How can the Jets avoid a letdown in the AFC Championship Game?
On the surface, the question seems beyond ridiculous. The Jets will be playing Sunday for a trip to the Super Bowl. If a team can't get up for that, what can they get up for?
Yet several veteran players in the Jets locker room struck a note of concern Monday about what the team attitude needs to be heading into Heinz field this weekend. Brandon Moore said that just because the Jets had finally gotten past their archrivals, the New England Patriots, doesn't mean that it was time to exhale.
"We need to have a chip on our shoulder," guard Brandon Moore said. "When we lose that, we don't play well. As soon as we start thinking we're pretty good and all that, we seem to not capitalize on opportunities."
Yet, it's hard for the Jets not to think they're pretty good heading into the game in Pittsburgh. Their victory in New England was no ordinary victory. Before the game, Rex Ryan had called it the second-biggest game in Jets history, eclipsed only by their win in Super Bowl III. And on Monday, he admitted that there was a difference between going up against Pittsburgh, which is coached by one of his "favorites," Mike Tomlin, and going up against the Patriots and Bill Belichick.
"It's a different feel," Ryan said. "Like I felt last week that Belichick had dominated me the time before. He did. I was like, 'Man, that's not going to happen. No way is that going to happen to me again.' "
It could be Tomlin is saying the same thing about Ryan this time after the Jets defeated the Steelers, 22-17, at Heinz Field on Dec. 19. Yet the players say they can't dwell on the fact that they have already defeated the Steelers on the road.
"The goal is to get to the Super Bowl," center Nick Mangold said. "And we need to beat them again to get there. In the end it's three more weeks. If you can't give everything you have for three more weeks, there's no point walking in this locker room."