The New York Jets run to the postseason has in a way felt almost too good to be true. Everything that has had to happen for the Jets to be where they are, has, which is exactly why if Gang Green were to fall short, it would be an ultimate sucker punch.
Since losing two straight to Buffalo and Houston, the Jets have been in must-win mode and have responded with five straight victories over the Dolphins, Giants, Titans, Cowboys, and Patriots.
Not only did the Jets need to win each and every one of those games, they also needed either the Chiefs or Steelers to lose at least once.
Gang Green got exactly what the doctor ordered last Sunday when Ryan Mallett (starting his first game with the Ravens) along with running backs Javorius Allen and Terrence West, and receivers Kamar Aiken, Kyle Juszcyk, and Chris Matthews (a cast of people virtually unknown in the NFL universe) beat Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and DeAngelo Williams.
It’s almost impossible to explain how a team that many felt was the AFC’s best, with all due respect to the Patriots, could go into Baltimore with Ryan Mallett playing quarterback having not thrown an NFL pass since October 8th, and lose.
Now the stage is set and the task is clear. Beat Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills, and you go to the playoffs for the first time since 2010, the final step in an unimaginable journey.
Who would have ever thought after Geno Smith got punched in the jaw in early August that Ryan Fitzpatrick would have taken over and not just have the Jets on the cusp of the playoffs, but be one touchdown pass away from breaking Vinny Testaverde’s single season record of 29? That Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker would have formed statistically the most prolific one-two wide receiver punch in NFL history (better than the Vikings’ duo of Randy Moss and Cris Carter in 1998, two HOFs by the way)? That Marshall would have had the best season of any Jets receiver ever? I know I certainly didn’t.
Not to mention that the only person standing in the way between the Jets and the playoffs is former coach Rex Ryan who you know is approaching this game like it’s the Super Bowl of Super Bowl’s and would love nothing more than to knock Gang Green out of the postseason.
I don’t think it’s possible to envision a worse scenario than seeing Rex run off the field knowing he just ruined the Jets season.
Probably the biggest reason though why missing the playoffs would hurt so bad is the AFC has never been weaker. Let’s call it what it is.
The current five playoff teams in the AFC include the Patriots, Bengals, Texans (virtual lock to wrap up the AFC South), Chiefs, and Broncos. Andy Dalton isn’t coming back for Cincinnati, Brian Hoyer is the QB for the Texans, Alex Smith is starting for the Chiefs, the Broncos have Brock Osweiler and a dead arm Peyton Manning, and the Patriots are dealing with a laundry list of injuries.
You can’t tell me the Jets couldn’t go to each and every one of those places and have an unbelievable chance to win.
It’s been such a magical journey for the Jets in 2015 and now 2016, and to see it all end on Sunday to Rex in Buffalo considering how mediocre the rest of the conference is would be an excruciatingly painful ending, one that would be up there with some of the toughest defeats to take in team history.