ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Looking at the Chargers' 31-0 shellacking of the Jets last week doesn't paint a pretty picture of the team the Broncos' will meet in New York on Sunday.
But that ugly scoreline doesn't in any way lessen the preparation at Dove Valley that will go into this weekend.
"A Rex Ryan-coached team? They're going to come out with their hard hats on," Aqib Talib said Wednesday. "It's going to be a physical game. We already know that. We know how Rex Ryan teams are."
Talib would know particularly well after spending a year and a half with Ryan's biggest AFC East rival. In New England's first meeting with the Jets in 2013, Talib picked off Geno Smith twice as the Patriots squeaked out a 13-10 win. Talib missed the second game against New York with a hip injury, but watched from the sideline as the 3-3 Jets took down the 5-1 Patriots in overtime.
This year, the Jets may be 1-4, but the loss to the Chargers belies what's been a very competitive team. After beating the Raiders in Week 1, the Jets went to Lambeau Field and jumped to a 21-3 lead over the Packers, ultimately losing by seven after a pre-snap timeout prevented a 37-yard touchdown pass from counting. Against the Bears in Week 3, Ryan's team trimmed an early 14-point deficit to five by the fourth quarter only to lose by eight, and followed that up with a seven-point loss to the Lions.
It's fair to say, if the ball bounces differently a time or two, the Jets could be 3-2 or even 4-1.
The Broncos were busy at work on Wednesday preparing for Sunday's game. The running backs were joined by practice squad addition Jeremy Stewart.
"You got a shield on your jersey, you're dangerous," Talib said. "Any week, you can come out and look like the best team in the league. We've seen that already plenty of times, enough times. We just got to prepare as if everybody is 0-0."
If anything, the Broncos expect the recent blowout loss to galvanize a team that still sits just two games out of their division lead.
"They're going to come out looking for some type of spark: something to spark their team, something to spark their offense," Talib said. "You've just got to be on your keys. You've just got to be even sharper."
Terrance Knighton added, "When a team goes out and gets shut out the week before, it's a pride thing. They have a bunch of men in their locker room and you know I'm pretty sure they've been hearing about it all week."
"They definitely don't want to put on a bad show at home and usually after a loss like that you want to play at home and get that bitter taste out of your mouth, so we're expecting them to play their best game and they'll get ours."
As you'd expect from a team coached by Ryan, the Jets excel in the physical aspects of the game. The Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory running back tandem have used good blocking up front to give the Jets the NFL's sixth-best rushing attack on a per-game basis and seventh-best per play.
And despite a banged-up secondary, Ryan's defense has been about as stingy as usual: The Jets rank sixth in yards allowed per game, have allowed the third-fewest first downs and are getting to the quarterback on a league-high 9.77 percent of dropbacks.
Peyton Manning is well-acquainted with Ryan's effectiveness at scheming defenses: The two faced off three times while Manning was playing for the Colts and Ryan was coaching the Jets, with Rex Ryan and his D taking two, including a playoff game—the last game Manning ever played for the Colts.
"It's always been a challenge and I can't tell you how much respect I have for his defenses," Manning said Wednesday. "It's unique. There are other teams that try to do things like it but there is nobody that does it quite like he does."
"It's a challenge for us in the pass game and the run game handling just their physical talent and then handling the different looks they give as well."
With a talented, physical football team whose record could easily be a few games better, the Jets certainly pose a challenge. But Knighton noted that the team's collective leadership, they're preparing to take care of business as they would for any game.
"I think we have a mature enough team with enough leaders to know that with the goal we have in mind, we're not going to let up on anybody," he said.