As the temperatures have gotten colder, the Jets have heated up. It’s probably too little, too late after the hole they dug, but they’re enjoying the climb.
The Jets are heading into Cincinnati with the sole focus of winning a fourth straight game. Coach Adam Gase doesn’t want them talking about making a playoff push. To a man, the Jets (4-7) say they don’t care about the Bengals’ record.
Cincinnati is 0-11 — the NFL’s only winless team. The Jets know if they’re thinking about that, they could walk off the field late Sunday afternoon with their heads down.
“With this staff and with this team, we don’t have to talk about it,” outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “We just know: Flush whatever happened last week out of your system and start preparing.
“We give teams respect. We don’t slight any team. We don’t underestimate any team. In this league they got elite playmakers on every team. You don’t just go out there thinking, ‘We’re going to roll these boys.’ That’s when you yourself get rolled. You have to respect teams.”
If the Jets didn’t respect the Bengals already, the switch back from rookie quarterback Ryan Finley to veteran Andy Dalton certainly got their attention.
Gregg Williams’ defense has done relatively well against rookie quarterbacks recently. Actually all quarterbacks.
The Jets sacked Giants rookie Daniel Jones and Washington’s Dwayne Haskins a total of 12 times and forced two turnovers. Last week, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw for a season-low 127 yards and no touchdowns. Carr’s passer rating was a season-worst 52.5.
Dalton regained his job this week and could be looking to put something on tape so his next team has recent proof he still can perform at a high level. The Bengals know this and likely went back to the former Pro Bowler because he makes fewer mistakes than Finley.
The way the Bengals' defense has played the last two games — they have allowed three touchdowns and lost by seven and six, respectively, to the Raiders and Steelers — they made the switch because Dalton gives them the best chance to finally win a game.
“They got a playmaker back there who can get the job done,” Jenkins said. “He knows how to win games. He’s not going to make as many mistakes as possibly the other guy would. He’s a more experienced guy.”
So, that makes this less of a trap game, right?
“I don’t think of none of that because any time teams see us on the schedule, they think of us as a trap game,” Jenkins said. “Any given Sunday any team can win. No one thought we were going to beat the Cowboys, we did that. Everyone thought we were going to get rolled against the Raiders.
“Whatever team wants it more is going to get it, especially when it gets colder when the season winds down. That’s when you see the teams that have the most heart win the game.”
During this winning streak, the Jets have been rolling teams. They held a two-touchdown lead against the Giants and were up by 31 points against both the Redskins and the Raiders.
The Jets’ defense has continued to be run-stoppers and playmakers. And the offense has found its rhythm after things looked really bleak during their 1-7 start.
Sam Darnold has thrown seven touchdown passes, rushed for two more scores and has taken care of the football. Darnold has been picked off just once during this three-game winning streak. He threw eight interceptions and lost a fumble in the previous three games.
“It just shows how resilient our team can be,” he said. “I think we’ve showed it all year. I think we’ve done a lot better job the last few weeks of continuing the success that we’ve had on some drives because games that we were losing, like Jacksonville and Miami, we’d put together great drives and then not so great drives.
“I think we’ve done a lot better job of sustaining success.”
The Jets’ schedule has helped a team that once looked sickly get healthy, but you can’t overlook the fact they’ve executed better and are making progress. They’re just trying to continue their climb.