ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - Brace yourselves, Buffalo, coach Rex Ryan and the New York Jets _ the self-proclaimed AFC East neighborhood bullies _ are on their way.
Brash and confident as ever, Ryan had no difficulty accepting the role of division _ and maybe all-league _ villain as his team prepared to swagger into town for a game against the Bills on Sunday. Love them, hate them just so long as you respect the Jets, Ryan’s more than comfortable with the image he’s fostered in two seasons at the job. Heck, he put it out there on display for all to see on national cable TV this summer.
“I think if you’re a good football team, you’re going to be hated by a lot of people,” Ryan said. “That’s fine. It’s like when the bully comes into town. Everybody wants to see him get beat. But I’d much rather have it that way than the other way, where people don’t respect you.”
And there’s the rub in what, on paper at least, is being regarded as a lopsided matchup between a deep and talented Jets team (2-1) in all its Super Bowl-or-bust bluster, and a Bills opponent that’s done nothing so far to dispel its perennial image as a division weakling.
Just don’t ask Ryan to start kicking sand in anyone’s face.
As much as Ryan credited the Bills for how well they played in a 38-30 loss to New England last weekend, he followed it up with one promise: “If they’re going to beat us, they’re going to have to earn it.”
So what does it take to beat a bully?
“Well, you throw the first punch,” said Bills defensive end Dwan Edwards.
The trouble for the Bills is they’ve been relatively punchless in getting off to an 0-3 start for the fourth time since 2001, which puts them well on their way to missing the playoffs for an 11th consecutive season.
Given how swiftly first-year coach Chan Gailey switched quarterbacks and then released Edwards, there’s already a perception that the Bills are taking a rebuilding-mode approach.
“Maybe,” receiver Lee Evans said. “But us, as players, we don’t look at it that way. We look at it as we’re trying to play and win games with the guys we’ve got.”
Taking over as starter, Ryan Fitzpatrick has at least injected life into an anemic offense. Fitzpatrick and the offense produced more in one game against the Patriots (30 points, 247 yards passing and 374 total yards) than the unit managed in its first two combined under Edwards (17 points, 241 yards passing, 352 total yards).
The problem was it still wasn’t enough, in part because the Bills defense allowed 200 yards rushing and failed to apply any pressure on Tom Brady.
Identity _ or the lack of one _ has become a theme in Buffalo.