Robert Saleh has often used wheeled-vehicle references to talk about the progress his Jets are or are not making at any given time. He even brought two cars into the same metaphor in August:
"When you're dealing with young guys, the excitement is like when you're driving on the freeway and you're on E and you're like, 'When's it going to happen?' It's like a rollercoaster."
Lately, though, the Jets have been riding two competing Kingda Kas. While the offense is picking up speed and rising up the NFL rankings, slowly in some areas, faster in others, the defense has been in freefall. After yielding 40-plus points and 500-plus yards at New England and Indianapolis, the Jets D went from feeling pretty good about itself after Tennessee to 32nd-ranked in yardage/game and points/game and tied for last with five takeaways on the season.
Two members of the unit, one a young man from the back end, another a senior member on the front end, acknowledged those issues early this week but were insistent that the Green & White defensive train will lift itself off of rock bottom and head back up the track.
"I think it really comes down to us just taking things day by day, doing our job, and not trying to do anything extra," CB Bryce Hall said. "We still have a lot ball left this year. Hearing from the older guys, when you're around the league any length of time, you're going to go through those patches of you're going to experience some great victories, you're going to get gassed a couple times. All that stuff's going to happen. It's just kind of the nature of the beast.
"So I don't really look at it as something like 'Oh my gosh, we've got a huge issue here.' I think we have the right dudes on this team and the right coaches and all that stuff. And so we're just going to figure out a way to get a handle."
"We just didn't play to our standard," veteran lineman Sheldon Rankins said, specifically focusing on the Colts' 260 rushing yards, 532 total yards and 45 points in the Thursday night loss. "To a man in the D-line room, we all feel like individually we're good enough to be able to create havoc and wreck games. For us to allow seven yards before contact [on run plays], that's not us.
"Just having to watch that tape, we have to understand it's out there and there's two ways you can go from that. You can either succumb to that or you can ride up above it and continue to work and get better and flourish down this stretch of football that we have."
A potential problem looms ahead with Buffalo paying a visit to MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The Bills are coming off a touchdown-less 9-6 loss at Jacksonville, yet they remain one of the top AFC teams led by Josh Allen and his thundering offensive herd.
"Obviously they have playmakers," Hall said. "And their quarterback, when you have that kind of a player, you've got to defend the first play and the second play. The key is going to be the strain to the finish. If the first play's defended, now we know he can move, he's mobile, his mentality is he wants to fight it out. He's made a lot plays that way. So, it'll be key for us to finish and get that done, especially this week."
No one said it would be easy. But as noted, the Jets have played better in their last two home games, both wins, and the Bills not as well in their last two road games, both losses.
Yet Rankins wasn't taking any solace or false confidence in tackling the Bills at MetLife.
"What it boils down to is it doesn't matter where you play," he said. "At the end of the day, the game is being played and we have to be able to go out there no matter if it's in the parking lot, if it's in the middle of the highway, practice field, MetLife, it doesn't matter where it is. We have to be able to go out there and make those plays to be able to help this team and we can't use anything like playing at home or playing away as a reason why we haven't been playing well. At the end of the day, our job is to play well. We have to do that a little bit better."
Saleh, the big dipper buff, agrees with his D-line guru about the site of this game and what it means for his defense and his team.
"The reality is you just do it the same. You treat both imposters the same, whether you win or you lose," Saleh said. "It's the rollercoaster of football. You lose, it's the apocalypse, it's the end of the world, it's Armageddon. You win and everyone wants to shower you with champagne and stuff. You've just got to stay in the moment and understand that there's ways to get better."
Yet not a lot of time left before the Bills come calling.