So with the bye weekend behind us, who are the real Jets?
Are they team that fell to two presumed top AFC contenders in Weeks 2 and 3, causing great angst among the Green & White fan base? Or are they the brawny bunch that put up points in record-book fashion and did enough right on defense to delay the development of an NFC upstart, prompting a favorable fan reaction?
We'll know soon enough, but it should be noted that the Jets have had the same feeling about themselves through the two-game losing streak and the win that they're still savoring as they return to work today to prepare for next Sunday's game against Cincinnati.
"Our locker room is really good," tackle Damien Woody said last week. "We've got a bunch of good guys, a bunch of good players, guys who enjoy being around each other. And that's rare. You don't find that all across the National Football League."
"I'm really comfortable here," quarterback Brett Favre said. "It's new to everyone — this facility, there's a lot of new faces on this team. The chemistry has worked out well, it's continuing to get better and will continue."
A popular story line last week was Brett at the Bye, and indeed it's very important to the success of the 2008 Jets for Favre to continue to show his continued comfort in running the offense and fitting into the team's new/old culture. That's why, he said on the "Jets Two-Minute Drive" radio show last week, he mentioned telling Woody late in the loss to the Chargers that "I'm very, very happy I'm here."
"I just wanted to make that point after the [Arizona] game to the media that not only on the way back from San Diego but throughout this camp and the first quarter of this season, I know I made the right decision," Favre said. "I'm excited about being here. I have no idea how the season will unfold. We're 2-2 at this point. The only thing we can control is what we do today and get ready for Cincinnati. But I feel like I made the right decision and no matter what happens I'm glad I made that decision."
Just a Normal Guy
The fact that Favre still led the NFL in touchdown passes (12) and passer rating (110.8) through Sunday's afternoon games speaks to that. So does the offense's steady increase in production, from one TD vs. New England to four at San Diego to six against Arizona.
"Brett brought a lot of things to this team," Woody said. "Everybody knows what type of player he is, the type of person he is. He really loves football, he just loves the camaraderie, and we have a lot of veteran guys on offense."
And No. 4's steadying effect has naturally filtered over to the defense.
"I think Brett is just a team guy," defensive end Kenyon Coleman said. "The kind of player he is, what he's shown himself to be, you can assume certain things from the public eye about how he's going to be. But he's the type of guy, if you sat with him and you didn't know who Brett Favre is, you would just think he's a normal guy."
But it's as much about all the other new players and the annual process of putting together a team that can compete at the highest level as it is about Favre alone.
"I like the way that the guys, coming from a lot of different places, whether it's the draft, free agency, whatever the case may be, the way that they have seemed to form a closeness," head coach Eric Mangini said. "We want to see that continue on. I think it's different when you play on a team, and then you play for a team with guys that you really like. I think it's a different level of performance that usually follows that."
"Before anything, you want to bring in good guys, good character guys," Woody said. "That's one thing the front office and Coach Mangini have done a really good job of, bringing really quality guys, bringing leadership into the locker room. You combine that with the guys that were already on the team, then you've got something going."
Seeing the Potential
As for what's in store for the final three-quarters of the season, there weren't any Namathian guarantees uttered last week but there is definitely a good vibe.
The defense, of course, has had some great positives — the run defense, 13 sacks (putting them on pace for 52 for the season, a figure reached only once before in franchise history), the flurry of takeaways against Arizona. Then, of course, there was the 361 passing yards and 35 points yielded to the Cardinals in the second half.
"There's definitely room for improvement," Coleman said. "I think we're playing physically as a defense. Overall I like the team's chemistry. We just need to build from this."
"That sounds good," Favre said when the personal and franchise records he set against the Cards were brought up. "The most important stat, obviously, is wins and losses. We're 2-2 and that's not acceptable, but it is what it is. There's a lot of things we've got to improve on in all phases, but all in all it's not a bad start. I think we see the potential this team has."
"We want to enjoy ourselves, go out and have fun, play with a lot of emotion," said Woody. "I think that's when you play your best ball. We want to continue doing that. Practicing and playing together, just being around each other, it's going to be better and better and better as the season goes on.
"I'm really looking forward to it."