FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets, whom coach Rex Ryan believes have taken control of the local football rivalry, are approaching the annual summer showdown against the New York Giants as more than just a preseason game.
The Jets want to win and send a message, and perhaps set a tone for when they meet again, Dec. 24 -- their first regular-season meeting since 2007.
"This game doesn't affect our year, as everybody knows, but we still want to play great, we still want to dominate," guard Matt Slauson said Wednesday.
Safety Jim Leonhard added, "I think it's definitely going to be intense. It's for bragging rights. You're fighting over New York here. ... How can you consider yourself a power in the NFL if you don't own your own city?"
Ryan took some shots at the Giants in his book, which was published in the spring and devotes an entire chapter to the rivalry. He says, "I know it's going to piss off every Giants fan to hear this, but here you go: We are the better team. We are the big brother." He also says the Jets are "going to remain the better team for the next 10 years."
Surprisingly, Ryan downplayed the game Wednesday, saying the two teams might hold back -- strategically and emotionally -- because they play again in four months, when the stakes could be enormous.
For years -- no, decades -- the Jets have suffered from an inferiority complex, feeling overshadowed by the Giants, who have three Super Bowl titles to the Jets' one. But now the Jets have a swagger, thanks to Ryan's arrival and four playoff wins over the last two years.
Consider Santonio Holmes' response when asked about Justin Tuck's comments. On Wednesday, the Giants defensive leader said that even though the stadium they share has a new name -- MetLife Stadium -- it always will be known as Giants Stadium.
"It's the Meadowlands. It's the home of the New York Jets," the Jets' wide receiver said. "That's all I'll say about that."
Clearly, Ryan's attitude toward the Giants has trickled down to the locker room.
"It's a city rivalry," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "It's something we take seriously here. You want to win your city, you want to win your division, you want to win the Super Bowl. ... We'd love to play well both games and, hopefully, win them both."
A year ago, the two teams broke from tradition and faced each other in the preseason opener instead of the third game. Basically, the change was made because both teams wanted to open the new stadium; that was the compromise.
It was an intense game, fueled by a war of words between Jets linebacker Bart Scott and Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas. The signature moment occurred when Giants quarterback Eli Manning -- his face bloodied -- left the game after getting popped by Leonhard and Calvin Pace.
"That was as amped up as you can get for a preseason game," Ryan said.
In case you forgot, the Giants won 31-16. This time, there's a regular-season game on the horizon, which "might make (Saturday night) more spirited, because you want to set the tone for that," guard Brandon Moore said.
Moore, who lives in New Jersey year-round, has spotted more Jets jerseys and more Jets car stickers than ever before. That, he believes, is a sign of the team's growing popularity. Slauson said when he walks into a shopping mall, he notices the displays no longer are dominated by Giants gear.
"There's always going to be a little animosity between the Jets and Giants," Slauson said. "We're sharing a stadium, we're sharing a city and, on occasion, we're sharing fans. There's always that battle there, to rule New York. It's always a passionate game and I don't expect anything less this year."
So, yes, it's more than a preseason game to the Jets.
"The competition is always there; it's right here," Leonhard said. "You always want to one-up them and make sure you're competing at a level higher than them."
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.