Psssst! Jets back in playoff picture
FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
Mike DeVito can relate to Jets fans now caught up in the roller coaster of emotion created by two straight wins and talk of a possible playoff run.
Yes, not even three weeks after the Jets' situation seemed hopeless -- see: butt fumble -- their back-to-back wins over NFL bottom-dwellers Arizona and Jacksonville have them at 6-7 and still alive for the postseason.
The Jets are one game behind the Steelers and Bengals in the race for the second wild-card spot. With three games remaining against teams with losing records --the Titans (4-9), Chargers (5-8) and Bills (5-8) -- there's a decent chance of running the table and . . . dare we say it? . . . playing into January.
"Being here in New York for six years, it's something I find myself doing," the veteran defensive end said. "Watching other teams, it's like, 'Oh, one loss, it's the end of the world . . . One win, they're gonna win everything.' It's kind of the way the atmosphere is around here."
Good thing for DeVito he doesn't channel those emotions into his own team, or he might drive himself nuts. In fact, the Jets are downplaying any talk about getting to the playoffs, even though things went as well as they could have hoped Sunday. They not only beat the Jaguars, 17-10, but Cincinnati and Pittsburgh lost and fell to 7-6. The Colts (9-4) need one win to clinch the first wild-card spot.
There's still a lot of season left and plenty of time for things to go wrong. Chances are the Jets won't get to January, even if they do win out. But really, who could ever have imagined the idea of a playoff run after the Jets' 49-19 embarrassment against the Patriots on Thanksgiving night at MetLife Stadium?
The take-away moment from that game was Mark Sanchez running into right guard Brandon Moore's backside and fumbling the ball, part of a 52-second meltdown in which the Patriots scored three touchdowns to blow open the game in a 35-point second quarter.
No matter that the Jets have just barely beaten two of the worst teams in the league. And questions persist about Sanchez's long-term future with the Jets. But this is the NFL, where fortunes can turn almost instantly. And often do, leading to wild swings of emotion for those who follow it.
Former Giants and Jets coach Bill Parcells had the perfect phrase to describe the mind-set of fans around these parts. It's worth recalling the phrase, especially at a time like this: "In New York, it's euphoria or disaster."
It was true when he first said it in 1985, and it still applies today. Maybe even more so now.
Rex Ryan contributed to that dynamic with his frequent guarantees in his first three seasons on the job, but with his team now closing in on .500 for the first time since they beat the Colts on Oct. 14 to move to 3-3, Ryan poured cold water on any playoff talk.
"I'm not going to guarantee a playoff spot, if that's what you mean," he said. "The fact that we're one game under .500, I think you're probably not in the playoff conversation. We just need to get our head down and keep winning games. We know the only way we can affect it is to win our games, and then we'll see what somebody tells us."
No reason for Ryan to start thumping his chest. His team still isn't all that good. But momentum and confidence have a way of dramatically changing reality in sports, and the Jets hope they indeed can salvage a season that only recently looked hopeless.
They're smart to keep quiet about it, especially with an injury-plagued roster short on talent. But at least there's a chance. It's just best not to get too high or too low through the process.
"I think you make life a lot more difficult if you choose to ride the roller coaster," guard Matt Slauson said. "I don't want to get into the roller coaster. All I'm trying to do is improve and win games, and whatever happens after that is gravy."
Given how bad things seemed only a few weeks ago, playing meaningful games in December looks like gravy right now.
Sure beats playing for pride, the loser's lament when all hope is gone.