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Jets Fall — Hard — to Chargers, Jarring Season’s Outlook

It is not a pleasant morning to be a New York sports fan. In a four-hour span last night, the Flushing Nine and the East Rutherford Eleven suffered humiliating, overpowering, and potentially fatal losses. The situation is critical.

The positioning of the Mets changes so dramatically day by day that to focus on them, and their fluctuating playoff dreams, would require not only a graphic calculator but a plunger. Instead, let’s look at the Jets. The excitement of bringing in Brett Favre this season raised a beleaguered fan base’s hopes, and the week one season-ending injury to Tom Brady appeared to open up the AFC East to all comers. With a damaged Patriots team, a rebuilding Dolphins squad, and a team in Buffalo that’s entirely untested, the opportunity was there for Favre to polish his legend in a whole new place. Everyone believed, so much so that they eagerly ignored a lackluster week one win over the Dolphins — a game the Jets were awfully close to losing.

Then the Jets looked pallid against the Patriots, causing even the most loyal die-hards to wonder if they were ever gonna beat those guys. But after last night’s Monday Night Football devastation by the San Diego Chargers, in which the Jets looked like not just the worst team in the AFC East, but the worst team in football (other than the Rams), it might be time to adjust one’s enthusiasm. The Jets did not lose last night because Eric Mangini was too conservative, because Brett Favre didn’t know the offense well enough, or because the new free agents were still meshing. They lost because they were blown off the field. They lost because the Chargers were so dramatically better than they were that no one could even pretend otherwise afterwards. The Jets were 4–12 last year. Last night, whether Brett Favre’s playing well or not (and he wasn’t), was a reminder why.

It’s getting late in the season earlier than you think. The Jets are now 1–2, two games behind the Bills. One can argue that their most critical game this year comes this weekend, hosting the Arizona Cardinals. If the Jets can win — and they will be favored — they’ll go into the bye week at .500 and prepping for three very winnable games against Cincinnati, Oakland, and Kansas City. If they lose, the season itself could well be lost; the schedule becomes far more difficult toward the end of the year. But no matter what happens next week, last night made one thing clear: The Jets are light-years away from being an elite NFL team. Recalibrate expectations accordingly.

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Photo: Getty Images