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Jets' iffy playoff scenario: Win out, hope for help

New York Jets running back Thomas Jones (20)

New York Jets running back Thomas Jones (20) celebrates with teammates Nick Mangold (74) and Dustin Keller (81) following his second touchdown. (Dec. 13, 2009) Credit: AP

All the Jets can do now is win.

After so many missed opportunities against mediocre teams, so many defensive collapses and so many picks thrown by Mark Sanchez, there is no margin for error.

"The next three weeks is do-or-die," safety Jim Leonhard said Monday. "It's playoff atmosphere around here for us. Playing and not finishing games the way we did put us in a position where we have to play well. We have to win."

The Jets (7-6) still are alive in the AFC playoff hunt after winning three straight to pull into a four-way tie for the final wild-card spot with Miami, Jacksonville and Baltimore. And they stand a decent chance of making it four in a row Sunday against a banged-up Atlanta team.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan missed his second straight game with turf toe and running back Michael Turner (ankle sprain) also did not play in Sunday's loss to New Orleans.

But even so, a win this weekend will be of little use to the Jets if they don't run the table.

"We just don't want to leave room for error when it's time for teams to start getting into the playoffs," defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "We want to make sure that we did everything that we need to do for it to be a great shot for us to get in."

Said Leonhard: "To hope somebody else gets a 'W' for you, that doesn't really work in this league."

The Jets' bandwagon lost some of its occupants this season, disillusioned fans unable to stomach yet another roller-coaster year. Running back Thomas Jones understands. "When you're 4-6,'' he said, "no one really thinks you're in the position to win out."

But their confidence in each other never wavered.

"Rex [Ryan] believed in this team from the beginning of the year,'' Jones said. "He believed in the coaching staff and the players he put together. We all believed. That's what's helped us to win three games in a row, and this is what Rex was talking about when he said this team was close."

Said offensive lineman D'Brickashaw Ferguson: "I think we are motivated and have put ourselves in a better situation so that we can start talking again about the playoff race and the things we can do.

"We are excited about the opportunities that are ahead of us. These last three weeks have been positive for us and it will give us the momentum we need for the next three weeks. We have some very tough opponents, but I definitely think we can overcome it."

The Jets have managed to resurrect their season in just a matter of weeks, but their playoff chances still aren't good.

"Our official stance is it's improbable right now," Ryan said. "That's the way everybody will approach [it]. Our stance is we believe we're going to win every game . . . We believe in our players, the coaches, the organization, and that hasn't changed since I got here."

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