INSIDER WEDNESDAY TEAM REPORT: WILDCARD EDITION
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The New York Jets are chirping again and this time it’s louder than ever.
Despite needing wins in their final two regular season games and help from around the league to reach the postseason, Jets head coach Rex Ryan isn’t embracing the role of the underdog. In fact, he’s not even entertaining it. Rex Ryan sees his squad as favorites.
“To me, we should be favorites,” said Ryan in his press conference with the media Wednesday.
“I think we have the best defense, I know we do. I know we have the best rushing attack. Those are two huge factors in our favor.”
“I think we have a great coaching staff…I want this football team. I’m not gonna trade this team. If I had a chance to coach any team in this tournament, I’d choose this one.”
Safety Kerry Rhodes and the rest of the Jets locker room seem to buying into what Ryan is selling, as bold as his assertions may be.
“If he says it, we believe it,” Rhodes said. “That’s the way it’s been all year. We’re definitely confident and it starts with our head coach. If he says it, we believe it.”
Ryan has expressed this same kind of blind confidence in his team throughout the entire 2009 season. While many have criticized his emotional, loud mouthed approach, it’s hard to argue with the end result.
Three weeks ago, with his team sitting at 7-7 following a home loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the New York Jets were written off by almost every member of the New York and national media. Ryan was able to motivate his team and make them believe they could make playoff dreams a reality, which they did.
“He’s had the confidence since he got here,” said center Nick Mangold. “He knows we can get the job done and he puts it on us to get it done.”
Another element that the Jets have in their favor is the sheer nature of the NFL Playoffs. Upsets are more prone to occur in single-elimination formats, like the NFL postseason and NCAA Basketball tournament. A seemingly inferior team only needs to get the better of their opponent for sixty minutes as opposed to three or four separate games over the course of a series.
Safety Jim Leonhard believes the Jets have what it takes to make a run into February. It doesn’t need to be pretty, they just need to survive.
“We feel like we can make a strong run,” said Leonhard. “We have confidence that if we play well, we can compete. When it comes down to the playoffs, it’s survive and advance.”
Survivor starts Saturday afternoon in Cincy.
Injury Update: Harris sits out again
Linebacker David Harris was absent from practice for the second straight day with a right ankle injury. Coach Ryan stated that Harris has been jogging on the ankle but wouldn’t give any official decision on his status for the team’s Wild Card game in Cincinnati on Saturday.
“I think he’ll go, just because of the guy he is,” said Ryan, citing the toughness of his starting middle linebacker. The general feeling around the organization and inside the locker room is that Harris will be able to play Saturday.
Harris limped off the field during the second quarter of Sunday night’s 37-0 victory over Cincinnati after registering only one tackle.
During a season in which the Jets have served as a model of inconsistency, Harris has been one of the team’s few constants. The third-year linebacker has anchored the middle of the league’s best defense, recording career highs in tackles (127), sacks (5.5) and interceptions (2).
The former Michigan Wolverine has bounced back in strong fashion following a disappointing 2008 campaign in which he only played in eleven games due to injuries. In the event that Harris cannot go on Saturday, LB Kenwin Cummings will likely step in as his replacement.
Limited during today’s practice were WR Jerricho Cotchery (hip), DE Shaun Ellis (knee), LB Ryan Fowler (head), and CB Donald Strickland (quad).
WR Braylon Edwards (elbow), S James Ihedigbo (neck), QB Mark Sanchez (knee), and RB Thomas Jones (knee) participated in the full practice. Ryan noted that Jones was a new addition to the injury report as he had some swelling in his knee but will definitely be ready to go on Saturday.
Saturday’s Wild Card match-up in Cincinnati will mark the Jets’ 12th postseason appearance and their first playoff game since 2006. This will be the 10th time the team has played in a Wild Card game.
This is the fifth playoff appearance and seventh winning record the team has posted since Jets’ owner Woody Johnson assumed control of the franchise in 2000.
D-Licious Stat of the Day
It’s certainly no secret that the Jets late season charge into the playoffs, in which they won five of their last six, was keyed by their league-leading defense.
Over the past six games, the Jets defense has allowed only 47 points (7.8 points per game) and 180.7 total yards per game. During this stretch, they have only allowed an eye-opening 15 third down conversions in 81 attempts, a conversion rate of 18.5 percent.