CHICAGO - Jerricho Cotchery was at a loss for words, trying to come up with a logical answer for the Jets' road success.
"I have no clue, man," the wide receiver said. "I can't put a finger on it. I can't even explain it."
The Jets have left several opponents looking for answers, too. They've developed into true road warriors, winning nine of their past 10 regular-season road contests. The lone loss was that 45-3 pummeling at the hands of the Patriots earlier this month, which snapped an eight-game road winning streak.
A win over the Bears (10-4) Sunday at Soldier Field not only would give the Jets (10-4) a 7-1 mark away from their home digs but would clinch a playoff spot. They also can punch their postseason ticket if either Indianapolis or Jacksonville loses, though they would prefer to get the job done themselves and render next Sunday's regular-season finale against the Bills at New Meadowlands Stadium meaningless.
"That's what you want as a coach," Rex Ryan said. "You want to be able to control your own destiny. If we win one of the next two , but we're focused on this one. We want to win this game and we'd be in the playoffs. That'd be great.
"This is going to sound crazy, but I don't think in all of the years that I've coached that I've ever gone into the last game making the playoffs where that [game] didn't really matter. I've never been in that situation. I hope it happens."
Another road win would guarantee that.
The Jets are 13-5 away from home during Ryan's tenure, a mark that includes a 2-1 record in the postseason. They've boasted two ingredients that can be deemed pivotal for continued road success - a solid running attack and a pretty good defense - but those aren't the first things that come to Mark Sanchez's mind.
"I feel like we have a great routine the night before," said the second-year quarterback, who looked good in practice Friday and is expected to play Sunday despite a slight cartilage tear in his right shoulder. "We get in, bed-check is early, guys are focused in the hotel. We know when we go on the road, we have a little less time here at the facility, so we have to get our prep in early. It's just, I think we have a great routine, so that's everyone involved and I'm just proud of the way we play on the road."
Bart Scott has his own theory.
"When you play on the road, you don't have to worry about other --," the linebacker said. "I don't have to worry about tickets, is my mama going to stay at the hotel or stay at the house with my wife, where are people going to sit, do people have their parking passes, you know what I mean? You just go and play. You don't have to worry about any of that stuff.
"It's just the guys. Talk to your wife at night or your girlfriend, you're good. Go play. You've got a lot of distractions, especially around the holiday time. Sometimes going on the road during the holidays is the greatest blessing in the world."
The Jets also have developed a certain mentality, one they rely on in unfriendly confines. They carry the us-against-the world card in their wallets, looking to pull it out and present it to anyone who questions their ability to get it done in supercharged road atmospheres.
"It's just guys in this locker room versus everybody else out there," wideout Braylon Edwards said. "When we go out there, it's like the movie '300.' It's like us 300 versus the whole Persian Empire. That's how we look at it, and when we go out there, we can do no wrong.
"We focus in a little more. We know going on the road, you have to deal with a team's crowd, you have to deal with a team knowing their own turf, knowing they have the home-field advantage. But yet and still, we say, 'You know what, we'll go up out there and take the crowd out of it.' We have the attitude that we can't be beat, and if we get beat, then we beat ourselves."
The Jets are going to have to rely on that mentality if they make it to the postseason as a wild-card team. That means just like last season, the Jets' playoff path will strictly consist of road games, which suits them just fine.
"We've been through it, so any time you've been through something, you feel comfortable the next time you are in that situation," Cotchery said. "So we definitely feel comfortable going into hostile environments. We have the guys on the team that are built for that."