“When you look at New England, New England’s won this division 10 out of the last 11 years, and quite honestly, [Tom] Brady wasn’t the quarterback the year they never won it [Matt Cassel, 2008]," Ryan said of his goal to topple the Pats. "So we know who the team to beat is, and no offense to Miami or Buffalo, but the team to beat is New England. We always try to line up to beat the best, and we know certainly in our division, historically over the last 10 years, that’s been New England.”
Ryan already feels they're ahead of the game from last season after just one look.
“We’re a zillion miles ahead of where we were at this time last year,” Ryan said. “We’re further along with this team than I have been with any other team.”
But he's not so quick to give this squad the honors of being better than the 2010 team that knocked the Patriots 28-21 to get to the AFC Championship Game - at least not yet.
“I’m not saying it was better than that team,” Ryan said. “I’m not saying that yet. The proof will be in the pudding. What I’m saying is further along, will we be better than that team? Man, I’d love for that to happen.”
Still, after three years out of the playoffs, Zach Sudfeld says Ryan remains realistic about his expectations for the team.
“We got a long way to go, we have to just continue to improve every day, but you know that he believes in this team, that we can take it all the way.”
While Ryan and his team stay in touch with reality, the reality is, they're gunning for the playoffs not only for themselves, but for their fans as well.
“Well I think we want it for every reason known to man,” Ryan said. “Yeah we want it for us, but we also want it for our fans. We know it’s been a long run. Guys who have been here with me the whole time are like, ‘Man, we got to get back in,’ and you feel that, when you’re not in the playoffs it gets at you. … We want it more than anything for the people that have been there for us throughout this whole time. Whether it’s our fan base, whether it’s other people as well. That drives us. I know it drives me.”