too profane, for a person of my gentle sensibilities, to repeat here. The Jets are actively working to cast Brady as a bad guy, as contrary to most people's perceptions as that may seem. You can only hope that they've got some kind of game plan that involves more than just taunting the Patriots head coach and star quarterback.

Whatever else you can say about Bill Belichick, he's awesomely prepared on game day. I don't see how there could be any type of advantage in trying 'to get into his head'. Just his team's margins of victory over the last half of the season, should suggest that attempting to shake his confidence is a losing battle. And he doesn't strike me as all that easy to distract.

But this is the game that most people who voted in the poll at the bottom of the page said was the rematch they were most excited to see, so maybe there's something to all the smack talk.

We'll take a look at what the other playoff teams are saying, over the course of the week. We'll also be looking at who's in, and who's injured, and other news and reports. Stay tuned!