NEW YORK (WFAN) — The last time the Jets won consecutive games was just a shade over a year ago. If they want to keep their playoff hopes alive they will almost certainly have to do it again, for starters.
The problem for the Jets is they have to go to Carolina, where the Panthers are 5-1, with their lone loss coming back in the season opener to Seattle, which currently owns the best record in the NFL. Compounding that problem is the fact that the Jets are 1-5 on the road.
But the Jets (6-7) have to find a way. They have no choice. They sit one game back of Baltimore and Miami in the race for the final AFC wild card berth and would lose the tiebreaker to both.
Despite the fact that they are coming off their best effort in weeks, the Jets find themselves as double-digit underdogs against the Panthers, who have the added motivation of having had their eight-game winning streak snapped last week at New Orleans.
Muhammad Wilkerson wouldn’t go so far as to say the Jets’ 37-27 win over visiting Oakland last week was a turning point, but he readily admitted that his team will not be intimidated when it takes the field in Carolina.
“We’ve been getting that all year. We are really not concerned about people saying we’re the underdogs or anything like that. We’re going to prepare like we always do every week, get ready for a touch opponent and pretty much a dog fight,” Wilkerson told WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts during his weekly spot on Tuesday.
The Jets had scored a combined 20 points in three straight losses before doing basically anything they wanted against the hapless Raiders. Wilkerson said his offense will be entering an entirely different world on Sunday, but if all facets of the Jets get at it this week like they did last week, they have a shot to spring what would be a big upset.
“We gotta prepare like we did last week against Oakland, offense and defense. We did a great job preparing all week. We got a team win, so we gotta prepare for a great team in Carolina down in their home,” Wilkerson said.
The big concern for the Jets defensively will be containing Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who is having another outstanding season. The third-year signal-caller out of Auburn has completed 62 percent of his throws for 2,776 yards and 20 touchdowns, with just 11 interceptions. However, his greatest asset may be his legs as he’s rushed for 495 yards and six TDs, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
The Jets will get a bit of a break Sunday because running back Jonathan Stewart will miss the game with a torn MCL, leaving a largely ineffective DeAngelo Williams and short-yardage horse Mike Tolbert as the Panthers’ other primary ground weapons.
Newton seems to like the spread the wealth through the air. Receiver Steve Smith leads Carolina with 60 receptions, followed by tight end Greg Olsen with 58 and receiver Brandon LaFell with 45. The trio has combined for 14 touchdowns.
“We can’t make excuses for ourselves. We know we got to do a better job as a defense,” Wilkerson said, referring to the Jets’ top-ranked unit against the run allowing 123 yards to Oakland’s Marcel Reece last week. “With Carolina this weekend, they do a great job running the ball. [With] Cam Newton and other great running backs in the backfield, they also run the ball. We got our hands full this week, but like every week our job is to stop the run and not let any balls go over our heads.”
To show just how seriously the Jets are taking this game, they were given the option by head coach Rex Ryan following Sunday’s win to take Monday off. They chose to get back out on the field.
“It just shows the great leaders we have, knowing we have to come in Monday and get ready for a great opponent this weekend,” Wilkerson said. “We’re playing [the Panthers] at their home, they’re tough. They just had a loss so I’m pretty sure they gonna be ready and will try to get a win at home. So we got our hands full.
“It’s about that time around the season where we need to make sure we’re all on the same page in getting wins, so it’s good that guys wanted to come back in on Monday and get to work,” Wilkerson added.
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