Well that didn't take very long, did it?
In a matter of six days, the New York Jets went from 9-2 Super Bowl contender to 9-4 heavy underdogs on the road in Pittsburgh. Most people have penciled in the Jets at 9-6 heading into Week 17, where they will have to scratch and claw for a wild-card spot, likely needing help from other teams. It is hard to say you blame them. There is something profoundly pathetic about losing back-to-back games to your top two rivals without scoring a touchdown in either game.
Here the Jets are again, back to where they were after 13 games in 2009, when they sat at 7-6 and a playoff spot seemed improbable, if not impossible. Last year, the Jets laid an egg at home in Week 15 but then received plenty of help league wide, much of which came from the teams they played in weeks 16 and 17, en route to a 9-7 wild-card spot.
They will receive no such help in 2010. The Jets will have to earn a playoff spot the old-fashioned way. Unless the Jets want to throw themselves at the mercy of tie-breakers, which don't look favorable at all right now, by the way, they will need to beat either Pittsburgh or Chicago on the road and then beat the 3-10 Buffalo Bills at home.
You can't criticize the general lack of confidence from people around the NFL about the Jets pulling out a win in either of their next two games. After three straight poor performances, questions about Mark Sanchez's ability to finish out this season strong and get his confidence back are valid. The bottom line is that you can't win if you can't score points and right now the Jets are incapable of moving the football with any type of consistency.
The defense has played well two of the last three games. The Jets were shredded by the Patriots, but who hasn't been this past month?
There is no reason to expect a sulking Sanchez to lead the Jets offense down the field for enough points to beat Pittsburgh on Sunday. However, this is a quarterback who has shown flashes of having the "it" factor during his two years in the NFL, along with flashes of being completely incompetent. There couldn't really be a better time for Sanchez to step up, shut his critics up, and put together a performance that gives his team a chance for an upset on Sunday.
One win would cure plenty of the sickness floating around this team right now. It certainly won't be easy and the Jets certainly shouldn't be favored to get one this upcoming Sunday. Yet, let's stop the pity party for an offense that is led by a first-round quarterback, has Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Dustin Keller, Jerricho Cotchery, LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene, and three Pro-Bowl caliber offensive lineman still in the lineup.
It never truly felt comfortable seeing the Jets as favorites every week, did it? The familiar role of underdog is back and hopefully their second-year quarterback is ready to lead an effort that will prove there is still hope for the 2010 New York Jets.