(Long Island, N.Y.) Whenever you qualify for the playoffs following a loss, the general consensus is that you have ‘backed in.’ The Jets fought hard in Chicago but came up short, 38-34, and learned of their fate before leaving the visitor’s locker room at Soldier Field.
Because the Jacksonville Jaguars also lost, the Jets at 10-6 clinched a spot in the postseason. Whenever you have double-digit wins, you have earned your spot in the big dance. The team has not been playing particularly well of late – going 1-3 in their last four games – so they need to get it together quickly if they intend on contending for the Super Bowl.
“Playing well going into the playoffs is about the team that’s playing hot at the time because it’s a tournament,” said running back LaDainian Tomlinson. “No matter what you say or who you are, you could be the number one seed or you could be the sixth seed, everyone is nervous about going home because there is a potential of losing.”
Throughout the season, the Jets have had moments where they have looked impressive, but yet there have been too many times when they have left you scratching your head. The close, last minute wins over teams they are clearly better than seemed to have caught up to Gang Green in the past month. They have beaten the weaker teams on their schedule and struggled against the stronger ones, but the win at Pittsburgh two weeks ago gave them a huge shot in the arm.
With the New England Patriots having already wrapped up the AFC East and overall number one seed in the conference, the best the Jets can do is the fifth seed. For that to happen, they will have to not only beat the Buffalo Bills at home this Sunday, but also have the Steelers finish as the other wild card team and jump them due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“I think it’s important to win this game,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “If we can get to 11 wins – I think that’s only been done five times in the history of the franchise – that would be huge. You want to go in (to the playoffs) with a win.”
With quarterback Mark Sanchez still bothered by a shoulder injury, the question now is will he play in Week 17 and for how long. “Obviously, his health is the number one concern” added Ryan. “It’s kind of a fine line because he is hot right now. We can’t afford for him to take a dip. We need him to stay at this level. Those are things we’ll definitely consider.”
Everyone wants to go into the postseason on a winning note, but all one needs to do is look at 2009 for proof that it isn’t a necessity. The New Orleans Saints lost their last two regular season contests before winning Super Bowl XLIV and the Indianapolis Colts, who represented the AFC on Super Sunday, also dropped their last two after winning the first 14 games of the regular season.
“I don’t think that history repeats that or says that you have to be rolling at the end of the regular season, but I will say this,” concluded Ryan. “I’m excited about where our offense is right now. I think we’re peaking at the right time. Defensively, obviously, we’re not. We had two games that weren’t up to our standards, but I think we can fix it.”
If the Jets are to make any noise in January, that has to happen right away.