Back in the hunt

Bart Scott and the Jets defense have got their swagger back, but can they carry Gang Green into the postseason?

Bart Scott and the Jets defense have got their swagger back, but can they carry Gang Green into the postseason?

The roller coaster that has been the Jets’ 2009 season has reached another peak following this Sunday’s NFL action, and Gang Green wasn’t even a part of a single snap of football.

The mighty New England Patriots suddenly look incredibly vulnerable, and with a quarter of the season to go, the Jets find themselves just a single game behind the Pats for the AFC East lead, and are finally back to .500 at 6-6 after Thursday night’s victory over the Buffalo Bills.

A group that was counted out by most of the football world now finds themselves right where they always thought they’d be – in the thick of the playoff race heading into the season’s championship rounds.

“It’s always great to be still alive this late in the season,” linebacker Bart Scott said.  “We’ve just got to take care of our business.  I appreciate the help, but we still have four games to go and a lot of tough opponents to go through.  It’s not to start watching what other people do.  You have to take care of your business and hopefully you earn a chance.  If we don’t, then, it’s nobody’s fault but our own.”

Indeed, despite all their trials and tribulations over this seesaw season, your New York Football Jets have a realistic – even an incredibly legitimate – shot at sneaking in the back door of the 2009 AFC postseason.

Their remaining schedule features games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (currently 1-11), Atlanta (currently without starting running back Michael Turner and quarterback Matt Ryan) the undefeated Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnatti Bengals to close the season.

Now, no game in the NFL can be taken for granted, but with the Jets playing better football, they should handle the Buccs to move to 7-6.  Turner is expected back for the Falcons, but Matt Ryan’s status is still up in the air.  The game is in the friendly confines of East Rutherford, New Jersey, though, a nice advantage for Gang Green.  The Falcons have plummetted in recent weeks, so this is another extremely winnable game for the J-E-T-S.

But if they can get through those two games unscathed, it can get hairy in week 16.  The Colts won’t have anything to play for by then outside a shot at 16-0, which they’ve already stated they want no part of.  If they happen to lose before then, they’ll be resting their starters for the major of the fina games of the season according to former coach-turned-analyst Tony Dungy, so even though this game is on the road, it could also be a winnable game if the circumstances work in the Jets’ favor.

Then we have week 17 against the Bengals.  Cincy currently sits at 9-3, with a three-game cushion in the AFC North.  They can wrap up the division as early as next week, so what happens if they’ve locked up the division, and say, the number two seed in the AFC before that game?  Do they rest their starters for the final game of the season, opening the door for a Jets victory?

There’s plenty of things that still need to go right for the Jets to earn a postseason berth, no question.  That scenario alone requires too many “what ifs” to be more than a pipe dream at this point.  But there’s hope, Jets Faithful.  And with four games left in the season, that’s all you can ask for after all the head-scratching losses that have marked this season’s first 12 games.  Your Jets have attributes that spell winning football in December: the NFL’s best defense, and an oustanding running game.  If those two things can hold serve, they will be in every game they play the remainder of the season, with a shot to take their act into January.

SANCHEZ UPDATE

This potential for a playoff run is predicated on the Jets’ quarterback, Mark Sanchez, being on the field, however.  Head coach Rex Ryan updated the media on his qb’s condition Monday, and while the signal caller didn’t practice, Ryan is optimistic he’ll be able to go Sunday.

“His spirits are good,” he said of Sanchez.  “I know he expects to play.  We’re optimistic he’ll play.  I remain optimistic he’ll be able to play.”

Ryan also stated the rookie will wear a brace on the injured knee if he is able to go Sunday, and he would be wearing it for at least the next two games, if not longer.  If he is in fact able to go, the Jets need to be careful with their prized first round draft choice.  A playoff berth is not worth a knee surgery in his rookie season, and everyone in the organization most likely feels the same.

The team will take the day off tomorrow, and will resume their week of preparation Wednesday with a workout beginning at 11:50 AM.  Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.

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