FOXBORO -- This is not your Week 4 Jets team.
The first time New York met the Patriots in 2011, Rex Ryan's club was 1-2 and struggling with an identity crisis. A season-opening 32-3 win over the Jaguars proved the obvious; losing 34-24 to Oakland in Week 2 proved they could be bullied by a weaker team; they followed that with a 34-17 loss to the Ravens -- a game that included three Baltimore defensive touchdowns -- which proved Mark Sanchez is still unreliable.
The Patriots feasted on these weaknesses. Tom Brady completed 24 of 33 passes for 321 yards in New England's 30-21 win. Sanchez threw for just 166 yards against the league's worst defense.
Things have since changed.
This is the ever-fickle NFL. In the last three weeks the Patriots lost two back-to-back games off the bye. New York heated up a three-game winning streak, including last Sunday's 27-11 triumph in Buffalo.
Rex Ryan says this is what his team does. Remember 2009? When the Jets falter, they regroup and rally against the world. "Everybody loves Cinderella stories," linebacker Bart Scott said last week about the Bills. "We've always been portrayed as the bad guys, but we relish in that role."
It gets them back to winning.
"I just think we got back to playing our style of football," Ryan said Wednesday. "We've been a team that plays good solid defense, solid special teams, and the ability to run the football. I think that's who we've been and that's who we are. I think we got back to those roots a little bit.
"Buffalo's a good football team, there's no doubt about it, but we had a lot of confidence going into the game. Our defense is a little different than other people's defense, but we feel good about it. We're multiple in what we do defensively. Sometimes with the personnel we can give you problems. That's how we approach the game and we executed our plan pretty good."
The odds favor New York to continue that trend.
According to Bodog.com, the Jets are a 1-point favorite in the tilt against New England. It's not much, but the number does reflect the way each team has played lately. Does the switch in position mean anything to Ryan? Not in the least.
"It's not going to change how we approach the game: we're trying to win," he scoffed. "If we're the favorite or an underdogs by 50 points it makes no difference in the game. That's who we are. I'm not betting on the game so I really don't care what the spread is."
It's still, after all, too early to bet the house on Sanchez. The quarterback has improved but remains inconsistent. At least when he has bad games the lows aren't as low -- that range has narrowed some. Ryan says he likes what he's seen out of Sanchez this season while maintaining that some things need to be cleaned up.
That's all part of the Jets 'style', too.
"He's made a couple mistakes, but a lot of people make mistakes," Ryan said. "I like the way he bounces back. We had a great drive 10-minutes, 87 yards, like, the second longest drive in the NFL this year, and then we turned the ball over in the end zone. We really have to do a great job protecting the football, especially against New England. You can't turn the ball over and expect to beat New England. You still have to be aggressive, but I think there's a fine line."
Sanchez's decision-making will need to be even better than it has been lately. Yes, even against the NFL's worst defense. Ryan has enough bad memories of Week 4 to feel overconfident, no matter how much the Jets have overcome since then.
"I think the big thing is we'd like to not have seven three-and-outs, I think would probably help us a little bit," Ryan said. "We did, in that game, have seven three-and-outs so obviously we're not going to beat anybody if you do that. I think if we're able to move the ball consistently we'll be able to run it more and throw it more. That certainly will be our plan."