By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork/WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — Oh Lord, here we go again.
This was inevitable. It really was. The blinders are back on and the good ship Rex has regained its earlier altitude.
Depending on whichever section of the cabin you sit, the Jets are either back on a collision course with destiny or infamy. The next 10 weeks are going to be as crazy as the previous seven, provided this past Sunday wasn’t an aberration. I don’t know about you, but I’m still a bit skeptical about what’s to come.
In 30 frantic minutes on Sunday the Jets managed, at least in their own eyes, to put the vast majority of their troubles aside. Their Super Bowl-caliber second half against the Chargers brought thousands of fans in from the ledge.
But you’d think more than just a handful would continue to at least dangle a toe out there.
Nope. An overwhelming percentage of the Nation thinks this team is back, and as usual it is taking its cues from the players and coaches, who have basked in the glory since beating up a perennial underachiever. Indianapolis, the host of this season’s Super Bowl, is now no longer in the rearview, they all say. The GPS is locked and only an earthquake will prevent this team from making good on its repeated boasts.
Why am I cringing right now?
While I’m not about to totally rain on the parade that’s broken out since Sunday’s 27-21 win over San Diego, a team which most everyone going in picked to win, I’m not sold on anything. My uneasiness remains intact.
And if you ask anyone, that’s really not my style. I try to keep it positive by focusing on the belief in the roster, coaching staff and front office, because, after all, there’s no question on paper the Jets are right there with anyone in the AFC.
I just haven’t seen anywhere near enough to warrant my participating in the type of Mardi Gras that’s enveloped the fan base over the last few days. The Jets have played, by my estimation, one exceptional half of football this season. In a “what have you done for me lately?” world, sure, the Jets have done a course correction, but have they really righted all their wrongs? Are they now truly worthy of that higher calling they so desperately want to believe is their birthright?
Again, I ain’t seen nothing yet.
The positives on Sunday were many. The Jets sliced and diced the Bolts for 162 yards on the ground, averaging 5.2 yards per serving. Plaxico Burress emerged from semi-seclusion to catch three touchdowns. The defense adhered to halftime adjustments in posting a shutout in the second half. Darrelle Revis took another step toward winning his first NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. I could go on, but you were there. You saw.
The Jets finally got fed up with themselves and put forth the type of effort we’ve been clamoring for since the second half of last season’s AFC Championship game.
But it was nowhere near enough to justify the sudden re-emergence of this kick-ass-and-take-names bravado that’s permeated the fans and players since the clock ran out on Sunday.
I guess I should know better than to single out Antonio Cromartie when it comes to trash talking, but he said something following Sunday’s game that was at least a little amusing. He referred to the Chargers as “a team that can’t finish.” My first inclination was to say the Jets have barely been able to get started at times this season, but I ultimately took it as Antonio being Antonio because he later paid homage to the Jets’ next two opponents, Buffalo and New England. He also broke from character and showed some leadership, reiterating the need for his own teammates to bottle whatever it was they were drinking in the second half on Sunday and bring it with them from now on.
But you just know for every ounce of respect given to an opponent the rest of the way there will also be gallons of the same old same old. You can basically mark it down. Rex will say something absurd and it will be a thing for a few days. Then someone will go on a radio show and things will get out of hand. Or someone will call someone else out and later refuse to back down. The fact that something will happen is written in stone. Who, how and when? Well, that’s why we do office pools. Hell, I’m just waiting for a coach to trip someone again or for a mysterious video to appear on YouTube.
In all seriousness, be happy the Jets saved their season Sunday. Be thrilled they have entered their bye week 4-3 and right in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt. Be happy no one of importance is out for the season. Be excited that the running game is starting to really click and that the defense seems to finally have a clue again.
But also be aware of the fact that this team has yet to win a game on the road this season — and that’s exactly where the Jets will be five more times this season. I’d bet my paycheck the Bills hang 30-40 points on the Redskins this weekend. That’s a scary offensive football team, especially in their own building. Past history suggests the Steelers have absolutely no chance Sunday night against the Patriots, even though the game is at Heinz.
So the Jets could very well be looking at a scenario where they are one game back of the Bills when they travel to Western New York on Nov. 6 and possibly two or more behind when they welcome in the Patriots the following Sunday night. Buffalo is currently unbeaten in the division. New England has just one loss. In the ultra-competitive AFC, the Jets’ season for all intents and purposes could be over by the time the clock hits midnight on Nov. 14.
But that said, the Jets have shown warning signs that the nuisance on the field is making a cameo. They have transitioned from a team flirting with an “Air Coryell” persona back to their bread and butter. Mark Sanchez may very well be a better quarterback now than he was last season, but I’d be shocked if you see him truly show it. Not because he can’t, but because Rex and his staff finally woke up and opted to go back to this team’s strength. Shonn Greene is the key to this offense and he’s getting his act in gear. A year wiser Sanchez is actually better suited to be Plan B and his numbers by the end of the season will prove that. The kid will put up career highs in every important statistical category, but he’ll do it in the role best suited to fit this cast — as a glorified understudy.
All that said, there’s plenty to like here, but you have to keep your enthusiasm within reason. Despite the Rex Magic 8 Ball giving some encouraging answers, the bottom line is the Jets have played a single signature half, not yet a full 60 minutes this season.
Do I think they are at least on their way to something special? I need to see more. Believe me when I tell you that you need to see more, too.
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