Jets fans, you are living a charmed life. What has transpired over the past four weeks in the AFC can only be described as the most fortuitous turn of events. At 8-7, Rex Ryan's club hasn't beaten a team with a winning record since Week 2, not counting the victory over the previously 14-0 Colts, who surrendered late in the 3rd quarter.
The 10-7 loss to the Falcons on Dec. 20 exposed the Jets as pretenders for they failed in every facet of the game when, at least at the time, they knew they couldn't afford another defeat. But they're still alive.
After that crushing loss I concluded the Jets didn't deserve to make the playoffs. Well, ‘deserve' has nothing to do with it. Had the Colts been on the schedule in November instead of late December, or if Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell didn't pull his best players in the second half, the Jets might be 7-8 and done, not 8-7 and still alive, despite their #1 defense and #1 rushing attack. But should anyone apologize for winning in this league?
The playoff hopes were rebuilt with wins over teams that looked utterly incompetent when they played the Jets: the Panthers on Nov. 29 and Buccaneers on Dec. 13. Ask the Giants and Saints if the Panthers and Bucs are incompetent.
So the Jets shouldn't have to apologize for beating who's on their schedule, even as they prepare to play another team which will might rest its best players for most of the action Jan. 3, the Cincinnati Bengals. We'll return to that subject in a moment.
There's a more important reason why the Jets stand to make the playoffs at 9-7: almost every other wild card contender has folded over the past few weeks. If the Jets don't ‘deserve' to make the playoffs, then who does?
The Dolphins? Three losses in their last five games, including two straight. The Jaguars? They're 1-4 down the stretch. The Broncos? After starting 6-0, they enter the final week at 8-7. The 8-7 Ravens and 8-7 Texans and 8-7 Steelers have managed to stay alive, but they aren't much better than the Jets, if at all.
Someone has to go to the playoffs. In fact, two teams get to make it as wild cards. So enjoy the ride, Jets fans. It's been a while since your team has played an extra week, in the 2006 season, Eric Mangini's first as head coach.
Other teams may claim the Jets have lucked out by getting the Colts and Bengals in games meaningless to them (the Bengals will know by kick-off the outcome of the Patriots-Texans game). They're right. But ‘deserve' has nothing to do with it. Sometimes being lucky is better than being good. And this season the Jets are luckier than anyone else.
2) Here are the quarterbacks the Jets defense has clobbered since losing on Nov. 22 to the Patriots: Carolina's Jake Delhomme, Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman, Atlanta's Matt Ryan (at least until the Falcons last drive!), and the Colts' Curtis Painter (after Peyton Manning got yanked).
Up next: J.T. O'Sullivan, if Carson Palmer rests. Who is he? A seven-year veteran, O'Sullivan is 30. The Bengals are his eighth team. He didn't throw a pass in a regular season game until 2007, then started 8 games for the 49ers in '08. He's hardly played at all this season, appearing in two games and tossing two passes. But as Jets Confidential's Dan Leberfeld points out, O'Sullivan also played in NFL Europe and was that league's MVP in its final season. He's not Curtis Painter.
But Carson Palmer and the rest of the Bengals regulars may play quite a bit. On the Bengals' official team website, head coach Marvin Lewis indicated he would go for the win if the Patriots fail to lock up the 3rd seed earlier on Sunday.
"If there's an opportunity it would be important," said Lewis, "why would you want to be fourth if you had the opportunity to be third?"
Bengals players were quoted as saying they won't lie down for the Jets. If so, Rex Ryan and Gang Green will have the opportunity to show they belong with the league's elite.