Nineteen years ago, the Jets played their most meaningful game in Denver.
Bill Parcells was the head coach of a group of players who fit his mold to get to the AFC Championship Game. Grizzled veteran Vinny Testaverde had a career year, and the Jets had a real chance to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1969.
But Denver blew open a tight game with 20 points in third quarter en route to a 23-10 win behind Jon Elway, Terrell Davis and Mike Shanahan, the same trio that would win the first of two consecutive Super Bowls.
This Sunday, the Jets travel back to Denver for another meaningful game.
Yes, I realize both team’s fates have changed since their 1998 seasons.
The Broncos (3-9) are in a chaotic state as they have lost eight straight games and have been playing quarterback musical chairs. Rumors have begun to circulate about Elway’s status as Chief Bronco leading the charge in the Mile High Stadium. The team has totally imploded after an upbeat 3-1 start with new head coach Van Joseph.
For the Jets (5-7), it isn’t about keeping some faint playoff hopes alive. It is about continuing to justify their unexpected season and justifying an extension for head coach Todd Bowles.
The Jets woke up late in the first quarter after the struggling Chiefs awoke with 14 points in the first six minutes. They rallied to take a 21-14 lead at halftime and never relinquished it in a 38-31 nailbiter.
Their defense had a subpar afternoon, giving up too many big plays through the air along with Alex Smith’s 70-yard gallop that would lead to a score.
On the other hand, the Jets’ offense kept the ball for an incredible 42-plus minutes and produced 488 yards of total offense.
The Broncos managed only three field goals in a 35-9 loss to lowly Miami. Broncos’ quarterback Trevor Siemian completed only 19 of 41 passes for 200 yards with three interceptions and three sacks. Miami held lead running back C.J. Anderson to 67 yards.
Attention: Jets Defense. Here is an early Christmas present.
All of this should add up to a convincing Jets’ win. A needed and must one.
For the Jets to take another step to becoming a contender, they need to wrap this with a tight holiday bow. They should be over their fourth-quarter collapses, as the defense answered on the Chiefs final drive last week.
Josh McCown should be able to produce a similar 26-for-36, 331-yard game as he did against the Chiefs. The new three-headed running game of Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, and Eli McGuire should be able to provide a balance.
The Broncos are ranked fifth overall in defense – fifth in rushing and fourth in passing – but they are ranked 31st in points allowed. Go figure. That’s why this team is 3-9.
This won’t be a Testaverde-Elway type of matchup. And Parcells and Mike Shanahan won’t be on the sidelines.
It will be another step, however, for a team that looks ready to turn the corner and further secure the future of their current head coach.