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“We’re enjoying this win, but they were in the back of our minds,” Smith said of the Patriots. “Seeing how they played and the rivalry we have and just the great games that we have against them, we’re excited.”

For those who say the Jets have yet to put together a truly dominant performance, Ryan bluntly says, who cares?

“The truth of the matter is sometimes your offense needs to pick up your defense,” he said. “Sometimes your defense needs to pick up your offense, and sometimes special teams got to pick up both. We’ve won that way. We’ve found different ways. That’s the mark of an excellent football team.”

But is that enough to beat a Patriots team that’s cruising? And, will those flaws catch up to them in the postseason?

“I know we’re confident going anywhere to play,” Ryan said. “They’re certainly confident playing at home in particular, but, hey, it’s going to be, in my opinion, the best two teams in football squaring off against each other and we’ll see what happens on the field.”

Ryan was especially encouraged by the defense having what he thought was its best game. After struggling in the past several games to close out opponents, the Jets got the job done against the Bengals with three sacks, including a game-sealing safety.

“If this group communicates and we don’t have mental mistakes, then we’re going to be tough for anybody to move the ball against,” Ryan said.

The performance by the defense and special teams made up for a lackluster game by Mark Sanchez, who had been terrific the previous three.

“I just took a step in the wrong direction,” said Sanchez, who was 16 of 28 for 166 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

“He knows that there’s accountability to himself, his teammates, everybody,” he said. “The defense responded and I expect Mark to respond.”

Ryan said “it’s a good possibility” wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (groin) and defensive backs Dwight Lowery (concussion) and Marquice Cole (hamstring) will all be recovered in time for the game. Good thing because the Jets will need everyone at their best, Ryan included, going up against a Belichick-led team that’s been so impressive.

“I pride myself on being a good football coach,” Ryan said. “With the guys that I have around us, I feel confident, but I’m still not in Bill Belichick’s class, and I know that. But I know one thing: He’s going to get my best shot.”