Jets' Tannenbaum upbeat over playoff berth

Jets head coach Rex Ryan walks on the

Jets head coach Rex Ryan walks on the field before a game against the Bears in Chicago. (Dec. 26, 2010) (Credit: AP)

Standing in the visitors' locker room at Soldier Field, general manager Mike Tannenbaum was still beaming, proud that the Jets had clinched a playoff spot despite sliding in through the back door.

The Jets lost to the Bears only to find out minutes later they were in, courtesy of the Redskins' overtime win over the Jaguars. The Jets have dropped three of their last four games heading into Sunday's season finale against Buffalo at New Meadowlands Stadium, not exactly a confidence booster.

But the first task has been accomplished, just making, as Bill Parcells used to say, "The Tournament."

"It feels good taking the next step," Tannenbaum said after the game. "We still have a lot more work to do. We can still be the 5 seed depending on what happens next week between Baltimore and Pittsburgh. We don't know who we are playing, but I like the direction our offense is going.

"Our defense didn't have its best day, but a lot of things are heading the right direction, and to make the playoffs in consecutive years is a really good foundation. And I think that says a lot about Rex [Ryan] and his staff."

We know the Jets are in, but we don't know whom they'll play or when. The Patriots (13-2) have the AFC's top seed and home-field advantage throughout, but no other team has locked itself into a seed.

The Jets (10-5) are the sixth seed. The only way they can get the fifth seed is if they beat the Bills (4-11), the Ravens (11-4) defeat the Bengals (4-11) and the Steelers (11-4) lose in Cleveland (5-10).

The Jets' 22-17 win in Pittsburgh on Dec. 19 gives the Jets a head-to-head tiebreaker for the fifth seed against the Steelers. The Ravens can't finish any worse than the No. 5 seed by virtue of their 10-9 victory over the Jets in the season opener. The Steelers can sew up the AFC North crown with a win because they'd have a better division record than Baltimore, making their game against Eric Mangini & Co. very important.

If the Jets do get the No. 6 seed, they would likely take on the AFC West champion Chiefs (10-5), setting up a few subplots, such as Thomas Jones going up against the team that cut him loose in March after he rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons with the Jets.

Kansas City can clinch the No. 3 seed with a victory over the Raiders (7-8) or if the Colts (9-6) fall at home to the Titans (6-9). Even if Indianapolis loses, it still can win the AFC South if the Jaguars (8-7) lose to Houston (5-10). The Chiefs would drop to the fourth seed if they lose and the Colts win, setting the Jets up with another matchup against Super Bowl XLI MVP Peyton Manning.

But if you ask defensive end Trevor Pryce, he thinks quarterback Matt Cassel and the Chiefs are a tougher matchup at Arrowhead Stadium than squaring off against Manning at Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Jets were eliminated in last year's AFC Championship Game.

"Peyton Manning, he's as good as there is," Pryce said on 1050 ESPN's "MacDonald and Tierney Show" Tuesday. "He's the best there ever was, him or Tom Brady. And when he starts losing receivers like Austin Collie and tight end Dallas Clark, who is all-world, he's replacing them. But you can only replace them so much.

"The Chiefs don't have that problem. And playing in Kansas City , I can tell you from firsthand experience, it's much tougher playing in Kansas City than playing in Indianapolis."

We'll see how it all shakes out soon enough.

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