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Schwartz: Bills Vs. Jets Preview

(Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images) | (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images) | (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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By Peter Schwartz
» More Columns

Despite two straight losses, the Jets remain very much alive in the AFC playoff picture. However, at 5-5, with all five losses coming within the AFC, the Jets have run out of wiggle room.

With six games left and several teams to leapfrog, the playoffs start right now for Gang Green. They received some help this week with losses by the Titans, Bills, and Chargers, so here’s a look at the AFC Wild Card situation:

1) Steelers 7-3
2) Bengals 6-4
Broncos, Jets, and Titans are all at 5-5

The Jets are hoping that the 7-3 Ravens and the 6-4 Raiders hold onto their divisional leads as they lost to both teams earlier this season. They have to catch the Bengals, but they would also have to beat the Broncos outright since they lost in Denver last week.

It’s right there in front of them for the Jets with a favorable schedule including upcoming games with the Bills, Redskins, and Chiefs. But the Jets have been inconsistent throughout the season and you have to wonder if they are capable of making a run.

“Yes, we can,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “And this league, I think, will show you any time you think something’s a certainty or whatever, it really isn’t. I don’t know how many wins we have to get or whatever, but certainly, we’re right there lumped in with a bunch of teams, fighting for playoff spots. Absolutely, we can make a run.”

The Jets have to go at least 5-1 and they may have to win out in order to make their third straight trip to the post-season, but the focus right now is beating a Bills team that has lost three straight games.

Any hopes of a playoff spot would pretty much vanish with a slip up against Buffalo.

“I think everyone kind of feels that it’s now or never,” said safety Jim Leonhard. “We have to play well and we have to play well now. We can’t continue to play inconsistently and we have to go out there and find ways to get wins. It doesn’t have to be pretty, we have to do whatever it takes to come out on top on the scoreboard every week.”

The Jets have nobody to blame for being in this position but themselves. They lost three straight games earlier this season, but a three game winning streak put them in a position to take control of the AFC East. But losses to the Patriots and Broncos have put an end to that scenario and it has put the Jets on their familiar road to the playoffs.

But they have to start taking care of their own business.

“In this game you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself,” said linebacker Bart Scott. “You have to move on, and you have to get ready to play. We dealt ourselves a bad hand but we’re still in the game. And as long as you’re still in the game you have to perform. This is a good opportunity for us to get on the right track and try to go on a roll, because we have to. We can’t afford to lose any more games.”

That is for sure. The Jets’ margin for error is basically zero. Six wins will likely get them in the playoffs but they don’t have destiny in their own hands. Five wins might do it but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

For now though, the bottom line is taking care of business against the Bills.

Avoiding mistakes will be a key for the Jets who have had the turnover bug during the last couple of games. So, protecting the ball will be a big factor on Sunday.

“It’s real important,” said quarterback Mark Sanchez. “They’re still one of the top teams in the league at taking the ball away from the offense. So we need to be smart, be cautious with the football, protect it at all costs and hopefully we get off to a good start like we did last time we played them, and finish that first drive.”

Sanchez has been a lightning rod for criticism over the last couple of weeks. There’s no question that he has to raise his level of play, but he’s been taking a ridiculous amount of criticism as if he’s the only one on the roster making mistakes.

I will say this. Sanchez is a little thin-skinned and that’s not good for a quarterback playing in New York (or New Jersey). The whole saga this week with Ryan giving Mark Brunell some snaps is a perfect example. After Ryan made that disclosure and said that Sanchez hasn’t spoken to him this week, this was how Sanchez handled questions from reporters. Its just print, but you can kind of feel his tone…

Q: On Mark Brunell getting snaps in practice…

Sanchez: That’s the coach’s decision, I’m just controlling what I can and that’s trying to improve, make better decisions with the football and taking the reps I have and doing well with them.

Q: On coach Ryan saying that he is not talking to him…

Sanchez: No, not at all. At least not on purpose.

Q: On if it gets under his skin for him to miss reps…

Sanchez: I guess maybe last year it did, but I don’t know. That’s Rex’s deal.

Q: On if it is a motivational tool…

Sanchez: I think that’s what he’s using it for, so sure.

Q: On if he thinks it is working…

Sanchez: I don’t know, we’ll see (on) Sunday.

Q: On him playing better last season when he had reps taken away…

Sanchez: He’s superstitious.

