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Muhammad Wilkerson optimistic about Jets' chances

Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson, green hat, attends a charity

Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson, green hat, attends a charity Thanksgiving event at a fire house in Elizabeth, N.J. (Nov. 19, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Kimberley A. Martin

ELIZABETH, N.J. - Muhammad Wilkerson doesn't know the team that was blown out Sunday at Buffalo.

"That wasn't a playoff-caliber team,'' the Jets' star defensive end said Tuesday night after handing out turkeys to 200 families at the Elizabeth Fire Department.

"I think we're capable of being there. If everybody just does their job and their assignment, and fix the mental mistakes that we're having, I think we'll finish strong and be a playoff team.''

The Jets (5-5) continue to ride an emotional roller coaster after the 37-14 rout by the Bills. They're still in the playoff hunt, tied with the Dolphins for the second of two AFC wild-card spots. But with another road game Sunday against the Ravens, the Jets must rebound to extend their record streak of alternating wins and losses.

"Time isn't running out for us,'' Wilkerson said. "We know what we've got to do to get these last six games. We've just got to put the pieces together and finish strong.''

Sheldon Richardson, who along with Santonio Holmes came to support Wilkerson's event, said the Jets know exactly where they stand in the playoff picture. But their focus is solely on the Ravens. The goal is simple, the rookie defensive tackle said.

"Getting the ship right, man,'' Richardson said. "Got to get consecutive wins, got to bounce back again. We've got to get ahead of the pack. It's crunch time right now.''

A loss to another AFC opponent could come back to bite them later. "But pretty much every game's like that right now,'' Richardson said. "We have to fight like our backs are against the wall. Hey, we fight better like that anyway.''

But before they turn their attention to game-planning Wednesday, the three were in the community helping families in need.

"It's just who I am outside of the helmet,'' Holmes said of charitable work. He hosts an annual Strikes For Sickle Cell event in nearby Linden, N.J. "I come from a very poor family. And with the opportunity that I've presented to my family to be successful and the opportunity to have things, it's only fair that we give back to those that don't have.''

The trio posed for pictures with firefighters and police and signed autographs for neighborhood fans and children.

As he spoke to five reporters, Wilkerson pointed across the street to the apartment buildings where he lived as a youngster before moving to Linden. "It means a lot,'' he said of hosting his first "Thanksgiving Sacks'' event.

"Being born and raised right across the street, it's like home to me. It's a tribute to everybody who helped out somehow, some way to give back to the community. My grandmother still lives here, so it's great to give back and help out as best I can.

"That's what Thanksgiving is about: thanking and blessing other people.''

Like Holmes, Richardson said showing his face at the firehouse was a given.

"I had to support Mo,'' the rookie said. "It's Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for a lot of things. So it's my responsibility to give back a little bit.

"He told me it was rough growing up, so I just wanted to give back to where he grew up. That's the same type of mind frame I have back home. So I had to support him.''

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