By Kristian Dyer
» More Columns
At some point this season, the Jets need to begin realizing their potential. There’s no better time than this week and there’s every reason to believe that they’ve been hinting at it the past two weeks.
This is, after all, a team that three months ago was a popular pick to make the Super Bowl. A roster with Pro Bowl talent and a core that had been together the better part of the past three years was supposed to fulfill the longing and waiting of a franchise that has been more than four decades without a Super Bowl appearance. The pressure was on this year for the Jets to live up to the hype.
It almost seemed like a foregone conclusion. Consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances built in a hope that the Jets were ready to take the next step.
Now at 7-5, they still remain a bit of a longshot to make the playoffs but the Jets are winners of two straight via dramatic fourth quarter comebacks. It is those types of wins that should instill confidence in the Jets to not only continue winning games, but to start winning in style. There has to be more to this team than furious finishes after inept starts.
An ugly win is still a win, which is all that matters to these Jets, but this team knows that they’re better than the way they’ve been playing the past few weeks.
The offense finally seems to be clicking. The much maligned “Ground & Pound” has seen Shonn Greene go for 166 yards combined over the past two weeks and he tied a franchise mark with three rushing touchdowns against the Redskins. Greene will benefit from the return to health of LaDainian Tomlinson as well, a fresh back to share carries come the stretch run.
This coupled with quarterback Mark Sanchez’s five touchdowns stacked against just one interception the past two wins means that an offense that has had its fair share of sputters and false starts is coming alive. That and the fact that the Jets defense is finally showing signs of life means that the team realizing its collective potential is no longer a stretch.
This Jets team is ready to go from eyesore to ready to soar.
With everything finally clicking, there are now no excuses for a team that has endured losing streaks of three games and two games this year. It seemed like nothing was working during those losses. When the offense was down, the defense failed to pick up the pace and keep the team in games. And when the defense was rolling over, the offense was constantly getting in its own way and failed to bail out its brethren on the other side of the ball.
But in the win against the Redskins, both sides of the ball did their part in the win. After a rocky first quarter, the defense made adjustments to the tune of allowing Washington just three points in the second half. And it may have taken 55 minutes for the offense to find a rhythm, but 21 points in the game’s final 300 seconds shows the potential for this team to move the ball effectively.
So if Mike Westhoff can keep his young special teams unit in check and away from fumbling, the stars are aligning on and off the field for a tremendous Jets run.
The schedule is soft, with no team currently with a winning record left among the Jets final four games. The onus now falls on head coach Rex Ryan to get his team playing a complete four quarters together, or what he calls “Playing like a Jet.”
It doesn’t have to be pretty as the Jets have won dirty and ugly the past two years in the playoffs en route to their consecutive AFC Championship Game appearances, but this team is showing in their last two wins that they are capable of far more than they’ve been showing.
If the improving offensive line can spring Greene for 100 yards consistently , if Sanchez can limit mistakes like he has been the past two games and if the defense can generate the sort of pressure it did on Sunday in FedEx Field – then this could be a special Jets team heading into the playoffs.
And one that the Chiefs, Eagles, Giants and Dolphins won’t want to face to close-out their seasons either.
Kristian R. Dyer contributes to WFAN.com and covers the Jets beat for Metro New York. He also writes for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him at twitter.com/KristianRDyer
Jets fans, is your team ready to take flight and clinch a playoff place? Sound off below…