By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork/WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — As disgraceful as Sunday was in Philadelphia, the Jets are somehow no worse for wear in the standings.
It’s unbelievable and in no way erases the truth that this team isn’t very good, but it is something to build upon heading into their now pivotal matchup with the Giants on Christmas Eve.
For those of you who can stomach yet another rehashing, let me reveal what happened on Sunday. As you know, the Jets (8-6) were a complete disaster throughout their 45-19 loss to the Eagles. I’ll get to them on the field in a bit. In the interim, it’s important to explain their playoff scenario, because it’s as unfathomable as the Jets’ play has been on the field since, really, September.
Despite a defeat that reeked of a stroll down “Same Old Jets” memory lane, Gang Green still owns the final playoff spot in the AFC and controls its own destiny. Simply put, if the Jets beat the Giants and then Miami, they will open the playoffs on the road, at either Houston, New England or at the Central champ, Pittsburgh or Baltimore.
They are in this position because they got hooked up Sunday by, of all teams, the previously winless Colts and the perennially awful but now very interesting Lions. The Jets currently hold the tiebreaker over the 8-6 Bengals and lead the Raiders and Titans by one game.
But it was those same Raiders and Titans that put the Jets in a position to sort of ask for a mulligan for Sunday in Philly. Of course, I’m not going to give them one and neither will any other self-respecting fan, but the bottom line is the Jets are in great shape in the AFC playoff chase today, just as they were 24 hours ago.
Call it a miracle if you want, but this is how the NFL works sometimes.
The Raiders coughed up a late 13-point lead at home to the Lions, capped by Detroit going 98 yards inside the final two minutes. The Titans decided it was the right time to get into the Christmas spirit by handing the now 1-13 Colts a 27-13 win.
This ridiculous series of events sandwiched a pathetic performance by the Jets that really, let’s be honest now, showed that even though this team might currently be in the playoffs, it is in no way a traditional playoff team. It’s either that or this is one of those years where the NFL has been forced into dumbed-down prerequisites for postseason participation.
It happens from time to time. There have been division winners at 8-8 and playoff teams at 7-9, most recently Seattle last season. The Seahawks were below .500 but won their division and were laughed at league-wide only to shock high-powered New Orleans in the wildcard round.
And now we have the Jets, who could very well end up 10-6, but feel like an around .500 team. I know, you are what your record says you are. But the Jets seem hell-bent on challenging Bill Parcells’ long-alluded-to assertion.
The Jets will almost assuredly have to win 10 games to make the playoffs. The strength of their remaining two opponents seems to suggest they should, but you saw the game against the Eagles on Sunday. You saw this team lay an egg of the highest order and get exploited in ways that were all too familiar all season, only this time greatly magnified. You saw the Jets finally go up against a really good offense and get abused. You saw the Jets on both sides of the ball play as if the game didn’t matter.
Let’s look at the numbers:
* The Jets turned the ball over four times, leading to 21 Eagles points. There’s a stat out there somewhere that states the Jets are second overall in the NFL in this dubious category.
* Mark Sanchez turned the ball over three times, including two interceptions, one that wasn’t his fault and the other which most certainly was.
* Sanchez was sacked four times and pressured God only knows how many additional times. He’s lucky he can still stand upright today after some of the shots he took from the Eagles.
* Right tackle Wayne Hunter proved once and for all that whatever he showed in the second half last season was clearly an aberration. If the Jets had a reliable option they probably would have turned to him weeks ago.
* Santonio Holmes fumbled once, let an easy throw slip through his hands for an interception and then decided the prudent thing to do after scoring a TD that brought his team within 19 points was to get a 15-yard unsportsmanlike flag for doing some stupid dance. Of course, Holmes is a Jets captain.
* The Jets were outgained on offense 420-241.
* The Eagles’ Brent Celek caught five balls for 156 yards and a TD, becoming the latest tight end in the nearly three-year Rex Ryan era to decimate the Jets’ defense.
* The Jets allowed 160 yards on the ground, including a waving-the-white-flag 33-yard scoring run to LeSean McCoy in the fourth quarter.
* Michael Vick was not sacked. Lightning-in-a-bottle pass-rushing linebacker Aaron Maybin was nowhere to be found.
I mean, there’s probably more, but you get the picture.
Now the question becomes: can the Jets rebound from that embarrassment and win their final two? I don’t even want to venture a guess or a prediction, but I will say there’s precedent to believe the Jets can turn it around and turn it around in a big way.
They just need to hope their flux capacitor is still fluxing, because it’s time to go back in time.
In 2009, the Jets suffered a brutal home loss to Atlanta that dropped them to 7-7. A great effort and a gift later, they were the final seed in the AFC and were on their way to getting to the AFC Championship game. Fast forward to the next December. The Jets got pummeled in New England and then followed that up with another one of the worst losses in franchise history the next week against Miami. But they then bounced back to win two of their final three to sew up the sixth spot and eventually fought for another shot at the Lamar Hunt Trophy.
The moral of this often sordid story is you just don’t know with this team and though many would like to say this is a different season, all I can say to counter that is these are largely the same players and coaches, with the same approach.
I have no idea what the Giants will bring on Saturday, but if I was a betting man I would say that they will play above themselves, mostly because they also need the game in the worst way and probably don’t want any part of being beaten by their traditional little brothers.
Conventional wisdom suggests that the Jets have greatly underachieved this season, but have they really? Every last fan knows their shortcomings and even if some of the criticism is often misdirected on a week-to-week basis, the end result has justified their record and precarious position. Simply, the fans aren’t fooled. They know the bottom line with this bunch.
But they also know the Jets have had this tendency under Ryan to unzip themselves and step out as new men late in seasons. The Jets could very well do just that again on Saturday and the following week in south Florida.
I’m by no means suggesting the Jets will get back to the conference title game. Nor am I even remotely hinting at the fact that they have the entire league right where they want it right now.
But do they?
I suspect only they really know the answer and have no intention of cluing anyone in any time soon.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini
Do you think the Jets are done? Or are they simply biding their time between now and whenever? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.