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Rex Ryan determined to have Jets finish strong

Rex Ryan looks on late in the first

Rex Ryan looks on late in the first half of a game against the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. (Dec. 8, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Rex Ryan stammered a bit as he searched for an explanation. But after a few moments, it was clear he didn't really have an answer.

After AFC Championship Game appearances in 2009 and 2010, the Jets ended the past two seasons with three consecutive defeats that wrecked their playoff chances.

"Oh gosh,'' Ryan said Monday when reminded of the late-season swoons. "Number one, I don't look back on it. But you just focus on the moment right now, what you're facing and certainly, I hope that doesn't happen again. My gosh.''

The Jets, 6-7 after a win over the Raiders snapped a three-game losing streak, have yet to win back-to-back games this season. But nevertheless, they're confident they can close it out with three more victories. Their chances of making the playoffs are slim, but they'll have virtually no shot if they don't win out. They're a game back of the Ravens and Dolphins for the final AFC wild-card spot, with no tiebreakers against either club. A loss Sunday at Carolina and a Ravens win Monday night at Detroit would eliminate the Jets.

But Rex & Co. are full of optimism as they prepare for perhaps their hardest test of the season: facing Cam Newton and the 9-4 Panthers, who are 5-1 at home. The Jets, 1-5 on the road, are 11-point underdogs.

"We've been getting that all year,'' defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said when asked about the double-digit point spread during his weekly radio spot Tuesday on WFAN.

"We are really not concerned about people saying we're the underdogs or anything like that. We're going to prepare like we always do every week, get ready for a tough opponent and pretty much a dogfight.''

Similar sentiments were uttered in recent years, but the results never mirrored what the Jets set out to accomplish. Much to Ryan's dismay, his team fell short of its playoff goals in 2011 and 2012, and he's determined not to end another season on a three-game losing streak.

"I'm confident it won't,'' Ryan said. "But again, you just focus on this particular moment, where you're at right now, and go from there. But man, we've got to fix that one.''

Notes & quotes: Geno Smith's bounce-back performance against the Raiders earned him his third Rookie of the Week nomination. He threw for 219 yards and a touchdown in the 37-27 win. Smith also ran for an 8-yard score and had his longest run of the season (32 yards) en route to 50 rushing yards.

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