If you're at all familiar with the Jets' history of failure in big spots such as the one they face in tonight's win-and-you're-in game against the Bengals, Rex Ryan has a comforting message.
Bad karma? Not as far as he's concerned.
"If anything, I think I have good karma," the Jets' first-year head coach said. "My dad, his first year coaching the Jets, they won the Super Bowl. So I think that's good karma."
Ryan is about to find out whether that karma can be handed down from one generation to the next. Buddy Ryan was a defensive assistant for the Jets' 1969 Super Bowl III win, and now his son will look to make the playoffs in his first season in New York.
"Our fans want it," Rex Ryan said. "They want to get this team in the playoffs in the worst way. I'm expecting big things out of our football team. I think we're going to be tough to beat, and our fans are going to be a big part of our success."
If not, then Ryan is about to be sucked into the vortex that is Jets football karma during the post-Super Bowl III era.
The Jets play a Bengals team that is expected to rest some of its starters after clinching a playoff berth last weekend. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis says he knows how he'll deploy his players, and insists all 45 who dress will play. But just how much they'll play, he isn't saying.
But the Jets need to worry about themselves, not the Bengals. They need to worry about staying with the script that has gotten them to this point in the first place. And that means abiding by Ryan's formula for success this season: running the football, playing tough defense and not turning the ball over.
We can safely assume they will succeed at the first two; the Jets boast the NFL's top-ranked rushing attack and the league's No. 1 defense. What's uncertain is whether Mark Sanchez can accomplish the third.
Does he limit his turnovers and give the Jets a chance to win? Or does he freeze up the way he's done the other two times he has played in the cold and swirling winds at the Meadowlands?
"It seems like when we take care of the football, me in particular, then we start getting the breaks," Sanchez said. "It's a big-time advantage and we need to keep playing like that."
Despite the rookie missteps, Sanchez generally has done a solid job of not turning the ball over. Consider: In the nine games in which he has thrown one or no interceptions, the Jets are 7-2. But in the four games in which he has thrown at least three interceptions, the Jets are 0-4.
Two of those games were in the cold at the Meadowlands, when he totaled one touchdown pass and eight interceptions in losses to the Bills and Falcons.
"It's time to take a step," Sanchez said. "When they dangle the carrot in front of you and say if you win this game, you're going to the playoffs, I have to do everything I possibly can."
What he has to do first is hand the ball off - a lot - to Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene, whose impressive one-two punch has been good enough to get the Jets to the top of the heap in rushing offense. The Jets have rushed for 2,499 yards, the second most in franchise history, and are averaging 166.6 rushing yards per game.
The Bengals have the league's second-ranked run defense, allowing only 87.7 yards per game. But they will be without star rookie linebacker Rey Maualuga (broken ankle), and they might spot or rest other key starters.
No need for Sanchez to force the ball and risk turnovers, not when the percentages are with the Jets' running backs. And not when the Jets' top-ranked defense is playing this well.
"I don't care who's playing for the Bengals, it's what we do that matters," linebacker Bart Scott said. "As far as I'm concerned, they're gonna play their starters the whole game. You have to think like that. This is the kind of game where you do whatever you have to."
Bad karma of the last 40-plus years aside, there's no reason the Jets can't get where they want to be. For themselves, and for their long-suffering fans.
Win and in? You bet.