Let me begin by saying this about tonight's big game between the Ravens and New York Jets: I hope it's more exciting than the PR snooze-fest leading up to it.
Look what we got from both teams all week: No real trash-talking. No brash predictions about who would win. No alpha-male posturing about who would smack whom in the mouth, whose will would be imposed on whom, etc.
No, it wasn't exactly Ali-Frazier before the "Thrilla in Manila." In terms of big-game buildup, on a scale of 1-10, I'd give it a 4, tops.
I'll tell you how dull it was. Wild-man linebacker Terrell Suggs met the media the other day and while talking about the "respect" and "love" the Ravens have for the Jets basically admitted: we don't hate them like we hate theSteelers.
Think any of that went up on the Jets' bulletin board? Uh, probably not.
Even Rex Ryan, the loosest of loose cannons, had nothing but nice things to say about the Ravens.
On the other hand, the Jets' coach must have thought he entered some kind of bizarre parallel universe this week when Hall of Famer Joe Namath ripped him for — are you ready? — praising his players too much.
Yes! According to Broadway Joe, excessive praise of players leads to complacency and poor game preparation, and probably to heartburn and gum disease, too.
But even here, Ryan didn't pop a gasket and tell Namath to go pound sand.
"I'm not going to change who I am because Joe Namath said something," Ryan said. "Namath can come in here, and if he can still throw, we'll have him as a backup quarterback."
Who cares if he wasn't serious? A 68-year-old football legend with knee replacements backing up Mark Sanchez — I'd pay to see that.
Still, despite all the happy talk coming from the two teams all week, this figures to be a brutal game tonight at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Ravens have a thing about playing hard against former teammates and current Jets Bart Scott, Derrick Mason and Jim Leonhard. They especially want to prove to Ryan, their former tough-guy defensive coordinator, that their D didn't exactly turn into Miss Manners the minute he left.
The Jets, on the other hand, come in majorly ticked off after that ugly 34-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders, during which they allowed 234 yards rushing and made Raiders running back Darren McFadden look like Marcus Allen.
That awful performance also caused the Jets' rushing defense to slip from No. 9 to No. 31 in the NFL, which practically caused Ryan's head to explode.
We're no. 31 — that must be blinking like a neon sign in the big guy's brain.
No wonder the Jets have been telling the New York media all week that Ryan was in a foul mood in practice, intently focused on fixing the run defense. His players seem determined to fix it, too.
"Anybody that thinks that . . . there's 30 teams better than us at stopping the run, I would call you a little bit foolish," Scott, the Jets' linebacker, told reporters.
Nevertheless, the Ravens figure to come out trying to run the ball, too, especially if it'll soften up the defense and let them take some shots downfield with their rejuvenated passing game.
OK, I say rejuvenated. When you used that term around the Ravens this week, they got a little touchy.
But there did seem to be a new emphasis on going downfield against the St. Louis Rams last Sunday, when rookie wide-out Torrey Smith had his coming out party and caught three touchdown passes in the first quarter.
Joe Flacco also had a big day, completing 27 of 48 passes for a career-high 389 yards. The Ravens quarterback, as you know, has the post-game demeanor of a veterinarian about to put down your dog, no matter how well he plays or how the team does.
But after the Rams game, he couldn't stop gushing about how important it was to have an aggressive offense that challenges defenses all over the field, applies constant pressure and throws the ball often, passing being the key to winning in today's NFL.
Coming from the normally taciturn Flacco, this was practically the Gettysburg Address. So we'll see what offensive coordinator Cam Cameron draws up for tonight's game and whether the Ravens have any luck going against the Jets' terrific cornerbacks, Darrelle Revis andAntonio Cromartie.
Big test for the Ravens tonight. Big test for the Jets, too. And it's fitting to see this one played on national TV.
I wouldn't break out the old line about these two teams just plain not liking each other.
But maybe that's about to change.
Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "Norris and Davis Show."