Let's cut right to the chase, Jets fans. You realize what's at stake here, all the possibilities, all the potential heartbreak. You have been here, what, a thousand times before?
As soon as the Jets put the finishing touches on their 29-15 win over the previously unbeaten Colts Sunday, you knew another moment of reckoning had arrived. Shoot, as soon as Curtis Painter replaced Peyton Manning late in the third quarter with the Colts leading 15-10, you knew it was about to happen.
And once Painter was sacked by Calvin Pace, then lost the ball and flailed helplessly as the Jets recovered it for the go-ahead touchdown before a stunned crowd hoping for an unbeaten season, the moment had arrived.
So here you are again, titillated by a playoff berth that looked hopeless five weeks ago after losses to the Jaguars and Patriots dropped the Jets to 4-6. Heck, even Rex Ryan thought it was over after last week's mind-numbing 10-7 loss to the Falcons.
But here the Jets are in Week 17, with a victory over the Bengals on Sunday night at the Meadowlands the only thing between them and the playoffs. Against a Bengals team that might treat the game even less seriously than the Colts did. The Bengals don't figure to play their key starters much because they've already sewn up the AFC North title and will look to give Carson Palmer and Co. a breather before the postseason begins.
And then the potential for another horrifying end hits you in the face like all the Jets catastrophes of years past:
Last year's 8-3 start, followed by a 1-4 meltdown right out of playoff contention. The close call in Denver in the AFC Championship Game in January 1999. Dan Marino's fake spike. The chance to reach the playoffs in '93 with a win over the Oilers in the regular-season finale and the ensuing 35-0 loss. Roughing the passer on Mark Gastineau in the '86 playoffs. The 6-2 start that turned into the 7-9 finish in '84. A.J. Duhe in the Mud Bowl in January 1983.
Could there be another calamity in the offing? Could J.T. O'Sullivan be the latest in a long line of opponents to deliver a crushing blow?
No wonder Jeff the Jets fan was in full panic mode yesterday. "Expecting the worst," he e-mailed about the Bengals game. "J.T. O'Sullivan and Larry Johnson will wreak havoc. They'll be throwing snowballs at the players around 11:30. Book it."
A slip and fall by Darrelle Revis on a post route by Chad Ochocinco . . . Mark Sanchez forgetting to slide and going down in a heap with another injury . . . Or Sanchez suffering yet another turnover-filled fiasco in the cold . . . Or Thomas Jones not getting up after a 20-yard run . . . or . . .
Take your pick of nightmare scenarios; there are a million of 'em. But also keep this in mind: The Jets might actually win the game and make it into the tournament. In fact, it says here they will.
Sure, that runs counter to the doom-and-gloom, Same- Old-Jets outcomes of the past. But how can you not like the Jets in this one?
Really. They're playing at home against a team with nothing to play for, a team that likely will be facing the Jets at home the following weekend in the AFC wild-card round. Run the ball, play great defense and don't turn the ball over. They do that, the Jets are in.
And for everyone who thinks karma will trump that simple strategic formula, consider this: That the Jets are even in this position is already a reversal of fortune. After all, just think of all that has had to go right for them to get to this point: the Browns beating the Steelers, the Steelers beating the Ravens, the Colts beating the Jaguars, the Broncos losing to the Iggles, the Dolphins losing to the Texans, Peyton taking a seat in the third quarter Sunday . . .
It is all right there for the Jets and their rookie coach and their rookie quarterback, who have put their fans through another roller-coaster ride of emotions this season.
Could there really be a happy ending this time?
You ask: Why the Jets?
And I say: Why not the Jets?>>For breaking news, follow Newsday on Twitter
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