FLORHAM PARK, NJ - You know what it is by now, #WinAndWereIn is the hashtag sweeping through #JetsTwitter. It's a solid hashtag because it's factually correct, but Todd Bowles and the Jets players aren't think about all that. For them the hashtag should simply be #Win.
The Jets having been in playoff mode for the past five weeks, they knew if they lost any of those five games they wouldn't make the playoffs. The only difference this week is they don't have to rely on anyone else to lose, they just need to win.
"I mean, we've kind of been in that mode for the last month or so," Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "I thought we had a good day today... It's a positive locker room right now. There are good feelings in here, but we know we have a lot of work ahead of us."
One game at a time, that's the focus and yes it's a tired cliché but you can only win one game at a time. And of course each game becomes incrementally more important and we in the media and you as fans can, and should, treat it differently, but as soon as the coaches and players start doing something different they start to get out of their rhythm. Or to go with another cliché, you stick with what got you here.
"We do the same things we've been doing. You take it a game at a time," Bowles said. "It's just the last game, so it's a more important game, but if you don't win the other five, you don't get yourself in this situation. You start doing things that you want to do that you haven't done in the last five weeks, then we're going down the wrong path. So from that standpoint, there's no pressure."
As observers from the outside looking in this doesn't seem possible. It's human nature to think about the future and all the possibilities, and players will sometimes admit it's hard not to go there briefly but they've been conditioned throughout the entire life to live life day-by-day and play football game-by-game.
"You try to use the last few (weeks) as examples, maybe. You realize that it's just another game that we've got to go out, especially as an offensive player, you have to be composed at all times," Fitzpatrick said. "There's so much on the mental side of the game that you have to be able to think through and you can't be going a million miles an hour. We just have to stick with the plan we've been going with the last few weeks."
It doesn't matter that this game is unique in a couple of different ways. The Jets haven't been to the playoffs since 2010, that means young stars like Calvin Pryor, Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson have never sniffed the playoffs. But as bad as they want to make the playoffs Wilkerson doesn't even want to think about it until they get there.
"First we just got to get the win first," Wilkerson said. "So, I'm just focused on the task at hand and that's taking care of Buffalo and making sure we eliminate explosive plays, stopping the run, setting edges. Those guys did a good job of running the ball on us the first time, so we kind of took offense so we got to make sure we're stout with the run defense and the guys on the backend just got to keep doing their job like they have been the past couple of weeks."
And sure the Jets have veterans who have not only made the playoffs, some with the Jets and some elsewhere, and some have even won Super Bowl rings, obviously elsewhere, but there are two 10-year veterans that have had drastically different levels of personal success yet share the bond of never having made the playoffs in Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall. Marshall wants to taste the playoffs, you can see it in his face and hear it in his voice but he simply won't let his brain go there, not yet. Not until they're in.
"Oh no, I'm just thinking about the first play of Buffalo. And you can ask me that after and I'm probably give you the same answer, as far as we're just worried about whoever we're playing in that first play(off game). That's really what you got to do, you know. There are a lot of guys that get caught up in that and you know I've read a lot of books, especially on mindset and mentalization, and it truly is, in life and sports, you just got to focus on the here and the now and you have to be mindful.
"So, we talk about that a lot, especially in the receivers room, just being mindful and being in the moment. And one, you get to enjoy it, right? You know, if you're thinking down the road you're not really enjoying this moment and I want to enjoy it. These are the memories that you'll have and that will mean the most. It's not about the money, it's not about the fame it's about the experiences and the things that you've accomplished with your teammates. So, I want to be mindful of that."
On top of all that, win and get in and players hoping for their first playoff expirence, we get the juiciest subplot of them all. The NFL schedule makers only had two real options for the Jets Week 17 opponent, it has to be a division game and the Jets and Dolphins have closed out the regular season the last two years so it could really only be the Patriots or the Bills. But the schedule makers clearly hoped the playoffs would be on the line when the Jets travel to Buffalo to take on their old coach Rex Ryan.
For the NFL, the media and the fans we couldn't possibly ask for a more drama-filled matchup. For the Jets, it's not about Ryan and the Bills it's about beating whoever stand in there way of the playoffs.
"Myself and my teammates I'm pretty sure we're focusing on the game," Wilkerson said. "It's not about Rex, it's about the Jets playing good ball against the Buffalo Bills."
Fitzpatrick and Marshall don't even think the Ryan subplot comes into play this time around, we already went through that on the Thursday night game. This game is strictly about the win. We, as reporters and you as fans, can have all the fun we want with the headlines and the jokes. But for these players it's about one game, one focus, same as the last five and with a win then they can start thinking about the next game. The one in the playoffs.
"I kind of said it after the (Patriots) game, it's crazy," Fitzpatrick said. "It's a great story line for you guys I guess, but I have to focus on my job and kind of what's at hand and not think of all the outside story lines."
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com.mhe can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)