The Jets have defied odds and logic this season, but their chance to advance in the playoffs could come down to their continuing ability to defy Mother Nature.
Specifically one part of her arsenal: cold.
Last weekend, most players ignored the chill at the Meadowlands and eschewed long sleeves. Their coach showed solidarity by wearing a sleeveless sweater, rather than a coat, over a long-sleeved shirt.
"I hope he goes out there without a shirt,'' fullback Tony Richardson said.
America might not be ready for that sight, but there is no reason to expect Ryan and his players to admit to any more vulnerability to the cold than they did in the regular-season finale.
Never mind the forecast of temperatures in the teens.
"If you let cold affect you and your [clothing], you are spending too much time worrying about things you don't need to worry about,'' said receiver Braylon Edwards, expressing the prevailing mood. "I just block it out, act like it doesn't exist. I'm Detroit-born-and-raised.''
Edwards, who played at Michigan, said he never has worn long sleeves in a game, and he doesn't take kindly to teammates doing so.
Hartsock was undaunted. "My comfort quickly out-trumps any public ridicule,'' he said.
That is a minority opinion. Most Jets plan to brave the elements again, and most could not come up with a practical reason. It is part of the sport's macho tradition, especially for offensive linemen.
"To have an offensive lineman in sleeves, that's unheard of,'' tackle Damien Woody said. "We already are well insulated anyway . . . Sleeves? That would never happen.''
Said center Nick Mangold: "I'd say we're idiots, basically. We're not that smart. It's a tradition passed down from older guys and it continues on.''
What about the men who handle the ball?
Richardson, a 15-year veteran, said most backs want their skin against it for a better feel.
Beyond that, he said, it's a matter of shutting out the pain and staying warm enough to function - but not so warm that you disconnect from the reality on the field.
"It's a physical and mental balance,'' he said. "You need the warmth to keep your body physically able to go, especially if you get stuck on the sideline .
"But if you sit next to the warmth [on the bench], it takes your mind out of the game.''
Most of the time, players insist, they are so focused on their exacting, dangerous jobs that they do not have time to think about temperature. That goes for the quarterbacks, too.
He also could benefit from the Bengals being the rare team without an indoor practice facility.
But Sanchez said he was untroubled by his first experience playing in extreme cold Sunday.
He praised the staff for being prepared with everything from sideline ChapStick to a warmer for his helmet for times when "you click the buckles and your thumb just goes numb.''
"Once you start playing,'' he said, "I have so many run checks going through my head, so many reads, that the last thing I have going through my mind is the weather.''
Sanchez did wear long sleeves last week and presumably will again. Most of his teammates will pass on that, even though most will wear fleece-lined mock turtlenecks without sleeves under their jerseys.
Speaking of which, what was Ryan wearing under that shirt and sweater last week?
A T-shirt and a loose-fitting, long-sleeved thermal shirt.
Despite Richardson's wish, Ryan figures to go with something similar for the rematch.
With Bob Glauber
The Jets and Bengals can expect to face temperatures of about 17 degrees tomorrow with a wind chill near 8, not the coldest conditions in NFL playoff history:
WIND CHILL: Minus 48
WHEN Dec. 31, 1967
WHERE: Lambeau Field,
GAME: “The Ice Bowl,’’ NFL Championship Game —
Green Bay 21, Dallas 17
WHEN: Jan. 10, 1982
WHERE: Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati
GAME: AFC Championship — Cincinnati 27, San Diego 7
WHEN: Jan. 20, 2008
WHERE: Lambeau Field, Green Bay
GAME: NFC Championship — Giants 23, Green Bay 20 (OT)
WHEN: Jan. 15, 1994
WHERE: Rich Stadium, Buffalo
GAME: AFC divisional playoff — Buffalo 29, L.A. Raiders 23