Q: On if it took him by surprise…

Sanchez: Not really, I don’t know.

Q: On if it was just ‘Rex being Rex’…

Sanchez: I have no idea.

I’ve spent a lot of time defending Sanchez in this blog and on the air. The Jets have bigger problems than his inconsistent play. The offensive line has been poor and the receivers need to do a better job running routes. The running game has also been, for the most part, a big disappointment.
But Sanchez handled this latest sparring session with Ryan all wrong. He should have stood up like a man and said that his coach did the right thing.

And it was the right thing. Regardless of how Sanchez is playing, Brunell needs to get some reps with the first team. After all, Sanchez is just one hard hit away from being out of a game.

In reality, those hard hits have been very commonplace this season, so Ryan wasn’t just being motivational, he was being smart.

Sanchez needs to grow a pair and do what he’s done a pretty good job at since coming into the NFL in 2009.

Win games.

He needs to get in that huddle on Sunday and be a leader and march his team up and down the field.

This latest chapter of “How The Jets Turn” can be forgotten with a win over the Bills, a team that has imploded since the last time that Gang Green saw them.

The Jets then need to follow it up with a win next week in Washington.

And a win the week after against the Chiefs.

But, if they stub their toes again, then producers are going to order more episodes of this epic soap opera for 2012.

THE JETS/BILLS SERIES

The Bills lead the all-time regular season series 53-48 but the Jets have won six of the last seven meetings including a 27-11 win back on November 6th in Orchard Park. The AFC East rivals have split the last six meetings in New Jersey. The Jets will be looking to cap off their 16th regular season series sweep of the Bills.

The Jets have faced the Bills in the playoffs once and it wasn’t very memorable for Jets Nation. The Bills beat the Jets 31-27 in the 1981 Wild Card Playoff Game at Shea Stadium. A furious Jets comeback from a huge deficit ended when Bill Simpson picked off Richard Todd as the Jets were driving for the winning touchdown.

THE PREDICTION

I, like many others, felt strongly that the Jets would beat the Patriots two weeks ago as well as come up victorious in Denver. Sometimes I feel I should be picking something else instead of football games but I’ll give this another try.

The Jets have six games remaining and probably have to win all six to make the playoffs. I don’t think that the Jets will win all six but they will not lose to the free-falling Bills.
Jets 31 Bills 10

THE JETS WIN!!!!!!!!!!

The East Meadow Jets that is! Congratulations to my alma mater East Meadow High School on winning the Nassau County (Long Island) Conference One Football title this past Saturday night. The Jets (no, I’m not making that up it’s true!) beat Freeport in a thriller 34-33. It’s worth noting that NY Jets left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson went to Freeport High School.

Sorry Brick!

East Meadow will face Suffolk County Division One champion William Floyd High School for the Long Island Championship on Sunday.

BROADWAY JOE ON HBO

HBO and NFL Films have combined for a documentary that every Jets fan will want to see. The life and career of Jets Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath will be chronicled during “NAMATH” debuting on Saturday January 28th.

“Joe Namath is one of the most compelling sports figures of the last 50 years and we are delighted to tell his story,” said Rick Bernstein, executive producer of HBO Sports. “We will retrace his life not only from Joe’s perspective, but also from the viewpoints of many others who are familiar with Joe’s extraordinary football career, following his journey from Beaver Falls to today.”

This really should be a great program. HBO always seems to deliver big when it comes to sports documentaries. I particularly enjoyed the shows on the 1980 USA Hockey Team, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and the recent documentary about Vince Lombardi.

But for Jets fans, this will be very special. Although some members of Jets Nation might be a little irked about Broadway Joe’s criticism of the team, he is clearly the most important player in Jets history and this program should be very interesting.

“In the mythology of pro football, Joe Namath is Arthur,” said Steve Sabol, President of NFL Films. “He pulled the proverbial sword from the stone and the NFL became the Camelot of American Sports. His story is timeless, authentic and also very human.”

When it comes to a sports documentary or movie about a subject that I’m familiar with, there’s one thing that I want to come away with from watching the program. I need to learn something about the subject that I didn’t know before.

With HBO and NFL Films involved, I can’t imagine being disappointed.

That’s all for now! A belated Happy Thanksgiving to Jets Nation and enjoy the game!