Braylon Edwards has a message for all those New York Jets fans feeling a bit uneasy about their team’s do-or-die matchup against Cincinnati.
"We won’t lose this game,” the wide receiver boldly declared before repeating himself. "We want it too bad.”
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"Guys are serious about winning this game,” Edwards continued. "Guys aren’t talking about New Year’s Eve or family. All guys are talking about is the playoffs, beating Cincinnati. I’m convinced that this team is 100 percent in. I don’t think we can lose this game.”
Jets fans have seen this before, though, where the team blows a chance to get into the postseason with an agonizing dud. But this time, so many things have gone right lately for New York (8-7), plus there’s a good chance Cincinnati (10-5) could rest its starters for a half, if not more, in what will likely be the final game at Giants Stadium on Sunday night.
"We know it’s going to be crazy out there, and we know it’s going to be fun,” wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said.
Coach Rex Ryan isn’t buying into the "Same Old Jets” theory, using the success his father, Buddy, had with the team in 1969 as an example.
"If anything, I’ve said it the day I came here: I think I have good karma here,” Ryan said. "My dad, his first year coaching the Jets, they won the Super Bowl, so … I think that’s good karma.”
New York has caught a number of breaks late in the season, including playing a previously undefeated Indianapolis team that rested its starters for most of the second half last week. Cincinnati has already won the AFC North, and could have nothing to gain by the time the game is played Sunday night. Still, coach Marvin Lewis has been noncommittal about how much he’ll play starters such as Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco.
"Everybody is going to play,” Lewis said, before adding, "the 45 guys we suit up are all going to play.”
So, the Jets need to be ready for everybody, whether it’s Palmer, J.T. O’Sullivan or Boomer Esiason.
"We’re preparing like the starters are going to play,” Ryan said. "If that doesn’t happen, then so be it.”
If New England beats Houston, Cincinnati will likely be the No. 4 seed because it would need several other games to fall in its favor to move up to No. 3. The Bengals’ starters on offense, however, would like some playing time this week against the Jets’ top-ranked defense after they struggled against Kansas City last week.
"Playing against the best defense in the league and going out and being successful gets you rolling for that next week in the wild-card game,” Palmer said. "We want to play because we like to win, we like to compete, but also because this is as good as the competition gets on offense.”
Ochocinco said he has spoken to Lewis around 20 times since Sunday, begging him to let him play this week. In particular, he wants to go up against Jets Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, who has shut down just about every receiver he has been matched up with.
"I will force us to use all three timeouts to get me out of the game, because I’m not getting out,” Ochocinco said. "My mindset is already on playing. And I’m not sure why nobody wants to be up front about it, but I’m playing all four quarters and I’m not coming out of the game.”
Lewis is aware of all the criticism Colts team president Bill Polian and coach Jim Caldwell received for resting Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne and others instead of trying to pursue a perfect season.
"When Jim pulled his guys out of the game, I’m sure he felt like the rest of the group could finish the game and win the football game,” Lewis said. "I don’t think he intended to lose the football game. Again, I don’t know what goes through their minds. I just know our football team is way different than their football team. I know only one way to coach our guys.”
The Jets have also been criticized for not truly earning the chance to be in this position.
"A lot of people are trying to shortchange us a little bit, saying that since (Indianapolis) pulled the starters that we were able to pull it out,” Cotchery said. "You still have to win the game and go out there and make plays and win the game. We did that last weekend and our approach this week is going to be the same thing.”
The Bengals might use this as motivation, however: The last time they won their division was in 2005, when they beat Detroit and lost their last two games — resting starters for most of final game. Cincinnati then lost its first game in the playoffs to Pittsburgh, finishing the season with a three-game skid.
"Think we’re going to slow up and lay down?” defensive tackle Tank Johnson said. "We’re going out there with the intent to win the game. There’s no other option.”