In many ways, the Jets are comparable to last season's Chargers, a team that rebounded from a 4-8 start to win four consecutive games and sneak into the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
Like the Jets, the Chargers used their momentum to catapult past their first-round opponent. San Diego's win over the Colts, winners of eight in a row at the time, made the Chargers a sheik pick to push deep into the postseason.
Instead, San Diego lost the following week to a Pittsburgh Steelers team that was playing at home and coming off a bye -- much like the Chargers will do Sunday. Those Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl, a path the Chargers plan to follow.
OT Marcus McNeill
A common mistake made by NFL analysts is to read too much into the results of the first round of the playoffs. It is important to remember that: 1) the Wildcard Round took place while the NFL's upper crust stayed home and rested; and 2) with a 12-team field, there is room for a stinker or two.
This year's stinker was clearly the Bengals, a team that had a losing record (3-4) over the final seven weeks of the season. Even still, it took a pair of careless turnovers, two terrible challenges and a couple botched field goals to give the Jets a 10-point win.
This is not to imply the Jets don't belong in the postseason or that they'll be blown off the field on Sunday -- team's with elite running games and lockdown defenses are rarely on the wrong end of a rout. Instead, it means the Chargers are justified in their position as heavy favorites and have every reason to expect a trip to the AFC Championship Game to face either the Colts or the Baltimore Ravens.
"There's no situation where I feel like there's pressure on me or the team for that matter," Antonio Gates said. "If we continue to do the things that we've been doing since up until the postseason, then the San Diego Chargers are going to be fine."
In order for the Chargers to truly be fine, they must write a bitter finish to New York's storybook season. And this year's Chargers team knows just how that story goes -- they were on the receiving end of it just last season.
Are the '09 Jets any better than the '08 Chargers? Discuss in the message boards.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.