It has been quite a few years since the Jets have played four games as meaningful as those remaining in the 2022 regular season.
As head coach Robert Saleh said on Wednesday: "You don't have to worry about the scoreboard if you take care of your own. We control our own destiny. Don't count on somebody else to take care of your job."
The arithmetic is simple for the Green & White (7-6): Win Sunday against the visiting, red-hot Detroit Lions (6-7), then turn around on a short week and complete their home slate of games with a victory against Jacksonville (5-8) on Thursday night, Dec. 22.
"Every team the Jets play have playoff aspirations," the team's former linebacker Bart Scott said on the Week 15 edition of "The Official Jets Podcast," with team reporter Eric Allen. "So, you're going to get the best of them. If the Jets go to the playoffs, they're going to earn it. Essentially the playoffs start now for the Jets."
The Jets are coming off a pair of close and frustrating losses against two 10-win teams (at Minnesota and at Buffalo). Getting back on the winning track begins Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the revitalized Lions, before QB Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars (winners of 2 of their last 3 games) come to town for a night game three days before Christmas.
The Lions "are hitting on all cylinders," Scott said. "They have confidence, they just beat a team in the Vikings [34-23] who you couldn't beat, and they beat them handily. Let's see how they play, they don't play the same way when they're indoors at home. So, let's see, they're coming into the elements and let's see if they can handle this kind of football. You never know what you're going to face when you walk into the Meadowlands."
After a 1-6 start, Detroit has gone on a 5-1 tear, averaging 32.2 points a game the past five weeks. Over that span, QB Jared Goff has hit on 8 TD passes (without an interception) for a 107.9 QB rating. One of the Lions' strengths is an offensive line that has given up the third-fewest sacks (19) this season. Detroit has been particularly efficient in the red zone, converting a league-high 74% of the time.
In addition, Lions head coach Dan Campbell has shown he's willing to take chances -- Detroit have gone for it on fourth down 28 times this season, third-most in the NFL; and over the past two seasons they have pulled off 7 fake punts.
"They [the Jets] had better take care of business," Scott said. "They have to win some games. Whenever you let games get away from you they come back to bite you in the butt. Now you've got the Lions and Jacksonville and you have to go and beat Seattle and beat Miami [both on the road]. It's easier said than done. If it was easy to do, everyone would do it.
"It's how you make your name, it's how you make your fame. When the chips are down what do you do?"
The day after the Jets' 20-12 loss at Buffalo, Saleh told his players and shared with reporters his belief that the Jets could possibly end up facing the Bills again at Highmark Stadium in the playoffs.
"I think that goes over well [with the players]," Scott said. "It'll be wild-card week, you're not favored. You need to get your mind right for the concept of coming back there and playing in that environment when the stakes are higher."
As the Jets prepare for Sunday's game, questions remain about the availability of QB Mike White (ribs) and DL Quinnen Williams (calf). For Scott, Williams -- who notched his career high 10th and 11th sacks last week-- is potentially the league's Defensive Player of the Year. The Madbacker said he also agrees with Saleh's decision to elevate Zach Wilson from his inactive status the past two weeks to the No. 2 signal-caller.
"Think about the team and the impact and change from last year in almost every [defensive] category and the big difference is that Quinnen has been dominant," he said. "Why not Defensive Player of the Year? From an interior lineman standpoint, he's got the same sack total as these outside guys. Why not?"
He added: "And if Zach had done enough to prove he's healthy and has better fundamentals, I think Zach should be the backup."
Though the Jets are in the playoff hunt, to some people -- including Scott -- they are playing with house money since few expected such a quick turnaround after last season's 4-13 record. A rejuvenated defense, and an influx of talented rookies and key free-agent acquisitions have made a huge impact.
"This is almost a bonus year, you take it as far as you can go," Scott said. "Build off it with draft equity and cap space."
He added: "Don't forget [the guys out injured] Mekhi Becton, as well as [Breece] Hall and AVT [Alijah Vera-Tucker]. They can go out and improve this team, and as I said before, the value and beauty of this season's team is telling people it's safe to come here. That we have adults in the room and have a plan and maybe you can help us get to where we need to go. Guys are going to consider the Jets as a place to play meaningful reps and football. They're no longer saying 'why the Jets.' No, they're saying 'I hope the Jets.' "