EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey - Rex Ryan didn't look himself in the early hours of Monday morning. He looked . . . humbled. With red-rimmed eyes and a long face, the man annually plagued by premature coronation was left to explain his team's chances of winning the AFC East. "It looks doubtful right now," he admitted. "What am I gonna say? Maybe I should guarantee the fact that we're out of it. Last time I did that we made the playoffs, so, yeah, we got no chance."Before the game began, NBC's cameras showed LaDainian Tomlinson in the middle of the Jets' scrum saying, "The division is ours, it's ours tonight. Let's go get it."Now the division is a long way from their reach. The Patriots have a one-game lead in the standings and the head-to-head tiebreaker. The combined record of the Patriots' next seven opponents is 21-42. During the week, Ryan asked Jets fans to be loud and make things miserable for the Patriots. His team made things so miserable for those fans they were leaving in droves midway through the fourth. "We've been down this road before but . . . you know," Ryan said, his voice trailing off. Starting again, he said, "I apologize to our fans. I thought our fans were ready to go, just like I thought we were. It's disappointing."Inanely phrased questions that would draw a glower from Bill Belichick were answered by Ryan even in all his glumness. Asked if he was surprised by how badly his team played, Ryan said, "I thought we'd play a lot better. You make those mistakes, you fumble a punt. You have poor time management-- a timeout that was a critical error. You make that many mistakes against that team, there's no chance."As for the X's and O's, Ryan was left to shrug. He blew sunshine about the Patriots defense, saying, "That defense is a lot better than people give 'em credit for. They're 32nd in the league (in yards allowed) and all that but when you get up a lot of scores on people you're gonna give up yards."(Aside:They are 32nd in the league because they can't defend; thenumber of blowouts the Patriots have been involved in is minimal. Never mind the fact they're completely rebuilt from training camp.) Asked ifhe was surprised New England played well with so many spare parts inserted,Ryan offered,"You got Tom Brady back there. I don't care who else you got. You see the difference a great quarterback makes in this league. You just gotta look down the road at Indy (where the Peyton Manning-less Colts are winless). This guy's an amazing player."The comment about the "great quarterback" may have been a swipe at Mark Sanchez or maybe not. Ryan does go on and sometimes his foot finds his mouth. If Ryan was making the point Sanchez is inferior to Brady by a lot, at least he didn't discriminate when leveling that charge against the Jets. "We think we're as good as the Patriots," said Ryan."Butclearly we're not."
FOXBORO -- It's looking more and more like the Patriots will have options at quarterback Sunday against the Bills. Both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett threw at practice on Wednesday, and it appears that at least one of them, if not both, will be available for the final game of Tom Brady's suspension.
Patriots receiver Julian Edelman is the likely candidate to jump behind center should the team run into an emergency, but on Wednesday another player threw his hat into the ring.
"Yeah, I'll play," said linebacker Jamie Collins. "Whatever it is. I don't care what the level is. I don't care what the level is. Whatever it is they need me to do, I'm doing it."
That would be some kind of show.
At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, and with remarkable closing speed, Collins would be an intimidating run-first signal-caller. He's listed at two inches shorter and five pounds heavier than Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, and his NFL Scouting Combine 40-yard dash time was only 0.05 seconds slower than Newton's.
Just to take this pie-in-the-sky idea even further, Collins can throw, too. Or he could at one point in time. He played quarterback at Franklin County High in Meadville, Miss. before heading off to Southern Mississippi to play all over the Golden Eagles defense. As a high school senior, he cracked 1,000 yards both on the ground and through the air.
Asked if he saw himself back then as a future star in the NFL as a passer, Collins shook his head.
"Nah," he said. "I ain't even see myself as a quarterback in the NFL."
The Patriots would be just fine with Collins sticking at linebacker. He had one of the best games of his career against the Texans last week, racking up 14 tackles and picking off Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler. He also made the calls in the middle of the defense, which is a job that typically falls to Dont'a Hightower, but Collins took over with Hightower out with a knee injury.
"Jamie Collins, he's a beast, man," said safety Duron Harmon after the game. "I tell you what, I've seen a lot of football players play, and he's definitely one of my favorite players to just watch. You just get caught up sometimes seeing all the amazing stuff he does on the field, you just sit in awe. I'm so happy he's on my team, I'll tell you that."
And the team is happy he's at linebacker. But imagine him at quarterback?
FOXBORO -- The highly-anticipated first Patriots injury report of the week was released on Wednesday afternoon, and it was fairly predictable.
Both injured quarterbacks were active but limited in their practice participation, the report indicated. That comes as little surprise as both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) were spotted throwing passes early in Wednesday's practice. Neither appeared to be experiencing any significant discomfort as they made their warm-up throws.
Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) were also limited. Gronkowski admitted that the team was taking it slow with him in his first game back on the field last week -- he played just 14 snaps in New England's win over Houston -- but he said on Wednesday that he hoped to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Charles Clay (knee)
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)