Who would’ve though a week ago that as the final Sunday of the NFL’s regular season approached, the Jets would be playing for the rights to make the playoffs, not the Giants. So many things had to fall right for Gang Green to regain control of their destiny. Those things DID fall right for one of the NFL’s habitually cursed franchises. Now all of a sudden the Jets take on a Cincinnati Bengals team that has little to play for with a home playoff game already coming the following week. Thus making the final game one with little to play for besides momentum and alot to lose in the way of injuries. The Bengal scenario is much like one the then undefeated Colts faced. Indy’s unpopular decision to rest Peyton Manning and other key starters up just 15-10 with 5:38 left in the third quarter helped pave the way for the Jets to take back to the keys to the car.
Now it’s up to Gang Green to close the deal once and for all and earn the right to most likely face the same Bengal team a week later in Cincy.
The Giants got blown out last week in their farewell to a stadium that has been kind to them in it’s 33 year history. Three Giant Super Bowl teams were borne out of the purported hallowed burial ground of Jimmy Hoffa in this time. For the Jets, the Meadowlands has been home to so many crash landing endings that many Jet fans will be happy to see the team move next door in 2010. A chance at a fresh start with the opportunity to put their own stamp on things, will come shortly.
For now, the Jets hope to give themselves and their die hard fans one great memory in a stadium that has housed at least a few over the years.
The Monday night Miracle in 2000 with Jumbo Elliot’s TD catch capped off the greatest Monday night football comeback in history. Beating the Brett Favre led Packers on the last day of 2002 propelled the upstart Herman Edwards Jets into the playoffs. Their 41-0 dismantling of the Colts in the Wildcard was arguably the loudest Jets fans ever got in the Red and Blue seated stadium.
Of course there were nightmares. Too many to count. The bigger ones that come to mind are the day Dennis Byrd was partially paralyzed against the Chiefs in 1992. Who can forget the Dan Marino fake spike play in 1994 that left the then 6-5 Jets shocked? The wild loss sent them into a “same old Jets” Jet tailspin, ending Pete Caroll’s tenure as head coach after just one season. This ushered in the Rick Kotite years of 1995 and 1996. Enough said.
Sunday night is about a lifetime of redemption for the franchise that, aside from Super Bowl III, seems to struggle most when the spotlight is the brightest. Although the Jets have fared well in “win or in ” games over the past decade, the stigma associated with monumental collapses contain ghosts that float close to the surface. Apparitions that seem ready to bring bad karma to Gang Green at any time.
This week has had its share of pre-game drama already. Chad Ochocinco and CB Darelle Revis have been going at it in a friendly fun way on twitter. Ochocinco has been boasting that Revis won’t be able to cover him. Don’t bet on it. Revis has covered all of the top receivers this year and has shut them all down. WR Braylon Edwards pulled a “Broadway” Joe guaranteeing the win saying that team is too focused and wants it too badly to lose.
Then there’s the issue of motivation. The Bengals can’t improve their playoff situation with a win. in fact they can only hurt it by adding any top player to the injury list in a game that has no ability to make their path to the Super Bowl any easier. Will coach Marvin Lewis let QB Carson Palmer and the oft injured RB Cedric Benson play for the duration? Backup QB JT O Sullivan is a former starter with the 49ers, and should fare alot better than Curtis Painter did for the Colts last week, should the Bengals choose to keep Palmer on the sidelines. One or more of the AFC teams on the bubble between Miami, Houston and Pittsburgh will be watching Sunday night praying that the Bengals go out and be competitive. The jury’s out as to how Lewis will play it.
If the Pats, who publicly claim Tom Brady and co. will be on the field (if you choose to believe Bill Belichick), beat the Texans at 1pm, the Bengals would own the 4th seed. This would be regardless of the outcome against the Jets. A Pats loss and the Bengals would move to No. 3 with a win but beating the Jets could force Cincy into facing division rival Baltimore or Pittsburgh in the opening round.
Many wonder if Cincy will tank just to win the right to take on rookie Mark Sanchez and his 26 interceptions, back to their place instead.
The stage is set. A stadium farewell. A win or else scenario. A national tv audience.
What a dramatic way to end what has been a roller coaster first season for coach Rex Ryan and the rookie Sanchez. 60 minutes away from the playoffs, the question is, can the Jets put it all together? It’s up to Gang Green now. They control their destiny. They are the owners of the chance to give Giants stadium one last glorious ride before it fades into the sunset. Before the Jets 2009 season fades into the sunset as well.
KEYS TO THE BENGALS:
Defense, It’s Time To Peak For the Jets to keep the season going past Sunday and to make any sort of serious run in January , it’s going to have to be on the defense. The Defense , ranked 1st in the NFL in yards given up, must now grow into a turnover and sack machine. The foundation is there. The pressure has been solid all year. The interceptions have risen in the past five weeks. Now can the Jets D elevate into a unit that creates short fields and scores points. Sunday the Jets will need some help from the D as once again Sanchez will be asked to manage the offense, not carry it.
Shonn Greene: Can Greene develop here on the stretch drive as well? The fumble prone rookie has proven that he can be a big time aid to a run game already churning with RB Thomas Jones as long as he holds onto the rock. If Greene can come into his own, the template may be set for the rest of 2009. Jones, Greene, a few throws mixed in, and a stifling D.
Night Time is the Right Time: The nutty Jet fan base combined with the final game in Giants stadium,and a “Win and in” game” has to prove to be an energy force all its own. Fireman Ed, get your game face on, this one’s big. As big of a game as Gang Green has ever played in a stadium short on memories for the Jets. Alcohol sales have been banned for the game. The Meadowlands knows better than to lend Jet nation more fuel to a fire that may help carry the Jets over the edge and into the postseason.