Neil Best Newsday columnist Neil Best

Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.

CINCINNATI - Team Motion Sickness was at it again Sunday, leaving fans with the queasy feeling to which they have become accustomed every other weekend.

This pattern is getting ridiculous, even for a Jets team from which little was expected and that has been more entertaining and interesting than most anticipated.

There would have been no shame in a competitive loss to the up-and-coming Bengals here, but a 49-9 spanking during which the Jets bore no resemblance to the outfit that upset the Patriots the previous Sunday? Not cool.

It was a dizzying, disorienting, retch-inducing turn of events after a week of cheerful optimism.

Remember, part of the point of all this in 2013 -- given that the playoffs have been and remain a long shot -- is to evaluate where everyone is at, especially coach Rex Ryan and rookie quarterback Geno Smith.

And the answer is . . . um, what week is this again?

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Oh, right, the bad week, part of a season-long series of wins followed by losses, resulting in the only record that makes sense: 4-4.

Trouble is, this time the down week represented a new low, an embarrassing rout in which Andy Dalton and his friends repeatedly smoked the Jets' secondary and Smith regressed, complete with two pick-6s.

So what is it about this team that causes this?

"I don't know what it is,'' Ryan said.

"I don't know what it is,'' Smith said.

I don't know what it is, either, but I'm not paid to know.

I do know this: For the Jets to sustain the cautious hopefulness they earned through the first half, they must find a way to at least smooth the rough edges of their performance chart.

Up next: the Saints. Uh, oh.

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"If we don't play better than we did today, then hell yeah, that guy will break every record known to man against us,'' Ryan said.

"That guy'' is Saints quarterback Drew Brees, but Sunday's guy, Dalton, was more than enough for the Jets to handle. He finished with 325 passing yards and five touchdowns, four to Marvin Jones.

Care to put all this into words, cornerback Antonio Cromartie?

"Um, ain't no words for it, honestly,'' he said.

Reporters wondered if the Jets got carried away with themselves after beating the hated Patriots -- a game Ryan had emphasized so strongly that he suggested players not distract themselves by taking out the garbage at home.

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"No, no chance,'' Ryan said. "That wasn't it. Guys, we know we haven't arrived. We know that. We know we're a team that has to keep developing and has to get better. Obviously, we took a giant step back today.''

Did someone say Giants? Suddenly they are two games out of first place, just like the Jets, after doing something the Jets haven't done since Dec. 2 and 9, 2012: win two consecutive games.

"I just think we sometimes have done it and other times we haven't,'' Smith said. "That's part of us developing consistency and chemistry as a team and that's something that has to continue to grow and get better.''

From the start, this has been a tricky treat of a team, one that tantalizes with its spunk and potential, then makes you wonder how you could have been so naïve.

Sunday's debacle was the harshest reality check yet.

When someone asked Ryan if he felt good about having exceeded expectations by being 4-4 at the season's midpoint, he put his head down and chuckled.

"I don't think so,'' he said. "Obviously, we have to get a hell of a lot better.''

It sure seemed as if they were headed in that very direction.

But that was last week, one of the good ones.