(Long Island, NY) They aren’t out of the woods just yet. By the time December rolls around, things may look a lot different for the New York Jets. Currently occupying first place in the AFC East may seem foreign for players and fans alike but if the team can continue on its current streak, they may have a chance to lock up a playoff spot and then some.
Having won four straight after the ugly 16-13 overtime loss in Oakland, the Jets have given themselves a boost in a very competitive conference. Of the six remaining games, three are at home and the opponents (Denver, Buffalo, Miami) are all capable of ruining the Jets’ holiday plans. The road games look a bit easier on paper, but – as the Raiders proved – anything can happen on any given Sunday. San Francisco and Seattle have not been particularly tough opponents this season, but this week’s contest against the 10-0 Titans may be a good barometer for Gang Green, according to Kerry Rhodes.
“They’re the only undefeated team in the league, so they have to be playing the best ball,” the safety said. “It’s another chance for us as another measuring stick game.”
Although the Jets may have passed the first two tests of late in victories over Buffalo and New England, their head coach realizes that their next opponent will be their hardest of late.
“They’re talented in all three phases. They’re well coached,” said Eric Mangini. “They don’t make a lot of mistakes. They haven’t turned the ball over much offensively, and they’ve been able to generate a lot of turnover defensively. That always goes a long way to winning and losing.”
Entering Week 12, the Titans had a +10 turnover ratio compared to the +1 for the Jets. This is one statistic that apparently makes a big difference, as Tennessee is not in the top five of the three main offensive and defensive categories (total offense and defense, passing for and against, rushing for and against). The Jets held a spot only by holding opponents to an average of 81.3 yards per game on the ground, fourth in the league.
Even if the Jets become the Titans’ next victim, it isn’t the end of the world. But talk of another late season collapse may begin. 1993 and 1994 may have been a long time ago, but two unforgettable swoons only added to the paranoia surrounding this team. In both campaigns, they were playing playoff-caliber football heading into the end of November before the wheels came off and ‘Same Old Jets’ became the familiar saying.
It wasn’t until Bill Parcells’ second year at the helm that a six-year postseason drought was snapped in 1998. Some success since then mixed in with disappointments has made fans cynical and doubtful. But that was then and this is now, not only for the green-bleeding followers of the team, but the players, as well.
“Definitely, there is a lot more confidence, a lot more energy,” cornerback Tee Law said, who recently came back to the team for his second stint after playing here in 2005.
Hopefully some of that confidence will transcend into more wins and an extended schedule into January. It would be a refreshing change from the same old routine.