FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Rex Ryan opened his daily news conference the way he has all season.
"We’re going to start with the injury report, obviously," the New York Jets coach said Wednesday. "Manning, Clark, Addai, Reggie Wayne, Freeney, Mathis, Brackett — all those guys will not play."
Big, big smile.
Then he said a few coaches should be treated to extended holiday breaks.
"Oh, hold up," he said. "That was my wish list for Santa Claus."
Who could blame him for dragging Santa into this and hoping somehow the old elf could arrange for only the Colts’ equipment manager to show up Sunday when Ryan’s 7-7 Jets play undefeated Indianapolis — as in 14-zip — with their playoff chances barely alive.
Ryan would like nothing more than to see rookie Curtis Painter under center for the Colts instead of Peyton Manning.
"It’s obviously going to be a challenge whoever’s out there, but, you know, obviously these are some of the premier players in this game, so …"
With a shot to finish the regular season undefeated, it’s unclear whether Colts coach Jim Caldwell will play all his starters the entire game. It really doesn’t matter; the Jets need to win no matter who plays.
"A lot of people might be counting us out, but we’ve got a shot," quarterback Mark Sanchez declared.
They do, even though Ryan thought the Jets’ playoff chances were over after their 10-7 loss to Atlanta on Sunday. He discovered Monday after talking with general manager Mike Tannenbaum that the Jets are still in the hunt.
New York could even control its own destiny if it figures out a way to beat Indianapolis and a few things happen: Jacksonville and Miami need to lose, along with either Baltimore or Denver.
"I don’t think it’s about, ‘Well, let’s try to ruin their perfect season,’" Ryan said. "I think it’s more the fact that you get to compete against that quality of a football team. With the ’72 Dolphins, they could all think, ‘Hey, it’s great. We’re happy for you guys.’ But that’s not it at all. We’re just trying to keep our playoff chances alive here."
The Jets will need their top-ranked defense to live up to its lofty billing to have a shot against Manning and the Colts’ No. 1-ranked passing offense.
"You want to get him off his spot," Ryan said. "He knows exactly where he’s going with the ball. I love the guy, I mean as a quarterback all that. But I hate him."
Ryan has been frustrated by the defense’s inability to close out some games this season, failing to hold leads in the final minutes of three losses.
"We’ll know a lot more about our football team if we can stop this offense because nobody’s really stopped it," Ryan said. "That’s going to be our challenge, there’s no doubt."
One of the keys will be not divulging too much of the defensive game plan before each play.
"He can snap it quick. He can take it all the way down to 1 second," Ryan said, referring to Manning. "I mean, I don’t think that’s entertaining football. That’s just me. That’s how I feel about it."
Big smile again.
"Another reason he shouldn’t play," he added. "National game, who wants to see Peyton Manning?"
The Jets will also have to limit turnovers and silly penalties, things that have plagued them all season.
"Obviously, the Colts know, shoot, we’re going to let it fly," Ryan said. "We’ve got no choice. You know, we’re a desperate team. We’re desperate to make the playoffs. There’s a lot easier opponents to play than the Indianapolis Colts, but so be it. We’re going to have to find a way to beat them.