Just two weeks removed from a very solid 8-3 record and an upset win at then-undefeated Tennesse, which inspired talk of Gang Green’s first Super Bowl appearance in forty years, the Jets are suddenly hoping that the state of their season doesn’t ultimately rest with how they’ve fared in state of California.
The Jets have remarkably been one of the NFL’s best teams (8-2) outside of California, and yet one of the NFL’s worst teams in that state, going 0-3 against teams with a combined 13-26 record (San Diego and San Francisco are each 5-8, and Oakland is 3-10).
In fairness, the loss to the underachieving Chargers was back in Week 3 against a team which many thought had the talent to contend for a Super Bowl themselves, even following San Diego’s two season-opening losses by a combined three points to likely playoff teams Carolina and Denver.
However, the two Bay Area losses are ones that the Jets are hoping won’t ultimately cost them either a first-round playoff bye, a division title, or even the playoffs, period.
Though it’s never easy to win anywhere on the road in the NFL, much less traveling across country, the Jets could be kicking themselves come season’s end for being the only team the Raiders (1-5 in Oakland this year) have beaten at home in 2008 and for being only the second team with a winning record that the 49ers have defeated.
If you’re going to be a serious contender, it’s not enough to beat the likes of the now 12-1 Titans. You also have to take care of business against teams that by all accounts, you should beat. Though the Jets have done that elsewhere, they haven’t out west this season.
Thus, what appeared to be the Jets’ division to lose following their win over the Titans, has become a scrambled three-way tie for first place in the AFC East, with the Jets, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots all entering the final three weeks of the regular season with identical 8-5 records.
The Jets still controlling their own destiny within their division is even more important now that Sunday’s loss at San Francisco dropped the Jets a full game behind AFC wild-card leaders Indianapolis and Baltimore, which are each 9-4.
So now, the Jets’ season comes down to three more games that they figure to win, or at least, three games in which they’ll probably be favored.
Fortunately for the Jets, they’ve made their last trek to the Golden State this season. But, they must still prove they can win elsewhere on one last west coast trip, to Seattle, to face the 2-11 Seahawks, on December 21st.
Their other two remaining games will be home contests sandwiched around that Seattle game, against the 6-7 Buffalo Bills, and in the regular season finale, against Miami.
The Jets have already proven themselves as underdogs in tough places to win, like New England and Tennessee. Now, to have a chance at getting where they hope to go this season, they must close by winning more games they’re expected to win.
The Jets should be thankful that none of those will be in California.