FOXBOROUGH — Whenever the topic of anything related to the Patriots comes up, Rex Ryan almost always gives an entertaining answer.
Even before his first game as Jets head coach, in 2009, Ryan said, "I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's rings." Since then, he has praised Belichick and Tom Brady through the years, expressed envy at what the Patriots have accomplished, and accused them of trying to embarrass his Buffalo Bills team earlier this season, when they kept throwing passes in the fourth quarter, leading by 24 points.
Thursday added a few more logs to the fire. Hours after conceding that New England would win the AFC East, Ryan turned testy during a conference call with members of the media who cover the Patriots.
Ryan is in his first season as head coach of the Bills, who visit Gillette Stadium Monday night. At 9-0, the Patriots are the only undefeated team in the AFC, and lead the division by four games. But the Bills (5-4) remain in the mix for a playoff spot, winners of two straight.
Thursday's call began with questions about the Patriots overcoming a string of injuries, the emergence of receiver Danny Amendola, and the challenge that comes with matching up against tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Then, with a question about Ryan's lack of recent success against the Patriots — dating to his time with the Jets, he is 1-8 over his past nine games — the interview took on a much different tone.
Ryan was asked if that recent record keeps him awake at night, considering how much time he spends talking about them.
"The only reason I talk about them is because they're the No. 1 team in our division — that's where we want to be," said Ryan. "I know you guys always say that I'm obsessed with them and all that. You guys are obsessed with them. Not me. You're the ones that talk about them every single day.
"I'll tell you this: We prepare for them the same way we prepare for every team that we face.
"Do we want to beat them? Absolutely. Do I want to beat them more than any team? Yeah, because they're the standard, they've won, they're the ones who win the division.
"Do I obsess with them and all that? You guys write I've lost seven of eight, so why even talk to me? I obviously have no clue how to attack them or defend them. So you guys should talk to somebody else who's got a better record than I do against them."
The next question was about the improvement Ryan has seen from Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who is completing more than 70 percent of his passes.
"I don't know," Ryan said. "You guys are the experts, you'll figure it out."
When pressed on whether Taylor's improved statistics — he threw three interceptions in the 40-32 loss to the Patriots on Sept. 20, but has just once pick since — were the result of better decisions, Ryan fired back.
"I don't know, you need to do a little more of your homework then and find out," he said. "I'm not going to answer your question. I mean, it's pretty obvious the guy's been pretty decent, but you guys will figure it out."
A reporter responded, "Why are you mad at us?"
"I don't know, I just like the way you guys spin everything," Ryan answered. "You put everything I say, and you take whatever it is — hey, you guys put it out there the way you want to. I understand it.
"You guys have covered this matchup for years and years. We've got no business being on the same field, that's what you said, we've lost seven of eight, I've lost seven of eight against them.
"So don't talk to me. I'm sitting back here, I'll answer your questions. But I don't know why you even bother."
Earlier in the day, meeting with Bills media, Ryan all but handed the Patriots the division crown, which would be their seventh straight.
"They are going to win the division," he said. "I don't see them losing four games. I hope I am wrong, but I don't see it happening."
Not the way the Patriots have played. But they'll need to win Monday playing without the running back who led them in rushing against the Bills in Week 2, without the player who had the most receptions in that game, without the left tackle who started that game, and they could be missing their leading tackler if linebacker Jamie Collins doesn't return from an illness that has kept him from playing the past two games.
If there's a time for Ryan and the Bills to get the Patriots, perhaps it's now. New England is coming off an emotional, last-second win against the Giants, and following the game with Buffalo will have a short week to prepare for a prime-time game at Denver.
Throw in the injury concerns and Buffalo's two-game win streak, and the Patriots could be in a scenario that gives them something they've yet to experience in 2015. Defeat.
Ryan says he's not obsessed with the Patriots. Yet last week, when getting his current team ready to face his former team, Ryan said he didn't have the Jets circled on his calendar.
"Everybody knows me, I circle the Patriots," Ryan said during Jets week. "That's what I do."
He certainly talks a good game. It hasn't translated into many victories against the Patriots, who could put the Bills on the verge of elimination from the division race. A loss at Gillette would leave Buffalo five games back with six to play, so Ryan knows the Patriots smell blood.
"Of course they want to bury me," said Ryan. "No question they want to beat me. But this is nothing to do with me, it has something to do with our team. I know they want to put us away, there is no question. They are going to try to do whatever they can, just like we are going to do whatever we can.
"The only thing I'm focused on is beating them right now, on Monday night. We ain't conceding that, I can promise you."