The next four weeks will determine the Jets’ postseason fate
On December 20, 2009, Jets head coach Rex Ryan took the podium following a crushing last-second defeat to the Atlanta Falcons, 10-7.
“We’re obviously out of the playoffs, and that’s unfortunate,” he said about the Jets’ fall to a 7-7 record with two games remaining.
On December 12, 2022, Jets head coach Robert Saleh took the podium following a tough defeat to the Buffalo Bills, 20-12.
“We’ll see them again,” he proclaimed about the Jets’ fall to 7-6 against a divisional foe.
It’s ironic that the king of bold statements waved the white flag in his first year with the Jets. Yes, that’s the same Rex Ryan who made blustery Super Bowl predictions each season.
Meanwhile, the coach who said he wishes his receipts statement would just go away made a far more emphatic declaration of what he feels about his team.
The 2009 Jets had only two games remaining and the slimmest of chances to make the playoffs. They got a bit of a gift from the Indianapolis Colts, who benched Peyton Manning in favor of Curtis Painter to avoid injuries with their playoff spot already locked up. The Jets capitalized and won the game, 29-15. The following week, a 37-0 romp of the Cincinnati Bengals sent Giants Stadium into a frenzy, as the Jets clinched a wild card spot and set up a rematch the following week in Cincinnati.
The 2022 Jets, on the other hand, will have no such benefit. They are going to face four teams that still have playoff hopes. The red-hot Lions have won five of their last six games to pull into wild-card contention in the NFC. The Jaguars still have slim hopes with Tennessee’s recent malaise. The Seahawks are clinging to their playoff hopes after a brutal loss to the Panthers left them at 7-6 and on the outside looking in. And, of course, the season finale in Miami will pit two divisional foes who may have only one playoff spot to fight for.
Still, the Jets seem far more alive at 7-6 than their 2009 counterparts. For one thing, that one-game difference is a game that this year’s Jets can capitalize upon with a victory. For another, the 17th game and 7th wild card spot give much more hope to teams on the fringe than there was in years past.
The Jets’ locker room was surprisingly upbeat following their loss to the Bills. The team knows that they gave a top team a strong fight and that they’re still very much alive in the AFC playoff race. They have a quarterback who showed incredible guts and resilience, a dominant defensive tackle who took this season personally, and a rookie receiver who has emerged as a potential superstar.
Though there are no guarantees, Robert Saleh knows that his team is good enough to make it. He didn’t want to make it an actual guarantee, but that’s essentially what he did with his words: he believes his team will get into the dance. And once in the dance, as the 2009-10 Jets proved, anything can happen.