This is the most excitement and enthusiasm we have seen surrounding the Jets since the 2010 season.
For the first time since 2015, there is hope that the team can actually make the playoffs, which stands out when looking at NFL odds.
Coming off a bye week at 6-3 in a highly competitive AFC East (which we have also not been able to say in a very long time), the Jets are actually attempting to take aim at their first AFC East title in 20 years.
Fans of the team now have seemingly legitimate visions of the Jets actually winning a postseason game, and it is not crazy for dreamers to conjure up thoughts of a deep playoff run.
Such aspirations are the deserved product of a 6-3 start, but how realistic are they? Can the Jets win a big game down the stretch or in the playoffs?
Downing Buffalo Was Not Enough
We will find out more this week. Yes, it was very impressive how the Jets vanquished the mighty Buffalo Bills before the bye. But to confirm they are truly capable of taking on a significant challenge, they must win this week. The Patriots are in last place at 5-4, yet they are still admirably remaining competitive in the post-Brady era. More importantly, they still own the Jets, as we saw on Oct. 30.
If the Jets want to really make a statement that they are a bona fide contender to win the division and make some noise in the AFC playoffs, the convincing starts now, this week.
Toppling the Bills, who actually get a lot of hype for a team that hasn’t won a conference championship yet under Josh Allen, was a very satisfying accomplishment. But they still need to slay the Belichickian dragon to complete the one-two-punch combo that would definitely certify that the success can continue.
A win over New England would file away any “Same Old Jets” narratives until further notice. Another loss might mark them simply as an improved team that is respectable but still has much to prove.
An official reminder: The Jets have lost 13 straight games to New England, as Bill Belichick’s dominance over them has extended past Tom Brady’s departure. For the Jets to continue to be considered among the AFC’s better teams, they must show that New England’s hold on them can finally be broken.
There is certainly a very tough schedule ahead after the Patriots matchup against teams all better than New England, including rematches with the Bills and Dolphins. They also have games against the Vikings and Seahawks, the latter being on the road, which is always a challenge for any team. But it all has to begin with snaring the victory that has been elusive since 2015. The last Jets win in New England was in a playoff game in 2011.
A watershed win at Foxborough could apparently ultimately mark the end of a painful decade. The last Jets team to win a road game vs. the Patriots was the last Jets team worth remembering. If the 2022 Jets pull off the same feat, then they would be signifying their official return to more than just respectability. The door to contention shut after the last win at New England, and now it can be opened again.
The Road to Greater Success Begins in Foxborough
Beating the Patriots would serve as a terrific springboard to tackling the sturdy schedule ahead. The coaches and players may just publicly write off the matchup as not having much historical significance at times this week, but the Jets will still prove a lot if Robert Saleh bests Belichick, especially after how the team fizzled in the last meeting on their home turf.
Inside the locker room and team offices, there is likely a narrative about how the team needs to exact revenge for the last loss to New England. Punching back in knockout fashion is probably the message Saleh and his staff are sharing with the players. For them, it’s about this team and this season.
But knocking off the Patriots would toss aside the franchise’s biggest nagging jinx and tormentors in the process, and ultimately, the significance of that accomplishment would not be lost on anyone on the staff or roster. If Saleh is indeed “keeping receipts,” then he knows he has a stack of them that have been issued to his franchise over the past decade.
This week’s showdown against the Patriots certainly qualifies as a “must-win” game.
If the Jets lose, then we will just hear more talk about how the Bills and Dolphins are the teams to beat in the division and have the best chances to take down the Chiefs in the AFC playoffs.
The key will be for Zach Wilson to play more under control, as he did against the Bills, and for him to spread the ball around effectively while also being supported by a quality ground game. We know the defense will likely get the job done. Limiting offensive mistakes, especially against a coach that usually torments young QBs, is the biggest objective on the way to a possible victory.
We could be on the verge of seeing the Jets’ biggest regular season win in recent memory. It would kick the door open to more success ahead. Defeat would be a “reality check” that this Jets team is good, but they won’t be taken seriously enough after losing twice to New England in a three-game span.
The second half of the season must begin successfully on Sunday.
Featured Image: Sam Greene/The Cincinnati Enquirer