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Jets Are Closer to Playoffs Than You Can Imagine

Bilal Powell #29 of the New York Jets runs for yardage during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 9, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida.

In the first half of the Jets' 17–10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday afternoon, Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley fumbled, and a Jaguars defender picked it up and ran it back for a touchdown. It turned out the play was reversed on replay — the fumble counted, but the touchdown didn't — but at the time, it looked like a devastating moment. Analyst Solomon Wilcots succinctly pointed out the state of the Jets these days: "Well, you can't blame that one on Mark Sanchez." The Jets quarterback situation has regressed to the point that when a player other than Mark Sanchez makes a mistake, you feel obliged to note that that one, at least, wasn't Mark Sanchez's fault. And yet: The Jets somehow keep winning.

Here's another way to put it, from ESPN New York: "Embattled starter Mark Sanchez didn't play well, but he also didn't implode." Hey, whatever works. After a miserable first half — the score was 3–0 Jacksonville at halftime — the Jets just started giving the football to Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell over and over. It worked: The two backs ran for 78 and 77 yards, respectively, and each scored a touchdown. The Jets took quick control in the third quarter and held off a late Jaguars drive that could have tied the game.

It is worth pointing out that this is pretty much the opposite of an impressive win. The Jaguars were playing backups at essentially every offensive position, and, oh yeah, are 2-11. But the Jets didn't pull their quarterback once, and they won. First time that's happened in a while. Sanchez actually took every snap, something that was certainly in question at halftime. In many ways, this was totally cued up to be a Tim Tebow game. He was the only other dressed quarterback, Sanchez was lousy again, they were in Tebow's home state of Florida, and, just to cap it all off, next week's game at Tennessee is a Monday Night Football nationally televised matchup. ESPN would have gone into bunker mode had Tebow finished and won this game. We perhaps should thank Rex Ryan for saving us from that.

So: You realize the Jets have a real chance to make the playoffs, right? Seriously. With Pittsburgh's loss yesterday, they're only a game out of the last playoff spot, with three weeks to go. To repeat, the Jets' opponents those final three weeks: at Tennessee, vs. San Diego, at Buffalo. If they win those games — and they'll be favored in each one — they merely need Pittsburgh to lose twice, real possibilities against Dallas and Cincinnati the next two weeks. (Pittsburgh's loss yesterday did wonders for the Jets.) This Jets team refuses to die, no matter how hard they try.

Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images