Back in mix, Jets still harbor playoff hopes
Rex Ryan tried to cover up his happiness with some
Sure, a few teams in the AFC playoff mix lost and helped improve
the New York Jets’ chances, but Ryan isn’t concerned about all
“All I’m worried about is this next game that we play,” Ryan
said Monday. “That’s where the entire focus is – as far as anybody
Then came a laugh and an admission.
“It was like, ‘Whoa!”’ Ryan said, his true feelings bursting
out. “To think that I wasn’t cheering for the Oakland Raiders
against Pittsburgh, OK, I’ll admit it, I was cheering for Oakland.
Tonight, as much as I love the Ravens and all the people there,
I’ll be cheering for Green Bay. It’s that time of year.”
Yep, when every loss counts and your playoff status can improve
while you’re sitting home watching games on TV.
“I was watching games yesterday and I saw that New England
lost,” right tackle Damien Woody said. “Pittsburgh lost and
hopefully Baltimore loses. Things are really falling our way for
us, but first and foremost, we’ve got to handle our business and
keep winning ballgames. If we do that, I think good things will
happen for us.”
At 6-6, the Jets would miss the playoffs if they started today,
but they’re in a lot better shape than they were just over a week
ago. New York was 4-6 and in danger of having its postseason hopes
“When we were struggling and losing a few games, things did
seem a little bleak,” fullback Tony Richardson said. “The biggest
thing is what Coach Ryan kept telling us is focus on one game at a
time and one week at a time. That’s the only thing you have control
The Jets responded by beating Carolina 17-6 last Sunday and
followed that with a 19-13 victory over Buffalo in Toronto four
days later. Then, Pittsburgh (6-6), New England (7-5), Tennessee
(5-7) and Houston (5-7) all lost Sunday, helping the Jets go from
being on the edge of the playoff hunt to right in the middle of it.
Suddenly, New York is tied with Miami, one game behind AFC
East-leading New England.
“I think you can make assumptions that our morale was down, but
that was an assumption,” Ryan said. “We still had a belief. I
don’t expect anyone else to believe it and I said that back then.
Everybody in this building believes in this football team, that we
can still accomplish things.”
That’s not just Ryan being an optimistic coach, either. The Jets
play at Tampa Bay (1-11) on Sunday and are then home against
struggling Atlanta (6-6). Then, they’re at undefeated Indianapolis,
which might have the AFC’s No. 1 seed wrapped up by then, and end
the regular season at home against Cincinnati, which might have
already clinched the AFC North title.
“It’s always great to be still alive this late in the season,”
linebacker Bart Scott said. “We’ve just got to take care of our
business. I appreciate the help, but we still have four games to go
and a lot of tough opponents to go through. It’s not time to start
watching what other people do. You have to take care of your
business and hopefully you earn a chance. If we don’t, then it’s
nobody’s fault but our own.”
Despite quarterback Mark Sanchez’s uncertain status after
spraining his right knee against the Bills, the Jets have reason to
be optimistic. New York is ranked No. 1 in overall defense – just
ahead of Green Bay – and hold that position this late in a season
for the first time since the 1968 Super Bowl season.
“It’s something to be proud of, hang our hats on and build off
of,” Scott said. “I know in trying to establish a tradition, it’s
important to get the first one so we can see what it looks like.
This can be our measuring stick. Hopefully we can continue to have
this success this season and something for future Jets to build off
of. We can try to establish this as the norm.”
The Jets also have the league’s top rushing offense and pass
defense, rankings that wouldn’t normally be associated with a team
that’s only .500.
“We know why we’ve lost games,” linebacker Calvin Pace said.
“It’s not like we’ve gone out there and got run off the field. A
lot of it is on us. We have to do a better job of handling our
business as far as the silly penalties, the lapses and the mental
errors. If we clean that up, the game will get a whole lot easier
Even if the playoff picture remains muddled for a few more
weeks, the Jets are confident they’ll be in contention until the
“This team is close,” Ryan said. “We’re close to being a
special football team. Nobody can deny that.”