By Matt Barbato
The New York Jets played themselves into a “win and they’re in” scenario by beating their big brother in the AFC East, the New England Patriots. However, the Jets will have to seal the deal against the man who led New York to its last playoff appearance, Rex Ryan.
The Jets avenged a game that got away earlier in the season in Massachusetts with Sunday’s 26-20 overtime with against the Patriots. It was a win that marked another moment of destiny for a franchise that was devoid of even a lucky star to wish upon.
But if the Jets want to turn destiny into a certainty they will have to avenge another loss to the Bills that represented New York’s most squandered opportunity of the season. Flashback to Nov. 13, when the Jets failed on four attempts to win the game from Buffalo’s 13-yard line. It was New York’s third loss in four games and appeared to be Gang Green’s ultimate indicator of mediocrity.
The Jets have turned the tides since that loss by winning five of their last six since that loss to Buffalo and will head into Ralph Wilson Stadium on a five-game winning streak. More importantly, the Jets have developed a clutch gene late in games. Ryan Fitzpatrick has produced three game-winning drives during New York’s hot streak, including two overtime victories.
Fitzpatrick and Brandon Marshall are sitting on single-season records that could be broken next week. Marshall is already the franchise leader in receptions for a season. He needs 59 yards to break the single-season receiving yards record and can tie the team’s single-season touchdown record with a score next week. Fitzpatrick can break Vinny Testaverde’s single-season touchdown record with one touchdown pass in Buffalo. Suddenly, New York is a reputable threat offensively because of two players who have never tasted the postseason.
The Jets’ defense has also morphed into an elite unit. New York’s defense has surrendered 50 points (the Jets have allowed 64 total points, but 14 points came from special teams or defensive touchdowns) during the past four games and has been a backbone when the offense has struggled. They possess some offensive pizazz, but are still a team that wins with defense.
The Jets displayed their improvement since their last loss to New England and the Jets are in a vastly better place now than they were at this time last season. Now they can merit all of that improvement by clinching a playoff berth on the road with the ultimate slap in the face to their former coach.
If the Jets know anything about Rex Ryan, it’s that he’s pretty good at playing the spoiler. And here’s a spoiler alert: Ryan will have his Bills ready to go with a chance to ruin New York’s season.