Playing meaningful games in December was the Jets' stated goal heading into the season. They did it. Maybe it’s time for the Jets to raise the bar.
Robert Saleh joked that that’s more of an end-of-season conversation. Collectively, the Jets don’t expect their season to end in Miami in Week 18, though.
“You want an opportunity to play in the postseason. You just got to punch your ticket in,” defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers said. “We got six games left. Only the strong survive. We’re going to keep going.”
General manager Joe Douglas and Saleh said a successful season would be if the Jets played important games in December. These games after the calendar turns have huge importance.
The Jets are rolling into December with a 7-4 record. They have surpassed their win total from their last two seasons combined and are currently the seventh seed in the AFC.
“It’s great to be where we are,” Saleh said. “We expected to have a competitive football team, but at the same time we haven’t accomplished anything.”
The Jets and Bengals, who are also 7-4, have the AFC’s toughest remaining schedule. Their opponents have a 59.1 combined winning percentage.
The Jets play four of their remaining six games on the road with the next two being enormous for Mike White and this team. The Jets are in Minnesota on Sunday and then Buffalo the following week.
The Vikings (9-2) and Bills (8-3) are in the mix for the No. 1 seed in their conferences. Minnesota can clinch the NFC North title with a win and Lions loss. Buffalo will be looking for revenge after losing to the Jets in Week 9.
If the Jets can win both or even split their next two, it’s hard to see Saleh not sticking with White for the rest of the season. White threw for 315 yards and three touchdowns Sunday against the Bears.
Saleh has said the plan is to go back to Zach Wilson at some point, but plans change. The plan was for Wilson to be the starter for the remainder of the season. He’s running the scout team right now.
The Jets can snap their 11-year playoff drought, which is the NFL’s longest current streak. If White gives them the better chance to do that, it’s hard to see Saleh sitting him.
“You just got to focus on the moment,” Saleh said. “It’s awesome to be where we are right now. Playing meaningful games it’s fun, gives you purpose, it allows you to play for something more than just a paycheck. At the same time, we just got to focus on our moment.”
Truthfully, the Jets have exceeded outside expectations. Their defense has been one of the best in the NFL and their young players have grown up quickly.
The Jets enjoyed a rare laugher last game. The Bears are not in the playoff chase, were without quarterback Justin Fields and had traded their two best defensive players. It was a must-win for the Jets though after their 10-3 loss in New England.
Veteran left tackle Duane Brown said the offense as a whole “was challenged” after that performance. They responded with White leading the way. The stakes are higher going forward, and the class of teams are very different.
After the next two, the Jets have back-to-back home games against Detroit and Jacksonville – both are 4-7. They end the regular season at Seattle and Miami.
The Seahawks (6-5) are a half-game out of the playoffs and the Dolphins (8-3) are leading the AFC East. The Jets beat them this season as well.
For the 37-year-old Brown, who is playing through a shoulder injury that could have ended his season, it “means a lot” to be in this position – and the job’s not done.
“I don’t take it for granted and I don’t think anyone in the building takes it for granted,” Brown said. “This organization, the history and everything it’s been through, to try to be able to get to that point where we want to go it would mean everything. Not just for me, but for the team, for the city. It would mean a lot.”
Practice squad moves
The Jets signed linebacker Kai Nacua and running back Jonathan Ward to the practice squad and released receiver/returner Diontae Spencer and defensive lineman Marquiss Spencer.