Meaningful games mean all the difference to the Jets.
Sunday's rout of Miami couldn't have come at a better time for a team teetering on the edge of potential elimination from playoff contention. And now, at 6-5, the Jets are hoping to turn a 38-20 victory over the defenseless Dolphins into a much-needed winning streak.
Despite being mired in a month-long slump, the playoffs still are in sight. And that's all they could hope for in December.
"We know we're still in it," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said on a conference call Monday. "We also know that there's not a lot of room for error."
Fortunately for the Jets, there weren't too many errors on Sunday. Fitzpatrick had a breakout performance, throwing for 277 yards and four touchdowns to lead an impressive offensive attack that was equal parts explosive runs and red-zone strikes. Fitzpatrick, who ran for 21 yards on five carries, finished with a season-best 118.9 passer rating.
Brandon Marshall, who had been lost in a sea of double- and triple-teams in recent weeks, caught nine passes for a season-high 131 yards and two touchdowns. He now has more TD receptions (nine) than any other Jets wide receiver since Santana Moss caught 10 in 2003.
And Chris Ivory, who had been slowed by stacked boxes week after week, rushed for 87 yards on 21 carries. His tackle-breaking 31-yard TD was his longest scoring run of the season and his longest since Sept. 7, 2014, against Oakland (71 yards).
Everything came together for the Jets, who picked off Ryan Tannehill once, sacked him three times, set a franchise record by allowing 12 rushing yards on nine carries and limited the Dolphins to a 4-for-15 conversion rate on third down. But for the Jets to make a push toward the playoffs, they'll have to keep piling up wins -- starting this week against the in-stadium rival Giants (5-6).
"Each one of these games . . . they become more and more significant in terms of putting ourselves in position to make the playoffs," said Fitzpatrick, who became the first Jets quarterback since Chad Pennington in 2002 (against Green Bay) to throw four TD passes and no interceptions in a game.
"There's a huge focus on one game at a time, one game at a time, and not getting before ourselves and making sure that we're putting all of our energy and focus into the opponent each week, because all of these games are obviously extremely important to us. There's so many teams that are lumped up right now, within a game of each other, that we've just got to continue to stack wins."
The Jets currently are behind the Chiefs and Texans, both 6-5, in the wild-card hunt. Even though coach Todd Bowles isn't one for scoreboard-watching, he knows his players have postseason thoughts on their minds. And that's OK, he said.
"They're thinking about it, but they know you've got to take it one game at a time," Bowles said. "There's a lot of football left to play. It's good to be playing for something meaningful and have a chance to do something, but we're day-by-day, one game a time. And they understand that."