Our locker room is at that tipping point in many NFL teams' seasons. By that I mean we virtually but not mathematically eliminated ourselves from playoff consideration with Sunday's 30-20 loss at Carolina. So what's a good athlete to do?
Nick Mangold decided to put off the talk of another season without playoffs until all the outlying districts have reported in.
"The reality is there's still a shot for us, no matter how small it is," the Jets center said today at his Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker. "You want to play for the guys in this locker room, the guys who are coaching you, the fans out there believing, your family at home. There's still a sliver of hope there, so you go out and keep fighting as competitors that love this game."
Rex Ryan at today's news conference said he definitely made his team "certainly aware" of the thin playoff window "and that our guys will be rooting for Detroit tonight [at home over Baltimore]."
Fellow lineman Austin Howard expressed similar emotions after the game.
"Obviously we always wanted to make the playoffs," the right tackle said. "But we've always wanted to win for the mere fact that we have a lot of pride in this team. We work hard for the guy next to us. Everybody puts in a lot of hard work and we respect each other very much."
The reasons to keep focus against Cleveland this week and Miami to wrap things up on Dec. 29 are clear. A Baltimore loss at Detroit tonight keeps alive that "sliver" so keep winning to keep that hope alive.
But also, what good would feeling sorry for yourself with two more losses do for this program? My belief is that the foundation here is better this year than last year and in '11. Yet at 6-10, what evidence will the fans see between this year's team and last year's edition. A win or two in a small way validates the progress that everyone in the building feels sure has been made.
Or as Antonio Cromartie said late Sunday in the Bank of America visitors' locker room, "The biggest thing is we don't want to go 6-10 again."
It also may be sporting semantics, but one of the themes from many is that with the loss to Carolina, we have guaranteed that we will not have a winning record for three straight seasons. But what about the flip side of that perspective? At 8-8 we can also say we have had a .500 or better record in four of Rex Ryan's five seasons at the helm.
That won't always get you a playoff share, but it goes hand-in-hand with the progress that's been made and 8-8 should provide a small but tangible spark for each player to take into the offseason and on into 2014.
So on to Cleveland.
Geno's Got Legs
One part of our game plan that looked as if it might pay dividends Sunday was some of the designed runs by Geno Smith. The QB finished with 44 yards on six carries, and newyorkjets.com reporter Liz Gonzales wanted to know if, coupled with Geno's 5-for-50 vs. Oakland, Smith is the first QB in franchise history to put together back-to-back 40-yard rushing performances.
The answer is almost.
Only one other player has done that for the franchise and it was the original rushing quarterback, Al Dorow, who actually had three straight games in 1960 for the Titans of New York in which he rushed for 48, 49 and 43 yards.
The Plays Are the Thing
LB David Harris vs. the Panthers became our third player to go over 1,000 plays for the season, including special teams. S Dawan Landry and LB Demario Davis both cleared that hurdle last week and both are at 1,084 plays. Harris is at 1,051. ... Austin Howard missed his first two offensive plays of the season with a midgame injury but returned and said he's OK.
"Inside the Jets"
Check out tonight's "Inside the Jets" broadcast. Guest host is Larry Hardesty, and guests for Larry are T D'Brickashaw Ferguson, CB Darrin Walls and yours truly. The show will air on ESPN New York FM 98.7 after the Rangers game but will be streamed live on the ESPNNewYork.com site.