There aren’t any moral victories in professional sports, but for the New York Jets and its ardent, long-suffering fanbase, they have to take what they can get.
Sunday’s gut-wrenching and controversial 24-17 loss to the hated New England Patriots was a tough pill to swallow, but there were still plenty of positives to take away from the Jets. This is a squad that not even the most optimistic fan could have dreamed of seeing sitting at .500 after six weeks of action, so as currently constituted, this season is going way better than planned.
Gang Green is 3-3 and only one game out of first place in the AFC East, and to a man, they still think they’re good enough to make a serious run at the postseason.
Veteran quarterback Josh McCown even uttered the word “disappointed” when asked about the current record, believing the Jets are even better than that.
Head coach Todd Bowles, however, won’t even touch any talk about making the playoffs, saying, “playoff talk for me is not valid at all.”
About the only look ahead he allowed was that in order to have a chance at jockeying for playoff position, the Jets need to shore up the minor details and win the remaining quarter marks of the season.
“We have to get above .500 if we want to make any noise, but you can only play them one at a time,” Bowles reasoned. “We’ve had some spurts and some things we need to get better at, but we need to put it together.”
He’s right. But with a young and frisky defense, a sage quarterback in McCown, who has yet to show his true journeyman colors, and respectable playmakers like running back Matt Forte, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and wideout Jeremy Kerley, who know how to move the chains and sustain drives, the Jets do have a nice formula.
McCown reasoned that while the guys in the locker room are “probably a little bit disappointed that we’re sitting here at 3-3,” there’s no overall despair and, in fact, “nobody is discouraged.”
Star defensive end Leonard Williams said, “Oh, yeah, without a doubt,” when asked if the Jets have a legitimate chance of staying in the playoff race. His linemate, nose tackle Steve McLendon, wasn’t as boastful, taking the one game at a time pledge and noting any sustained momentum only comes with a win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The veteran did admit, though, their chances are as good as any — especially when the Jets are one of nine teams sitting at .500 or better in the AFC.
But before any postseason corks are popped, Gang Green must still figure out some things. New York is averaging just 18 points per game, which is good for 26th in the league. And the defense is allowing an average of 139 rushing yards per game. Those two stats are usually a great barometer of whether a team has the postseason chops or not.
The Jets don’t specialize in any one category and have yet to score over 23 points in any game, but what they lack in lighting up a scoreboard, they make up for it with true grit and effort. Not even noted Jets’ killer Tom Brady could intimidate and bully Gang Green, which means if they can go toe to toe with a living legend who takes glee in destroying them, and not flinch, then there may be a chance for the Jets to make some noise and actually play meaningful games deep into the season.
Aside from the 45-20 debacle in Oakland in Week 2, when the Raiders were literally dancing to the Jets’ misery, New York seems to just hang around in every ball game – a sign of a team looking for a fight and taking it to opponents, rather than be the customary punching bag.
The Jets no longer have to endure tanking jokes, winless season predictions, or talk about dysfunction because, after six weeks of action, they’ve flipped this campaign on its head. And in all honesty, their MetLife Stadium co-tenants have the look of a team that’s suffering through a bit of role reversal these days, so Gang Green supporters have that going for them, too.