NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Are the New York Jets wasting a golden opportunity?

The New England Patriots are vulnerable. The AFC East is there for the taking — for now. And Jets coach Rex Ryan is sticking by slumping second-year quarterback Geno Smith despite calls for the veteran Michael Vick.

“The frustrating thing is, you have to something about it,” WFAN co-host Craig Carton said Tuesday morning. “You’re presented (with) an opportunity — some people take that opportunity and are successful, and some don’t.”

At 1-3, New York sits only one game back in a division in which the rest of the pack is 2-2. But a three-game gauntlet is coming up, and some believe the Jets will be completely out of it at 1-6 — maybe 2-5 at best — after facing San Diego, Denver and New England in successive weeks.

Would Vick give the offense a spark? Or at least offer a better matchup to outgun big-time quarterbacks Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady? Carton thinks so. He also believes Ryan, whose job could be on the line, is being handcuffed by general manager John Idzik.

“I am convinced … this is a decision that Rex Ryan is not allowed to make,” Carton said.

It’s a move that the Buffalo Bills pulled off Monday, benching EJ Manuel — like Smith, he was taken in the 2013 draft — for Kyle Orton.

The Bills are in win-now mode, smelling blood in the water. The Patriots’ offense has been an issue now through four games. Brady was pulled in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s loss. New England is 0-1 in all-important divisional games.

But co-host Boomer Esiason said you can’t compare Smith and Manuel, who has clearly regressed. Though the Jets quarterback has been turnover-prone, Esiason believes Smith has still taken a step forward after last year’s 8-8 finish.

“I can see it in Geno,” said Esiason, who admitted Sunday’s performance against the Lions was an ugly one. “I can see that’s a completely different player than he was last year.”

But does he give the Jets the best shot? These chances don’t come along often — the Patriots have won 11 of 13 AFC East titles in the Brady-Bill Belichick era.

New York hasn’t won the division since 2002; Miami took it in ’08.

“Right now, the majority of the NFL is completely mediocre,” WFAN midday co-host Evan Roberts said Tuesday. “And that’s why the idea of quote-unquote ‘tanking’ a season in the National Football League makes zero sense. You don’t do that. Because you never know in this league.”

And that’s why his radio partner, Joe Benigno, has been saying it’s madness to keep Vick on clipboard duty.

“Exactly right,” he said. “No doubt. It’s insanity. Zero sense.”

Ryan’s patience will either pay off or backfire in a big way.

Let’s just hope the hook — if it comes — isn’t too late.

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