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Ryan fans rivalry flames

NEW YORK — Rex Ryan got on the phone, paused for a second and then offered the one positive thought he could come up with.

"Well, I got up this morning," the New York Jets coach deadpanned, "so that's a good thing."

But Ryan was just getting started on setting the tone Monday for a wild week leading up to a huge showdown with the rival Giants. For anyone who wondered whether the bold and brash coach would be muffled by what he called a "horrible performance" against the Philadelphia Eagles, not a chance.

"Quite honestly, I never came here to be little brother to anybody," Ryan said on a conference call. "So, it's on."

Ryan obviously was not happy about the Jets' 45-19 drubbing Sunday, a game some players called "embarrassing." There were turnovers, breakdowns and missed opportunities. Mark Sanchez got knocked around again, and the Jets' pride — and playoff standing — took a hit.

But, in typical Ryan fashion, the coach used his mouth to shove all that aside. Not that this Giants-Jets game on Saturday needed more hype. In his book that came out in the offseason, Ryan boasted that the Jets were the "big brother" of New York-area football.

"Certainly, we were the better team the first two years," Ryan said. "We made the playoffs and went to the (AFC) championship game. To say a team's better than you that never made the playoffs is ridiculous. Clearly, we were the better team my first two years. We get to prove it Saturday who the best team is this year."

Ryan did acknowledge that both the Jets (8-6) and Giants (7-7) are having "disappointing" seasons, but they're still in position to make the playoffs. The Jets hold the last AFC wild-card spot with a tiebreaker edge over the Bengals — for now. The tiebreaker advantage they hold over Cincinnati could change, however, by the end of the season.

Meanwhile, the Giants can still win the NFC East with victories over the Jets and the Dallas Cowboys.

Neither team would be completely out of it with a loss Saturday.

Drew Brees and Tom Brady are leading NFL quarterbacks on a record-setting pace this season.

Saints star Brees has 11 300-yard passing games in 2011, the most in a single season. There have been 105 300-yard passing performances this year, the most collectively in a season — with two weeks remaining on the schedule.

Brees also had 412 yards through the air in Sunday's win at Minnesota. He went over 40,000 yards passing for his career and became the first quarterback to top 350 yards passing in a game seven times in one season.

New England's Brady threw for two TDs in a win at Denver and has 35 touchdowns passing in 2011. He joins Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks with at least 35 TD passes in three seasons.

Rookies also are setting marks. Cam Newton and Andy Dalton each have passed for more than 3,000 yards, the first time two rookie QBs have done it in the same season. Newton, the No. 1 overall draft pick in April by Carolina, is 17 yards away from Peyton Manning's rookie record of 3,739 yards passing. Cincinnati's Dalton is at 3,012.

Chicago Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox underwent a "successful" procedure Monday to stabilize vertebrae in his back, the team announced.

Knox was carted off the field Sunday after taking an awkward hit during the Bears' 38-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Bears coach Lovie Smith confirmed Monday Knox would be done for the season, but remained optimistic about the 25-year-old's future in football.

"He's out, of course, this year. But just looking to the future, it looks bright for him, of course, to play and to get back out there. So we're encouraged by that," Smith said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Knox suffered the injury during the first quarter of Sunday's game in Chicago as he attempted to recover a fumbled catch. Seahawks defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove and Knox collided as the pair dove for the loose ball with the force of the hit causing Knox's body to violently bend backward above the waist.

The Bears wideout suffered a cracked facet joint, which helps support the spinal column, a league source told the Tribune. He is looking at a three- to four-month recovery, according to the source.

The highly anticipated matchup between Tom Brady and Tim Tebow helped draw the second-best preliminary television rating for a regular-season NFL game on CBS since the network acquired the AFC package in 1998.

The New England Patriots' 41-23 win over the Denver Broncos led to a 19.5 overnight rating and 36 share for CBS's NFL coverage Sunday. Only the Nov. 4, 2007, games highlighted by a meeting of two undefeated teams, the Patriots and Colts, had a higher rating in the last 14 seasons on the network with a 22.5/39.

Browns quarterback Colt McCoy has not yet been medically cleared to resume practice following a concussion, and it remains unclear if he will play again this season.

Coach Pat Shurmur said McCoy is improving and remains day-to-day. McCoy did not travel with the team for Sunday's game in Arizona His backup, Seneca Wallace, started Cleveland's 20-17 overtime loss to the Cardinals. Shurmur would not discuss which of his QBs would start this Saturday at Baltimore. Shurmur will wait until McCoy is cleared before announcing his starter.