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STAGE FIGHT

The more things change for the Jets, the more they stay the same.

The more things change for the Jets, the more they stay the same.

Even with the big-name signings this offseason, the notoriety achieved via HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and a two-win improvement over last season, this Jets team has followed the same path as 2009-10: They’re a sixth seed in the playoffs that’s won two road games to advance to the AFC championship.

But it’s the lessons learned from that Cinderella run through last year’s postseason that may just push the Jets over the hump this time around. It’s invaluable stuff for a team once again heading into a conference title game in hostile territory.

“It definitely helps us prepare. It won’t change the result but it helps us through this week,” center Nick Mangold said. “I think the guys understand what this is about.”

Read: A fan base’s rabid obsession with getting back to the Super Bowl.

“We don’t look at it so much as an expectation or something we need to focus on, reversing the past,” tight end Dustin Keller said. “The standard we set for ourselves before the season was a Super Bowl. We understand that; that’s our goal and our drive.

“But with that being said, being to the AFC championship game now two times in two years — that’s not too shabby either. Not too many teams can say that.”

Only one team, though, can raise that Lombardi Trophy.

“Added pressure? It’s not pressure,” head coach Rex Ryan said. “It’s an opportunity for us. We don’t look at it as pressure.”

“Pressure” may no longer be in the Jets' vocabulary. “Comfort” sure isn’t. After all, this is a team that has dealt with player holdouts, sex scandals and media firestorms all season.

“We had the confidence at one point this season — but since the second New England game and then the loss to Miami the next week, I think it took away all of our comfort,” left guard Matt Slauson said. “We’ve learned that if we get comfortable, we get stomped on. We can’t let that happen again.”

 
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