The gloves are off, and the Jets are throwing bare-knuckle haymakers.
Tuesday's off day packed plenty of punch (pun intended) when Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie used a series of expletives to describe his thoughts on Tom Brady.
As expected, the unflappable quarterback remained cool and responded Wednesday in the best way he knows how -- tongue-in-cheek, of course.
"I've been called worse," Brady said. "I'm sure there's a long list of people that feel that way but he's a good player. (Darrelle) Revis is a great player. They've got a great secondary. They're one of the best defenses we face. We're going to spend a lot of time preparing for them.
"What they're capable of doing over there, shutting down the Colts offense like they did was pretty impressive because we know how good that offense is, but we're going to get ready to play."
|Cromartie still recalls playing vs Patriots when he was a member of the Chargers (Getty Images)|
"He can probably answer that better than I could," Brady said of Ryan's comments. "I'm an emotional player, so it's all in the spirit of the game and the competition."
Regardless of the barbs being delivered by the Jets, the anticipation for Sunday's divisional playoff showdown is beginning to reach a fever pitch. The Patriots and Jets are bitter rivals and the stakes are high this weekend; the winner heads to the AFC championship. For the Jets, it would be their second trip in as many years. For New England, it would be their first trip to the title game since 2007.
"Is it more fun? It's always more satisfying to win," Brady said. "Especially in games like this, not that you need more satisfaction to win in a game like this because it's the biggest game we played all season and I'm always satisfied when we win.
"I think there's certainly big games that we had against them. The last game at home was a very big game, that was very satisfying, so this one will be satisfying also if we win."
To some degree, it might be even more satisfying because of how tough the Jets are talking this week. Brady has danced around the topic. So has coach Bill Belichick. As far as he's concerned, it's about performing on the field, not winning the battle in the newspapers.
"That's all out of our control," Belichick said. "Our job is to get ready to play and that's what we're going to do."
SERIES HISTORY: 103rd meeting. Series tied, 51-51-1. There have been two in the postseason, both of which were won by the Patriots in 1985 and 2006. The two teams have split the regular-season series in each of the last two years. The Patriots are 7-3 against the Jets at Gillette and 23-18 overall at home.
The Records Favor New England
--QB Tom Brady owns a 14-4 record against the Jets as a starting quarterback, including regular-season and playoff games. Brady has only thrown two interceptions in his last three games against the Jets; both came in Week 2 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in a 28-14 loss.
--New England and New York will meet in the playoffs for the third time Sunday.
The Patriots won a first-round game, 26-14, at Giants Stadium in December of 1985 to begin their run to the 1985 AFC Championship. The Patriots' 2006 team beat the Jets, 37- 16, at Gillette Stadium in a first-round game on Jan. 7, 2007.
--The Patriots have compiled an 8-5 all-time record in divisional playoff games, including 5-1 at home and 3-0 at Gillette Stadium. Their only home loss was in 1978 -- the first home playoff game in franchise history -- against the Houston Oilers.
--The Patriots are 11-2 at home in the playoffs in their history. Twelve of the franchise's 13 home playoff games have taken place since Robert Kraft purchased the team 17 years ago.
After Kraft bought the team, the Patriots won 11 consecutive home playoff games before experiencing a home loss last season against Baltimore.
--OL Dan Connolly is back at practice after suffering a concussion several weeks ago and could be ready to play this weekend against the Jets.
"I'm healthy now, I'm back to practice, and I'm ready to move on," he said.
Connolly recently earned praise for having the longest kickoff return by an offensive lineman in NFL history.
"Friends and family have gotten a lot of emails and a lot of text messages. I guess my name ... I'm noticed a little bit more, and I get a little more fan mail now than ever before."
Green-Ellis Keeps The Ground Game Rolling
--RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis' job might seem easy with Tom Brady at the helm, but each week has presented a different challenge.
"Especially the team we're playing this week, so we just have to go out there and continue to work hard," he said. "All of our jobs are hard. We just have to go out there and continue to just work hard.
"(They're) stout against the run. We have to do some things in there and try to take advantage of what they don't do well."
Woodhead Getting Ready
--RB Danny Woodhead spent parts of the preseason with the Jets, so his input was definitely helpful this year, but he said the blowout win on Dec. 6 had more to do with better execution.
"Things ended up going our way," Woodhead said. "We were able to win it, but that's not something we're really looking at it. Those two games are done with.
"Both teams are getting ready and we're getting ready for this game, trying to make sure that we're ready for the opportunity that's coming on Sunday. Those first two games aren't something that we're looking at."
BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- The number of interceptions the Patriots returned for touchdowns in 2010.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have some experienced Northeastern drivers on our team." -- Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on his players arriving to practice on time Wednesday despite the snowstorm.