By Kimberly Jones
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For the second week in a row, a New York football team has a chance to save its season at MetLife Stadium. Can the Jets do what the Giants could not?
Can the Jets defeat the Dolphins and put themselves (again) in position to emerge from the cluster of teams vying for the final wildcard berth in the AFC?
Two weeks ago, the Jets controlled their postseason destiny. After losses at Buffalo and at Baltimore — the Jets were barely competitive in both — they are 5-6, as are the Dolphins, Steelers (winners of three straight), Ravens, Titans and Chargers.
With a win over Miami, the Jets remain viable. With a loss, they’re not out of it, but the likelihood, obviously, decreases.
“We’ve got to take it one day at a time,” quarterback Geno Smith said. “We can’t be distracted by anything else outside of this building. We have a game to focus on this week. It’s going to be extremely important to us, a division rival and another big game for us.”
Oh, yes, Geno. The rookie quarterback doesn’t like the term “growing pains” but, really, that is the kindest way to define his most recent stretch. He hasn’t throw a touchdown in November, for heaven’s sake. Or in the past four games, during which he has seven interceptions.
We understand why quarterback rating isn’t the most popular statistic, but this is telling: Smith’s rating in the Monday night win at Atlanta was a stellar 147.7; in his past four games it’s a combined 146.7.
Smith has looked lost of late, perhaps a sign that he is closing in on the rookie wall, more likely a sign that defenses have figured out how to attack him. One of his best traits early was an instinctive feel for when to run. That is no longer much a part of his game, with him seeming to have abandoned it and with defenses more aware of the threat.
So the Jets are left with a quandary no team wants: They have a rookie quarterback who might be overwhelmed and whose recent performances have been completely underwhelming. (In each of the past three games, he has completed fewer than 10 passes. His 22 turnovers lead the NFL, as do his 18 interceptions.) And they have no other option.
David Garrard would have, and should have, started this season for the Jets, except that his knee and temporary retirement didn’t permit him. Mark Sanchez is on injured reserve. And Matt Simms likely wouldn’t provide any more stability at the position than Smith has.
The key to that last sentence is “likely.” Because we really don’t know. Simms has thrown 13 passes in the NFL. How could we know?
Rex Ryan said he likes Simms, and that’s understandable. Maybe, Ryan is even a little intrigued. As my WFAN radio partner, Carl Banks, said earlier this season, if Simms is given a real chance, maybe he would take it and run.
But in Smith, the Jets have a rookie in whom they invested a second-round pick and endless coaching hours from Marty Mornhinweg and David Lee. They have to find out about Smith this season. The problem – if it can be defined as such – is this whole playoff scenario.
Because these Jets still have something to lose. Experimentation has to wait for another day, as does patience. Learning what Smith is (or could be) can’t be the priority, at least not right now.
Surprisingly as we reach Thanksgiving, it is the Jets, not the Giants, who can realistically think about postseason. Can Geno re-find his game in December and help get them there?
While volunteering at a soup kitchen in Morristown, N.J., Tuesday, Sanchez spoke about his Jets career and his contract.
“It’s been a dream come true to play here and I don’t want to go anywhere else,” he said. “I know I have two years left, and I don’t ever want that to end. I love being a Jet, and I plan on being here.”
Surely, Sanchez knows it is unlikely, highly unlikely, that he is a Jet next season. But, really, what is he supposed to say?
In a recent conversation, one personnel man, who is not affiliated with the Jets, predicted Sanchez will get a chance to compete as a backup next season somewhere. As in somewhere else.
The Giants knew Sunday’s game against the Cowboys likely would determine the fate of their season. Then they lost. With that disappointment still apparent, the Giants and coach Tom Coughlin vowed to fight on – no matter what’s at stake.
“We’ve got a lot to play for,” Coughlin said. “We have a five-game schedule. We’re playing against some outstanding football teams. We’re trying to assert ourselves. …I’m always searching for perfection, the perfect game. We can’t get it, perhaps, because we’re human, but that’s the objective and that’s the goal and that’s what we’ll continue to fight for. It is the competitive nature of the player, of the coach and that’s where we are.”
The players who spoke Monday, including Eli Manning, Antrel Rolle and Andre Brown, said the fight continues and no one is giving up.
But it’s tough for a team to right itself – impossibly tough, as it turns out – after an 0-6 start. It’s not going to be easy for the Giants to find another second wind after the disappointing loss to Dallas.
When the NFL schedule was unveiled, the Giants’ games against the Redskins – both in the final five weeks of the season – seemed as if they could determine the NFC East winner. Now, the legitimate question is, how much will those outcomes really matter?
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“(When) I hit those rough patches and when we don’t do so well, I don’t make any excuses for it. I look (at) myself in the mirror and try to find ways to get better. That’s just the way I look at it.” – Geno Smith
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