We're not advocating the Jets resort to superstition, but how about this, the weekend before Halloween, for spookiness?
Last year in Game 6 the Jets suffered a 16-13 overtime loss. It was a tough game, a sometimes ugly game. The Jets ran the ball very well, but mistakes prevented them from pulling out a victory in regulation. Then after 12:30 of overtime, they suffered a difficult defeat on a long field goal to fall dejectedly to 3-3.
Yet out of the ashes of that defeat came a five-game winning streak.
This year in Game 6 the Jets suffered a 16-13 overtime loss. It was a tough game, a sometimes ugly game. The Jets ran the ball very well, but mistakes prevented them from pulling out a victory in regulation. Then after 12:16 of overtime, they suffered a difficult defeat on a long field goal to fall dejectedly to 3-3.
Five-game winning streak, anyone?
Of course, the NFL doesn't run by Ouija boards, lucky coins and eerie similarities to past events. But perhaps coincidentally, the Jets can follow this script at least with a one-game winning streak.
Yet that will be the toughest part, because even though last year's trip to Oakland was for Game 6 and this year's is for today, Game 7, there is never a good time for a trip to the Black Hole. The Raiders were hurting, until Giants LB Antonio Pierce said playing them "felt like a scrimmage." The Silver & Black promptly went out and stunned the visiting Eagles, 13-9, last week and are now lying in wait for the Jets, who since 1999 have lost six of their eight visits to the Hole.
So throw out some other numbers, like the Raiders' 32nd-ranked overall and passing offense. And don't count on another 300-yard rushing game from the Jets' now No. 2 rushing offense vs. the Raiders' 28th-ranked run defense.
As guard Brandon Moore said about a front seven studded with old New England nemesis Richard Seymour, Greg Ellis, Gerard Warren and Tommy Kelly, "they're by far the best front seven we've faced all year."
On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with counting on the Jets' Ground & Pound approach after Thomas Jones rushed for a franchise-record and career-high 210 yards and the Jets piled up 318 yards against the Bills.
"It's something that you keep grinding and keep putting the carries on Thomas [Jones] and Leon [Washington]," said center Nick Mangold. "They did a great job, with Thomas breaking those big ones and Leon running hard. It's just been a building process. I think our confidence hasn't wavered as we've been doing it. We've been chipping at that tree, waiting for it to fall."
Jones said Friday not to bother chopping away at his trunk to count his annular rings, in response to a question about him being the exception to the rule that NFL running backs fall off a cliff after the age of 30.
"Whoever came up with that rule obviously didn't play running back in this league, didn't prepare like I prepare, didn't watch film like I watch film, didn't take care of their body like I take care of my body," Jones said. "I feel like a rookie. I don't feel like I've been in the league for 10 years. It's a mental thing.
"I love my teammates, I love watching film, I love getting ready to go out there and play the game. I have fun on Sundays, I have fun at practice. I can play another four or five years if I want to. I take care of my body and I'm blessed. So, the 30-and-up rule, I don't know who came up with that, but I'm not buying it."
Rex Ryan has bought into the running game, at least for public consumption. Asked Friday whether rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, without injured WRs Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith for a second game, will be doing even more handoffs than forward passes at Oakland than he did last week vs. Buffalo, the coach replied:
"That's what I'm telling everybody. That's our story, we're sticking to it."
Ryan's defense, meanwhile, has some adjustments of its own to make in its first full game without nose tackle Kris Jenkins, out for the season with his ACL tear. Jenkins' 360 pounds will be replaced by the "smaller" sizes of Sione Pouha (325), Howard Green (320), Marques Douglas (292) and Mike DeVito (298).
Pouha will be the pointman at first, and he's ready to step, if not into Big Jenks' shoes, at least into his role.
'Kris Jenkins is a humongous player, a four-time Pro Bowl player, an individual that has a presence. You can't not feel the effects of somebody like that," said Pouha. "The best thing I can do is not become a Kris Jenkins but become the best Sione I can be. The only thing I will try to parallel or mirror of Kris is his effect in the middle, his ability to clog the middle, his ability to be disruptive, to strike and get off and reestablish the line of scrimmage. That outcome is definitely what I want."
"He's a powerful man," Ryan said of the fifth-year Jet. "When his pads are down and he rolls off the football, he's a handful in his own right."
The Jets will also need to ratchet up their production on special teams — which won't be easy because of the big legs of kickoff/placekicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler — and cut back on those penalty figures of 14 flags for 96 yards vs. the Bills, both the most by a Jets team in 13 years.
As for battling the Oakland ambience, the Jets almost don't seem to worry about that. The field could be in the Sahara, in Siberia or on Saturn, but the task would be no different.
"We're not going out there for any other reason but to beat the Raiders," said right tackle Damien Woody.
"By any means necessary, we have to get a win," said linebacker Bart Scott. "It's important. We are what our record says we are. We have to get back on track. A few times, it's that one play, that one good thing that happens that turns things back around. I don't think that our losing streak has been from our lack of preparation. It's a lack of execution. We have to get back to doing the small things. I know it's redundant, but when you lose three in a row, that's what it is."
Now if Game 7 history (and not Oakland history) were to repeat in Northern California, the Jets certainly wouldn't object. But however it happens, the Jets are planning on there being a light at the end of the Black Hole later this afternoon.
Replacing Jenkins will be a concern the rest of this season. But at least for this first game, the numbers are favorable for the Jets. The Raiders' running game, without Darren McFadden for the third straight week, are ranked 28th in the NFL. And JaMarcus Russell is lagging at the bottom of the list of 38 quarterbacks with at least 20 drives in average plays per drive (4.4) and yards per drive (16.7), is tied for 35th in touchdown drive rate (6.7 percent) and is 36th in three-and-out drive rate (36.2 percent).