Back to reality after upset win at New England
At the start of the season, the fans of the New York Jets would have signed on the dotted line if they were told that their team would have been hanging around for a playoff spot and actually only one game out of first place four days before Thanksgiving. But success has a way of spoiling even the most pessimistic ones.
Gang Green started off nicely with a win at Tennessee, and the way that quarterback Chad Pennington played in the early going, we started to get a little ahead of ourselves. The team won the games that it either was supposed to or had a chance to. They lost to the good teams that they were playing, but fought hard and were in the game. The loss at Cleveland brought the Jets back down to earth, but the win at New England got the wheels turning again.
Heading into Sunday's home game against the big, bad Chicago Bears, the Jets were close enough to New England to smell the clam chowder. With visions of the AFC East penthouse dancing in their heads, Jet fans had high hopes of another upset by their team and the further demise of the Patriots in their game at Green Bay. But not all things that are hoped for come true.
At the end of the day, two shutouts cleared up some of the mid-season questions about pretenders and contenders. Not only did the Bears win 10-0, but improved their record to 9-1 and solidified their position on NFC supremacy. And the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field proved to be a flower patch for the Pats, who crushed the Pack, 35-0. The Jets fell to 5-5 while New England stopped their two-game losing streak to improve to 7-3.
The Patriots are the class of the division and have been for some time. It was nice to see the little engine that could knock them off for a week in their own house. The student beat the teacher, who showed little class with the cold fish congratulatory handshake following the game at mid-field. And, sure, it was nice fodder for sports talk radio seven days strong on what could happen if the Jets can somehow find a way to make it a second straight upset of the NFL's elite.
Before we call it a season, let's look at the big picture. The Jets weren't expected to beat Chicago. Case closed. When they came into the Cleveland game at 4-3, that was the one they needed. By beating New England, it merely partially made up for the gaffe against the Browns. When you lose to a team you should win, you have to steal two games the rest of the way. One down. It would have been nice to get it against the Bears, but you have to be realistic.
To make it in this league, you have to figure on 10 wins and hope for the best. Nine won't do it in most seasons. So the Jets will have to go five out of six the rest of the way. Not impossible, but difficult. Coming up, they have the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders at home. They go on the road to face Green Bay, Minnesota and Miami. All are winnable games, but not easy. There isn't a playoff team amongst the group, so if the Jets want to make it interesting, they certainly have the opportunity to do so.
If the team makes it there or not, first year head coach Eric Mangini has put the confidence in his team that they are a playoff contender. Week in and week out. And sometimes that can do more for an organization than a cameo in the post season.