Florham Park, N.J.– Every year, right around playoff time, you start to hear the phrase, ‘battle tested,’ used in arguments for why a particular team can or can’t win in the playoffs.
With a second-year quarterback, a second-year coach with the second-year of his defensive scheme in place and a couple of new castaways from other teams, the Jets can hardly be considered a ‘battle tested,’ team.
However these last couple of wins they have piled up, snatching victories directly from the jaws of defeat, will add to this second-year team’s resume. Starting with last year’s late season success and their ability to win these games in crunch-time so far this season the Jets are currently in the battle testing mode.
Add a few more wins, preferably including wins at New England and at Pittsburgh, and the Jets will have graduated to earning the past tense of said adjective being used to describe them come playoff time.
The Jets are 5-0 on the road, with the toughest part of the schedule behind them, having played four teams with winning records with four left to play, but the Dolphins probably won’t have a winning record when they see them next due to their injuries and the Bears 6-3 record is bit misleading. Cleveland and Detroit both have losing records, but to have to play those two games on the road is a much tougher task than playing Cincinnati, Houston and Buffalo at home.
Four more wins out of these next seven games, with only two against ‘elite,’ teams, all but locks up a playoff spot for the Jets.
The Jets have managed to work through the tougher stretch of the schedule with a 7-2 record and really they have only played one complete game of 60 straight minutes of good football and that was against Buffalo. With the schedule getting a little easier and this team still growing the playoffs are a more than accomplishable goal for them and yet for some reason people seem worried about where this Jets team is going, why?
It’s important to remember how new to all of this these Jets players are. Sure, some of the guys have been here for years, some have won Super Bowls elsewhere, but this team is technically still only one-and-a-half-years-old right now.
The Jets were considered by many to be lucky to have backed into the playoffs last year, but after reviewing the tapes in the offseason, Sanchez realized his abundance of turnovers cost the Jets games they should have won. If he could have cut those turnovers by just half, they would have likely won 11 or 12 games last year and had home-field advantage in the playoffs for at least the first game, he has constantly said to reporters.
You think it’s a coincidence that the Jets are winning these close games now, just as Sanchez is taking better care of the ball? Or that they lost the turnover battle in the game against the Packers, a game they should have and could have won if not for those three turnovers?
What your seeing right now, is a team that is just starting to put everything in the right place and establish a rhythm. Who would expect a team as brand-new as this to be playing it’s best football now? Wouldn’t it stand to reason that the more games this team plays, the better they will get?
Sanchez is far from a finished product, but he keeps finding ways to win games and has been most impressive late in games, leading game-winning drives. With Sanchez having only played in 27 total (three playoff) NFL games, it should be obvious that he isn’t quite as good as he could be one day. However, he is showing improvement, growth and a remarkable ability to lead on a weekly basis. Most importantly his teammates trust and believe in him and he believes in them and himself.
Considering the way this offense struggled to begin last season and then found their rhythm by the playoffs, it’s somewhat surprising that people aren’t expecting the same thing again this year with some new dangerous toys to use at their disposal. Those glimpses of offensive dominance the Jets showed sporadically at the beginning of the season are real.
That’s what this team is truly capable of, that’s their potential and there is no reason to think that they won’t have found out how to live up to that potential by season’s end. Santonio Holmes is right on the cusp of breaking all out and becoming the explosive weapon Mike Tannenbaum envisioned when he traded for him.
Shonn Greene is starting to heat up and getting more carries (sound familiar? It should the same thing happened right around this time last year) and Sanchez has a wide range of weapons to choose from when deciding how to attack opposing defenses. This team can and should be an offensive juggernaut.
But for now the Jets have had to scrap by, managing to win tough games on the road without playing anywhere near their desired level of play.
That’s a true mark of a dangerous playoff team. In the NFL today teams have to be able to find ways to win with their B and C games, because no team is clicking to perfection every week. With the parity that exists in this league, there are the top teams who will most likely make the playoffs and could make a run at the Super Bowl and there is everyone else.
There is not a whole lot separating those top teams from each other right now either, to evaluate each of these teams for a potential Super Bowl quest would be an exercise in futility.
The top teams all have their flaws and there has yet to be one team show consistent dominance on a weekly basis. If there is one thing NFL fans should have learned by now, it’s that due to an ever expanding number of variables, the way a team looks in week 11 can be drastically different from how they look once the playoffs start.
You can’t win the Super Bowl during these autumn months, you can only lose it (Yes Dallas Cowboys that’s directed at you). What teams can do though is work their tail off and battle to every last second ticks off that clock. Each brush with defeat only builds confidence and experience. It tests the mettle of every single player.
Winning, especially late in games can be habit forming. Teams need to face adversity through the season so they can have confidence that they can overcome it when they face it in the playoffs. When teams cruise through the season without any real tests, they don’t know how to react when they finally get smacked in the mouth. Teams that have faced these tests and passed them many times during the season will not be phased for even a fraction of a second.
These tests are battles, not just physical battles taking place on the field, but mental battles within the players own subconscious.
What the Jets are doing right now, by winning these ugly games late and in a variety of ways, is building a blueprint on how to perceiver in future games. They don’t all have to be pretty, though obviously a couple of pretty wins sprinkled in would do wonders to boost the fans confidence, they just have to keep coming.
With the playoffs in sight and their destiny in their own hands the Jets are focused on their original goal of winning a Super Bowl, but they can’t get there without proving to themselves that they can win any game, no matter how bad things may or may not look and that’s the lesson that needs to be learned from these past couple of games.
This Jets team is proving difficult for many fans to figure out, but really it shouldn’t be that tough.
Yes, the Jets have had some luck go their way, they have also had luck go against them. It’s not that you get lucky, it’s what you do with the luck that determines if your viewed as lucky or good. Every team gets lucky and unlucky bounces, it’s the good teams that capitalize off the mistakes. On top of all that, this is a young team that has yet to put it all together and instead of people wondering if they will ever get it together, other teams need to focus their worries on what to do when the Jets do in fact get it all figured out.
But until they do find that rhythm they will be more than happy to settle for any win, no matter how they earn it. It may seem confusing to some, but really it’s quite simple.
What fans around the league (whether believers, skeptics or plain old doubters) are witnessing take place right now is a Jets team currently in the process of becoming a ‘battle tested,’ team that could be more than capable of winning a Super Bowl.
All they have to do is keep finding ways to win until there are no more teams standing in there way.
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