Rex Ryan didn't dream the Jets would be facing their current plight.
After all, this was supposed to be the season the Jets were going to the Super Bowl, backing the coach's boastful claims. But after two straight defeats and having to simmer for 10 days before taking the field again following a gut-wrenching last-minute loss to the Broncos, the Jets (5-5) are staring at a daunting task.
With little margin for error given the AFC landscape, the Jets virtually must win each of their remaining six games, beginning with their divisional matchup against the reeling Bills (5-5) at MetLife Stadium Sunday.
It's a concept that would've seemed unfathomable to Ryan barely two weeks ago, when the Jets were riding high on their three-game winning streak.
"I'm surprised," he said. "No doubt. I never thought we'd be in this spot right now, but we are. So we can't do anything about it now. We have to win the rest of them. That's the mentality that we're taking."
That's because the Jets are tied with the Broncos, Titans and Bills in the AFC's overall standings, a game behind the Bengals (6-4) for the AFC's second and final wild-card berth. Only four other AFC teams have as many conference losses as the Jets' five, and all four of those teams are below the Jets in the standings.
Currently, the Jets hold just one tiebreaker over the teams they're fighting with. That would be the Bills -- who lost workhorse running back Fred Jackson for the season with a broken right fibula -- by virtue of their road win over Buffalo three weeks ago.
So the Jets know the easiest way they can punch a postseason ticket.
"Six-and-oh," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "We just need to win, and win the games we are supposed to win. Sometimes when you get caught losing to teams that you're not supposed to lose to, you end up kicking yourself in the [butt] at the end of it, saying, 'Man, we put ourselves behind the eight ball with the games we should win.' So if we go out and win out and handle our business, we'll be fine.
"That's the mind-set we've got to go in with."
It's a message that's been drilled in the players' heads all week, a mantra they've all openly acknowledged.
"This is do-or-die," guard Matt Slauson said. "If we lose this, we're done, our shot is done. If we win, then we can fight another day and we've got another chance to fight for the playoffs. We have to win every single game to make it to the playoffs.
"We're a better team than we've been showing on Sundays. But now is our last shot."
It's also their first opportunity to show off a resolve that Sione Pouha believes has grown stronger since the Jets were Tim Tebowed in Denver, surrendering a game-winning 95-yard drive in their 17-13 loss.
"I kind of look at it like the movie '300,' dude," Pouha said. "You know at the end, when everybody is starting to come, and we kind of just gather together, put our shields up. That's what it's like. This team is glued stronger together. The whole morale is, 'It's just us.'
"There's a lot of situations and things that will be said about us outside the locker room, but we know our colors and we know the guy next to us is going to put in just as much as you do. So the faith and respect within each other? Unbreakable right now."