These are the times that try green and white souls.
The good vibe of the Jets posting big wins on alternate Sundays over good teams and surprising many of the experts have been forgotten in the wake of this two-game losing streak. We are about to enter December in all probability needing a five-game winning streak just to be in the postseason conversation.
Muhammad Wilkerson put it in grim 12th-month perspective in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room this afternoon a day after the 19-3 loss at Baltimore:
"At this point every game is a must-win," Wilkerson said. "These last five games, it's at the end now. We've definitely got to make sure we get these wins. We've got to make sure and prepare real well and execute our game plan and get the win against Miami. It's a division opponent so we have to make sure we get this win."
Certainly the lingering feeling is that as much as the offense struggles to convert third downs and score points, as hard as it's been for the defense to rein in those 50-yard pass plays, the last two weeks will be a bad memory if we can right our ship at home. That has been the one constant this year after all the fun we and others had at the Jets' "picket fence" tendencies. Home has been where the winning is this season.
But after Miami and Oakland the next two Sundays, what about the Carolina monster that will be waiting for us in Charlotte? And after the final home game vs. Cleveland, it's back to Miami to close out ... what?
The task is a difficult one for any 5-6 team. The Jets have closed 5-0 only twice in franchise history — in 1998, when that fine team started 7-4, and in 1974, when that struggling group opened 2-7 and finished 7-7. Only five other Jets teams finished with even a 4-1 closing kick.
Then there's this: In the AFC since the division and playoff realignment in 2002, 20 teams have gone 5-6 in their first 11 games. None of them won their last five games. And only one made it to the playoffs.
Give yourself a green star if you remember that it was Rex Ryan's first Jets team in 2009 that pulled themselves up from 5-6 to finish 9-7 and squeak in as the sixth seed.
But control of our destiny has fallen from our hands. As unlikely as it was before Baltimore, a six-game run of the table would have secured a playoff berth for the Jets. But the loss drops us into a six-way tie for the last berth and the tiebreakers don't look good against the likes of the Titans, Steelers and Ravens, all of whom have wins over the Jets.
Yet the Jets can't eat the entire elephant this week. All they can do is pack away the Dolphins for the first win that matters. The mindset to take on this task is what matters the most now.
"We've got to take it one day at a time," QB Geno Smith said today. "We can't be distracted by anything else outside of this building. We have a game to focus on this week. It's going to be extremely important to us, a division rival and another big game for us. But we've just got to take it one day at a time, one game at a time."
"We're in five one-week seasons," LB David Harris said after the game Sunday. "It's still not over."
"You know it's frustrating," Mo said today of the Ravens loss. "But we've got five games left and we've got to make sure it doesn't happen again."