FLORHAM PARK, N.J. --- Rex Ryan has his players -- and maybe just about everyone else these days -- believing in the New York Jets.
The brash, confident coach has pumped up his team all season, and after receiving some lucky breaks to simply get into the playoffs, the soaring Jets (11-7) are a win away from the Super Bowl.
"The fact of the matter is we're here," defensive end Shaun Ellis said Monday. "We're doing good things while we're in the tournament and we feel like this has been our destiny."
They'll first need to get past Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts (15-2) in the AFC championship, a rematch from a highly debated Week 16 meeting. That's when coach Jim Caldwell pulled Manning and several other starters in the second half, and the Jets rallied to hand the Colts their first loss of the season.
Despite trailing only 15-10 when Manning & Co. took a seat, the Jets kept hearing about how the Colts handed them that victory -- and subsequently helped them get into the playoffs. Now, New York has a chance to silence those critics.
"This is the perfect script for us, man," right tackle Damien Woody said. "We couldn't have asked for a better script right now, getting a chance to play the Colts again. Everybody was talking about, 'Oh, you know, they laid down for us,' and all that type of stuff. Now, we've got a second opportunity against the Colts at their place again. This could be a redemption for us."
But Ryan said the Jets don't need any of that to fire them up.
"The motivation is going to come from the fact that the winner of this game advances to the Super Bowl." he said. "That's probably motivation enough."
Facing a Chargers team that had won 11 in a row, the Jets went out to San Diego and shocked them in a 17-14 victory that sent them to an AFC championship game appearance with a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez.
"We feel good about our chances," Woody said. "We feel good about going to Indianapolis and we believe that we're going to go all the way and bring this thing back to New York."
That's the type of culture Ryan has harvested for a franchise that has had little to crow about. After all, this is just the Jets' third AFC championship game appearance, and first since the 1998 season. They've since had four coaching changes -- not counting Bill Belichick's 24-hour tenure in 2000.
So, when Ryan came in and replaced the stoic Eric Mangini, and talked about titles and meetings at the White House as soon as he was hired a year ago, people laughed.
Now look at him.
"I was just honest," Ryan said. "I'm not a told-you-so guy -- until after we win the Super Bowl. Then, I'll make that comment."