FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Eric Smith sat in front of the television, unable to make sense of it all.
The Jets safety watched in awe as the lowly Browns all but ended what should have been a promising season for the Steelers with a 13-6 victory Thursday night.
That dropped the defending Super Bowl champions to 6-7, a half-game behind the Jets (6-6). And if the Jets aren't careful Sunday in Tampa against the Buccaneers, they could end up being next week's sad punch line.
"I think it kind of woke everybody up," Smith said. "Like, we can't let this happen to us. We can't go in thinking just because they're 1-11 they're going to lay down and let us win."
The Jets have the advantage on paper: They rank first in the NFL in rushing yards (168.6), first in passing yards allowed (167.0), second in total yards allowed (276.4) and fourth in points allowed (17.3). The Buccaneers have the second-worst rushing defense in the NFL and rookie quarterback Josh Freeman threw five interceptions in a 16-6 loss to Carolina Sunday.
But the Jets say they're in no position to overlook any teams.
Said cornerback Darrelle Revis: "They might not have gotten wins, but you could just see the improvement week in and week out on the film. We can't lax on these guys. We're going into their stadium; it's home for them, so they're going to feel more comfortable than us. But we've got to go down there and take the momentum fast."
Pittsburgh's slide plus last week's losses by the Patriots (7-5), Ravens (6-6), Titans (5-7) and Texans (5-7) helped push the Jets from the playoff periphery into the playoff hunt. Now they're tied with the Dolphins and one game behind the Patriots in the AFC East race.
The Broncos (8-4) and Jaguars (7-5) currently hold the AFC wild-card slots, but the Broncos play at Indianapolis Sunday and the Jaguars host the Dolphins, so the Jets could see their playoff possibilities improve if things break right. But they have to do their part by beating the Bucs.
"Last night was a perfect example," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "You have the defending Super Bowl champs go into Cleveland to play a team that has won one game. The experts, as we say, are all picking Pittsburgh. Well, somebody forgot to tell Cleveland that.
" . . . Right now, we know what's in front of us and we have to go down there and lay it all on the line. I'm confident that we'll get it done."
This time Ryan doesn't need to prepare a pregame speech. He doesn't need to ramble on. All he has to do is say two words: Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We don't want to be that story after the game, saying: the Jets got embarrassed down there," Revis said. "We want to go down there and handle business and come out with a win."