Maybe this feels familiar. It should. During the last burst of Jets prosperity, they were declared dead late in the 2009 season. The coroner’s inquest came from their head coach at the time, Rex Ryan.
After a gut-crunching 10-7 loss to the Falcons in Week 15 of the 2009 season, Ryan zipped his team, 7-7, into a metaphorical body bag.
“We’re obviously out of the playoffs,” Ryan declared, “and that’s unfortunate.”
You know what happened then. The Jets weren’t out. They went to Indianapolis in Week 16 and benefitted when the Colts decided to pull back the reins and rest their starters with the score 14-0. That allowed the Jets a chance to seize the day in the second half. They did, then beat the Bengals in Week 17 and made the playoffs.
“I’ve never been so happy to be dead wrong,” Ryan said after the Bengals game, before his team beat Cincinnati again then defeated the Chargers before losing in the AFC Championship game to the Colts.
Current head coach Robert Saleh’s brutal benediction after the Jets’ miserable loss to the Jaguars on Dec. 22 wasn’t quite so over-the-top. But he sure sounded as if the Jets’ playoff ambitions had been laid to rest by Trevor Lawrence and company.
But then the Packers beat the Dolphins and the Bengals beat the Patriots, and suddenly the Jets are still alive. At the very least, they will have a meaningful game in Week 18 if they can beat Geno Snith, Pete Carroll and the Seahawks on Sunday at Seattle’s Lumen Field.
And the Jets will also be engaged in scoreboard-watching, even if they won’t admit they will be scoreboard watching. It will be awfully helpful if the Dolphins beat the Patriots in Foxborough on Sunday. You start there.
“I’m sure human nature, we’re going to glance at it,” Saleh admitted. “Again, unless we take care of our [business], it doesn’t matter. Like I’ve said all week, it’s not about the playoffs, it’s about getting up off the mat. We had a rough December. Luckily, we get a new month. The game is happening in January, so take a deep breath, get off the mat, and get ready to fight.”
But it is about the playoffs. Before the season, the Jets winning seven games would’ve been considered a huge victory. But the Jets reached seven wins in Week 12. They have lost four straight games since. They have done everything in their power to make the road to the playoffs as slippery a slope as possible.
But the road is still intact.
It’s still there for them.
And regardless of what happens in Massachusetts on Sunday, the Jets will still have life next week, Week 18 … if.
If they beat the Seahawks. If they end their losing streak. If they step up, rise up and beat a team that is a bear to play on its home field and that needs a win every bit as much as the Jets do to keep its own postseason hopes alive.
The Giants are likely to take care of their own business Sunday at home against the Colts. But the Jets could help their cause an awful lot by beating the Seahawks and finishing off Seattle’s playoff aspirations for good, too. It’s a nice tidy package.
There is a lot on the table Sunday at Lumen Field.
There is a lot at stake.
“We just need a win,” Mike White said.
That is the basic truth, and White is probably the best hope for Jets fans who crave an end to a playoff-free streak that dates now to 2010, Ryan’s second year as head coach.
White will retake QB1 from Zach Wilson, whose nightmarish performance against the Jaguars three days before Christmas calls into question whether he can ever be the man. White believes he can be. He must be on Sunday. It is the biggest and most essential game the Jets have played since 2015. It is the biggest and most essential game of White’s career.
“I’ll be ready,” White insisted. “We’ll all be ready.”
There is no alternative, not any longer. Lose and the “same old Jets” refrain will bellow as loud as ever. Lose and a late-season slump officially will become a tailspin. Lose and so much of the feel-good nature from this team’s first 11 games will be buried by the reality of its last five.
Lose and the season will end.
It’s really that simple.
“I think that’s why the agony and the joy of this league week-to-week is felt,” Saleh said. “Because every single game is like, ‘God, it’s so close.’ The league is crazy.”
It is. And that is why you need to strike when you can. Nothing about tomorrow — or next season — is even remotely guaranteed. When you have a chance, you need to seize it.
The Jets have a chance, a real one, a legit one, whether it feels as if they deserve it or not. Seize the day. Seize the moment. There will be a long, empty offseason ahead if they don’t.