FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — When does Rex Ryan start thinking about the New England Patriots?

“I never stop not thinking about the Patriots,” he said Tuesday.

And nor should he stop. Since Ryan has been in New York, “That Team Up North” has won the AFC East every year. For a coach that’s as bragadocious as Ryan has proven to be in the past, it undoubtedly eats him up inside.

“That’s the one you have to beat for sure. You think about them, you even build your roster sometimes in trying to compete, trying to beat this team. You’re always thinking about them,” he said.

And by you he means I.

“We’re one of the teams that can beat him. We’ve proven that. We’ll see if we’re the better team on Sunday,” he said.

More than any other rivalry with the Jets, Patriots Week just has a different feel to it — where the mind games often outweigh those that are actually played on the field.

Take, for example, Ryan’s brash introduction to the Patriots as Jets head coach. He made it very clear he wasn’t going to “kiss Belichick’s rings”; coming out and beating Belichick in the home introduction to the rivalry — a 28-14 win.

Or the way Ryan glowing gushes over the Patriots personnel. It’s not that he has a man-crush on Tom Brady or a bromance brewing with Belichick. It’s reverse bulletin-board material — flatter your opponent enough and they may actually buy the hype.

This week was no different, with an unprovoked Rex devoting a lengthy amount of words (704 to be exact) to discuss the Patriots before fielding questions from the media.

Shaun Ellis stepped up with 4 sacks in their AFC Divisional face-off. Who will step up this Sunday? ( Photo).

The players even get into the mental jabbing before physically beating.

Leading up to the AFC Divisonal round game in Foxboro during the 2010 campaign, Patriots WR Wes Welker making a tongue-in-cheek remark as he mentioned either “feet” or “toes” 11 times in an interview following a leaked video of an alleged Ryan making foot fetish remarks to his wife. Welker was benched for the first offensive possession of that same AFC Divisional game for said remarks.

And let’s not forget when cornerback Antonio Cromartie called Tom Brady an “a**hole” — easily making it’s way on to the back pages of the papers while climbing to the top of every sports cast. Following the game, Bart Scott’s candid thoughts on the Patriots defense quickly earned a cult-like following with his “this team couldn’t stop a nose bleed” and “can’t wait” catch phrases.

The recently muted but usually outspoken linebacker even broke his silence with reporters Thursday to speak on the game. Although a subdued Scott was more textbook this time around.

“It’s a huge game, a divisional game, and you want to try to be 3-0 in the division.” he said.

Joe McKnight, who’s been nursing a high ankle sprain, looked spritely darting away from reporters and shouting, “I’m playing! For first place? I’m playing!”

There is no love lost between these two teams and they certainly don’t mind spilling some of each other’s bad blood on the gridiron, but for many players involved in the rivalry it’s a return to the college atmosphere.

“I love the rivalry games,” Marcus Dowtin, who will dive headfirst into the rivalry in his first NFL game, told John Holt of “It actually kind of brings you back to your college days and you get kind of excited, with a chip on your shoulder. So I like the idea of the rivalry.”

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