COMMENTARY | Following last week's drubbing at the hands of the Bengals, the New York Jets looked like a team destined to lose two games in a row and drift back into AFC mediocrity. Instead, the Jets put together the best 60 minutes of football they've played this season and stunned the New Orleans Saints. After their 26-20 thriller over Drew Brees & Co., the consistently inconsistent Jets look like something else: a legitimate playoff contender.
It was an odd numbered week--therefore by rules of the 2013 Jets, they were due to play well and win. That's just what Rex Ryan's team did, versus his twin brother and one of the league's top teams in the New Orleans Saints.
Putting the Jets and playoffs in the same sentence except to say "there is no chance the Jets are making the playoffs" would have been taboo in August. Considering this team had a chance to make the playoffs even a couple weeks ago had myself and many others catching flack. Well, that's over now. As the rest of this 2013 season unfolds, it will do so with the Jets as a possible playoff team.
At 5-4 heading into their Bye week, the Jets are currently in the sixth and final AFC playoff spot. It may change week to week depending on results, but come Week 17 they could have a shot. Their weak second half schedule is one that could produce five wins out of the final seven games if the team develops some consistency. Even if the Jets are able to go 4-3 in that span they are a nine win club who could still get in depending on possible tiebreak scenarios.
For the Jets haters this is almost an unbearable thought. How could the NFL's biggest preseason punchline beat Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and then Drew Brees? How did this prospective 3-13 season take such a turn for the painfully positive? Don't remind them that Rex is also a surefire Coach of the Year candidate.
Sure, the Jets have their problems. They remain an inconsistent team with a developing rookie quarterback under center but if Smith can manage the game, use his skillset and take care of the football the Jets are on the upswing. Each game needs to be taken into account as a separate audition and at the end of the season Jon Idzik can decide whether the Geno show will continue. Win or lose, we cannot let the result of the most recent week dictate where Geno is in his progression as an NFL quarterback. This particular week Smith astounded nobody with his stats, throwing for just 115 yards on 8/19 passing. However, he was an asset with his legs and scampered for a three-yard touchdown run before halftime while not turning the ball over once. That's really all you need to know: Geno Smith did not turn the ball over and the Jets won the game. With this Jets defense, the best way to help the team win games is by not losing games.
There could not be more relevance placed on the Week 11 affair in Buffalo. New York is hoping the bye helps them end the roller-coaster we've all been on so far. If they are able to break the trend thanks to the off week, there will be a dose of consistency within the Jets we have not seen all year. That ever-elusive ability to win two games in a row and stop alternating them with terrible losses. Even more so, we need to see the Jets beat a team they are supposed to beat. Because of their Jekyll & Hyde nature, it's been near impossible to determine who they are, let alone who they should beat. But by now we should be able to look at the Jets and know they are better than Buffalo and could finally find an identity with a win.
The Jet skeptics are understandably saying: what makes them capable of beating certain teams now? We felt the same about Tennessee and then Pittsburgh, so what makes us sure they will show up in Buffalo ready to follow up on a win for once?
Besides inconsistency, there is another attribute to this Jets team: perseverance. A below average football team without the mental makeup to win would have folded after one of those deflating losses and not been able to get back up the next week. After the Titans loss, the Jets went to Atlanta on Monday night and beat the Falcons. After the Steelers loss, they shut down Brady for a half and beat the Patriots. After getting manhandled in Cincinnati, they force Brees to throw 51 times including two interceptions en route to another unlikely win. One thing that New York has done all season is endure their inconsistencies and answer the bell each time they had to. Although they will not be coming off a loss, gang green smells blood in the water. They control their own destiny and that's just another bell to answer.
Think about this: if the Jets would have lost any of those games in which they came back from a loss, we would be talking about a mediocre football team. Hall of Famer Bill Parcells famously said: "You are what your record says you are." Their ability to forget the week before and endure makes the Jets slightly above average.
After playing a beat-up Bills team, the Jets schedule is such: @ BAL, vs MIA, vs OAK, @ CAR, vs CLE, @MIA. It is one of the easiest list of games remaining in the entire league and if the Jets are ready to stay above average, they'll need to take care of business down the stretch and show us they're more than just a puzzle we can't figure out.
Brian Sausa is a freelance journalist who contributes pieces to Yahoo for the Jets and Knicks. Formerly covered a variety of NY area teams for New York Sports World. Intern in UAlbany Sports Information Dept. Twitter @BrianSausa
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