The cynic in me is unsure about the effectiveness of New Year’s resolutions.
Sure, the heart is in the right place, when personal promises are made on a night where new possibilities beckon. But whether these dalliances with self-improvement progress into legitimate evolution, or fade with a fresh cycle of days, is a question that the short term could never provide. Proof usually takes awhile to accumulate. But when that new slate solidifies permanent, the evidence is impossible to deny. Getting there sure is tough, though. If only our best intentions didn’t have to compete against the grind…
Amazingly enough, the supposedly snake bitten New York Jets football team, hounded by pessimists at every turn, have been gifted a chance to capitalize on the rare commodity of certainty; to play beyond the fleeting holidays.
Santa Claus must have been wearing green and white. Or maybe karma dropped a dime on the Jets back in preseason. Either way, the Jets know for sure that they are in the playoffs with a win.
A team on life support received enough outside assistance to hop off the gurney and dance a jig.
To reach the playoffs, in a season marked by inexplicable fundamental meltdowns and inconceivable defeats, overseen by a rookie head coach while a freshmen quarterback contributed his fair share of carnage, all this wildly inconsistent collection of talent must do is follow through on a few resolutions for one week, one game, one chance. Anything occurring thereafter should be considered house money. It’s like a smoker being totally cleansed after quitting for seven days.
To fail in this last regular season game would be utterly disastrous. In fact, it could immediately derail hundreds of sobriety resolutions among an edgy fan-base.
Here’s how the Jets can avoid what would surely be an ignominious end…
Resolution the first: Mark Sanchez must resolve to manage the game
Lost in the tempest following Jim Caldwell’s controversial decision to bench Peyton Manning and company last week, essentially punting a perfect season, was the strong performance of Mark Sanchez. In his last road game approaching the magnitude of a showdown against spotless Indianapolis, Sanchez disintegrated against New England, faltering terribly at Foxboro. Other than an interception quickly nullified by a penalty, Sanchez did a superb job playing caretaker for a run oriented attack against the Colts. He was accurate, and although his contribution did not totally determine the outcome, it bodes well for another solid performance in far more favorable surroundings this Sunday.
Resolution the second: The team resolves not to get stuck in a moment
The Jets must resist the allure of this moment, suddenly so vibrant and immediate after appearing a total pipe dream only weeks prior. The Bengals boast two upper echelon cornerbacks in Jonathan Joseph and Leon Hall, and Sanchez in particular will pay for reckless mistakes. Establishing the running game will be vital, but such a commitment demands the excellent patience that the Jets exhibited against the Colts.
Despite being soundly outplayed in the first half, a couple of near Colts misses from being totally shellacked in fact, the Jets held firm to measured game-plan, especially after that aforementioned near interception.
Uncertain increments of playing time, still to be doled out by Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, have many leaping to conclude this contest will be a Jets runaway.
That assumption overlooks a basic fact about this Jets team: They are not built to blow out opponents. If the game is still close after the first half, wariness may stifle the crowd.
But the Jets cannot let uncontrollable external perceptions or a warped franchise history ruin their execution in this defining hour.
Resolution the third: The team resolves not to concoct another completely unique recipe for defeat
A 9-7 record immediately conjures thoughts of boring, garden-variety mediocrity. Often, this kind of performance justifies a playoff berth that flames out quickly, the type of deficiencies producing seven losses over sixteen games dooming Cinderella.
There are exceptions of course, but the rule is usually unforgiving. Heck, plenty of teams with nine wins have flat missed the postseason. Just last year, the Patriots stayed home with eleven wins.
The Jets, winners of eight games, improbably control their own destiny. This fact could be construed mildly surprising, but nothing that’d cause a National Football League junkie to reevaluate his whole method of analysis.
It’s an unpredictable sport.
But if one were to actually analyze how the Jets have lost some of these dust-ups, their survival becomes even more stunning.
New York arguably owns the best defense in the league, to go along with a fantastic running game. But as the season unfolded, the Jets continued suffering devastating setbacks that did not reflect their true talent level. For a championship caliber group, just one of these brutal loses would have sufficed. The chaotic nature of football practically demands it. But just when it appeared the worst was over, the Jets would cook up something new.
Sometimes the unfathomable would happen multiple times in the same game. Fumbled snaps, hall of fame tight ends wide open in the paint, dumb penalties, interceptions and incredulity, special teams coverage meltdowns, dropped passes, defensive indifference with the game on the line. You name it. The 2009 Jets probably blew it. Every phase of the game was accounted for.
And despite all that, this is still a team with massive potential. Potentially horrifying to face in the playoffs, with absolutely nothing to lose. This abject “ability” to swipe defeat from the jaws of victory is the primary reason why the Jets will be fighting for their season against Cincinnati.
Who’s to say these demons won’t be lurking around the Meadowlands Sunday night?
This has nothing to do with Jets teams of the past. Quite simply, the ’09 edition has shown a staggering capacity for self-destruction.
The Bengals may do the Jets a great service in eliminating themselves as a threat. If the game is close, however, New York will either slay the dragon or see their dreams rendered ash.
Fundamental play is the answer. Experience is the best teacher. The Jets, as individuals, needed to learn to carry out this resolution.
We shall see.
Bit of concern about punter Steve Weatherford, the Friday before a win or go home scenario. Head Coach Rex Ryan said Weatherford, “Did something with his right hamstring. We list him as questionable.” The Jets do have contingencies in place, though this news certainly isn’t welcome. “We’ll see how he is,” continued Ryan. “We’ll work some guys out tomorrow just to make sure we have a plan if he can’t go. If something would happen to Steve during the game, then Jay Feely would be our backup punter… the good thing about playing the late game is you can spend as much time to heal as possible. We’ll see what the doctors and trainer think and how Steve feels.”
Shaun Ellis has also been listed as questionable, with an illness. “We’ll see how he is,” said Ryan.
Kellen Clemens drew praise from Ryan for his professionalism. “He [Clemens] has just been a pro,” Ryan said. “There is no question about it. We had a great competition at training camp. It was a legitimate competition. I thought that bought out the best in both of them. And now his professionalism, e prepares every week like he is going to have to go into the game… clearly he has done a tremendous job for us.”
Tony Richardson was overlooked for the Pro Bowl; but the bulldozing fullback’s locker room presence and raw talent have not gone unrecognized by his head coach. “I think he’s an outstanding fullback still. I know he’s played 15 years, but you look at him and he’s still young. He’s still got some bounce in his step. He does a tremendous job. Our football team has great confidence in him. [He] might be the best guy around. He’s a great teammate, a great leader, and by he way, he can play. He can still play.”
Ryan shared detailed thoughts regarding the pressure his team may feel against the Bengals, with so much on the line. “You can look at it as excitement and opportunity more so than a negative. I think pressure can be positive. We’ve put ourselves in this situation. It would have been great to go in and be able to rest guys and treat it as bye week. We’re not that fortunate. We haven’t earned that right.” Ryan then turned his attention to the fans. “We’ve got to keep it positive. We don’t want [the fans] to turn into a negative [because] we’re not getting it done. We need them there for the whole game and supporting us. Our fans want it. They want to get this team in the playoffs in the worse way. Like I say, I’m expecting big things out of our football team. “
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