Schwartz: Shuffling Into First Place
By Peter Schwartz
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A month ago, the Jets and their fans would have signed on the dotted line if you told them that Gang Green would be playing in the postseason. The odds weren’t good after a three game losing streak had the Jets at 2-3.
But a month later, the Jets aren’t only back in the playoff race. They now have destiny in their own hands when it comes to winning the AFC East.
Sunday’s 27-11 win over the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium improved the Jets record to 5-3 and they are now in a three way tie for first place in the AFC East with the Bills and Patriots.
I’m thinking that Woody Johnson had to have called John Mara and Steve Tisch to say thank you for the Giants’ 24-20 win over the Patriots. That sets up quite the juicy rematch on Sunday night when the Jets host the Pats at Met Life Stadium.
Maybe Rex Ryan called Tom Coughlin to say “nice job and we’ll return the favor against the Eagles in December!”
But let’s get back to the win in Orchard Park first.
The Jets defense came though big time. They confused Ryan Fitzpatrick all day and forced three turnovers. Without that effort, the Jets are in big trouble as they were fortunate to be leading the game 3-0 at halftime. The offense finally started to click in the second half, but a lot of that also had to do with the defense giving them good field possession.
The Jets have now won three in a row but things are far from perfect. They still have a lot of cleaning up to do, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
At 5-3, the Jets close the first half of the season where they thought they would be before the season started.
In first place!
It’s just that they didn’t expect to have three losses. But give Ryan and the staff credit for keeping the team together and staying focused. They have survived adversity before and it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that they’ve done it again.
The AFC East is now set up for a changing of the guard. The Patriots are reeling with back-to-back losses. To quote Green Bay Packers play-by-play voice Wayne Larrivee, the Jets might be able to come up with the “dagger” on Sunday night.
Last week, the Jets had, perhaps, their best week of practice this season coming out of the bye. They can’t afford to take their foot off the pedal this week, a critical period for the Jets who also have to do some advance work on the Broncos who they face in Denver a week from this Thursday.
It shapes up as an exciting week in Florham Park.
Could you have imagined this a month ago?
The Jets captains were Ellis Lankster, Jim Leonhard, Aaron Maybin, Jamaal Westerman, and Matthew Mulligan.
Plaxico Burress set season highs with five catches for 79 yards. He now has 23 receptions this season for 322 yards and five touchdowns.
Undrafted free agent fullback/tight end Josh Baker notched his first NFL reception, a five-yard catch from Mark Sanchez in the 2nd quarter.
Sanchez may have turned the ball over twice with an interception and a fumble, but he did have a passer rating of 92.9. That’s the fourth time this season that he notched a passer rating of 90 or more.
Ladainian Tomlinson picked up his first rushing touchdown of the season. With 161 career touchdowns (145 rushing and 16 receiving), he ranks third in NFL history behind Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith (175) and Jerry Rice (208).
Nick Folk converted two of three field goal attempts. He converted boots from 49 and 50 and missed a 50-yard attempt. That was his first miss of the season. Folk has hit on 12 of 13 attempts in 2011.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Jets will watch film on Monday before getting a day off on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Jets will be back on the practice field to begin preparations for Sunday night’s showdown with the Patriots.
That’s all for now. Check back on Friday for a preview of Sunday night’s Jets/Patriots game.