FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The season hasn’t gone the way Rex Ryan and the New York Jets expected. Not even close.
The playoffs are a rapidly fading dream. They have to win their last six games just to finish with a .500 record.
Still, Ryan insists his team is motivated — even when people outside the facility can’t imagine what there might be left to play for.
“We have six one-game seasons,” Ryan said Monday. “That’s kind of how we look at it.”
The running theme for the last two months has been the future for the Jets (2-8), as in who will be here and who won’t when the 2015 season kicks off.
Those questions, as far as this group of Jets is concerned, are for another time. They’ve got to prepare for the Buffalo Bills, who embarrassed them 43-23 at MetLife Stadium three weeks ago in a game marked by Geno Smith throwing interceptions on three straight possessions in the first quarter.
“Playing against Buffalo the first time, we knew what we were getting into,” said Michael Vick, who had three turnovers of his own in that first meeting. “This time around, hopefully we can come out there and do things differently. We have to protect the football.”
The Jets, despite the mistakes, were still in the game at halftime — trailing 24-17. But Buffalo took over in the second half with four straight scores while taking advantage of more miscues to turn it into a rout.
“We have to play a zillion times better than the last time we played Buffalo,” Ryan said. “I think that’s safe to say.”
Vick will be starting his third straight game Sunday, with Smith having been benched since that debacle against the Bills. The Jets also will be looking to build off the win in their last game against Pittsburgh that snapped an eight-game skid.
There was relief after that victory, which helped the Jets avoid setting a franchise record for consecutive losses. With that dubious distinction no longer a factor, the players appeared loose in their first practice back. Music blared briefly in the locker room and guys were playfully shouting at each other, hardly the sign of a team that seemed on the verge of a total collapse just over a week ago.
“It’s not hard to stay motivated,” Vick said. “Like I say each and every week, you’re going to be evaluated by somebody, even if it’s by someone who admires you, one of your fans who like the way you play, who appreciates your game. It’s always high expectations. Even though the playoffs are not in the picture, we have to understand that a strong finish is very key.
“It’s important for the morale going into the following year or whatever it may be, or just for you yourself. I think you just have to keep the right mindset and keep plugging away.”
Vick said the energy was high at practice.
“I stepped in the huddle today and told the guys, ‘I know we’ve been off for a while, but we’ve still got jobs to do and let’s get it done,’ ” Vick said. “Everybody was enthused, feeling good about where we can go, but I think at the same time understanding it’s not going to be easy. We’ve got to work hard to get that.”
Ryan switched some things up on his team, looking for better results this time coming off the break. After all, his teams are 1-4 in games following the bye.
Instead of giving the players six days off, as he has done at times in the past, he had them practice last week through Wednesday, and had a practice session Monday.
“Hopefully it works, man, the new schedule here,” Ryan said. “I will say this, for sure, our guys were fresh and our guys were flying around. We had as good a practice as we’ve ever had coming off a bye. We’ll see if that means anything, but I think it does.”
“Guys had a chance to have off,” said wide receiver Percy Harvin. “Get their minds right, bodies right and come back and have a nice six-game season.”
Four of the Jets’ last six games are against AFC East opponents — one each against Buffalo (5-5) and New England (8-2), and two against Miami (6-4) — so they’ll get a chance to make things a little tougher for their division rivals in the playoff hunt.
“We want to try to win every one of them,” Vick said. “We have the opportunity to do some good things.”
NOTES: DE Muhammad Wilkerson and TE Jace Amaro both missed practice because of illnesses. … CB Darrin Walls practiced for the first time since injuring his calf in the last game against the Bills. … Ryan declined to go into detail about what prompted him to shout an expletive as he walked to midfield after the win over the Steelers, resulting in a $100,000 fine from the NFL. He also wouldn’t confirm whether it was to an official or someone on the Steelers. “I burned that bad boy,” Ryan jokingly said of the letter from the league announcing the fine. “I was stunned by it, to say the least.” … Vick might appeal his $8,268 fine for flipping the ball at Pittsburgh’s William Gay after Gay and Arthur Moats hit him while he was on the ground at the end of a play.
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