Sometimes being No. 1 is a time for fireworks and tickertape, sometimes only for reflection and resolve.
Today, at the end of the eighth week of the NFL season, it can be stated that the Jets have the best run defense in football. We've been No. 1 in yards per carry allowed for several weeks.
And after Monday night's game, for the first time this season — in fact, for the first time in 355 weeks, or since Week 11 of the 1991 season — we are listed as No. 1 in yards allowed per game, the category most often used to identify the NFL's "best rushing defense."
With all that said, what have we accomplished from this high perch? Not what we wanted to at Cincinnati. The Bengals were held to 79 rush yards, and the Jets defenders notched six more tackles at or behind the line, including two stonings of BenJarvus Green-Ellis at the 1½-yard line.
Yet that goal line stand delayed the Bengals' third of seven touchdowns by only about nine minutes of clock time. And the 3.2-yard per carry average by the hometeam didn't lead to the Jets being able to pin back their ears and harass Andy Dalton in the pocket.
Dalton was sacked only once, his five TD passes were the most by an opponent in almost 25 years, and the Bengals were the first team to hook up on three 40-yard-plus completions in a Jets loss since Mark Brunell and Jacksonville (and despite Wayne Chrebet) in 1996.
If anything, being the top dog against the run is not something to rejoice as much as it is to let us know that we are doing something very well but we need to do a lot more equally well if we are to prevent a similar fate against New Orleans at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
Like the Bengals, the Saints have a bottom-half-of-the-league rushing offense. But also like the Bengals, they have a strong-armed QB in Drew Brees and a top-10 passing attack that can "flat-out embarrass you" if you're not on your game, head coach Rex Ryan said Monday.
"Really, I have no idea where we stack up," Ryan said, in response not to any No. 1 ranking but rather to our 4-4 record at the season's midpoint. "I just know that it's pretty obvious that we have to get like a gazillion times better.
"But the thing that I'm encouraged with is I believe that we have the group that feels the same way, that we want to get better and we're going to work that way and do whatever we can to get better. I know we will and that's the encouraging thing from my standpoint."
That's when No. 1 really matters, when it spreads out from a small area into larger and larger areas. The Jets, run defense and all, need to feel as one to be ready to stand toe-to-toe with the Saints.