This could have been the most wonderful time of the year, the most in a lot of years for the Jets. They were 5-2 in October and thinking big things. They finished November 7-4 and were in the playoff picture and about to play those meaningful December games that GM Joe Douglas talked about.
But they suffered their third straight loss in December, to one of the NFL's really hot teams in the Detroit Lions at home on Sunday. And now the Green & White now face a double whammy. They have to win their last three games to give them a viable shot at a postseason berth. And they must begin that stretch with their last home game of the year, on three days of "rest," playing another on-fire foe, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"We don't have time to sulk over this," rookie WR Garrett Wilson said with the gravitas of a savvy NFL veteran. "We've got another game Thursday. We're back at the facility tomorrow. That is what it is. We've got to be ready. We know what's at stake. We wanted to finish this season undefeated. Losing this one only amplifies the next three. We can't lose. That's the mindset of the guys in this locker room."
"It hurt, but we made our own bed and we've got to fix it," LB C.J. Mosley said. "We'll wake up in the morning and get back to it. We've got a quick turnaround this week against another good team. We can't dwell on it. We just really have to get back to work and control what we can control."
Certainly the Jaguars and second-year QB Trevor Lawrence are "feeling good about themselves," head coach Robert Saleh said, especially after their 40-34 home win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday for their third win in their last four games. But the Jags are certainly not invincible — their last loss was by 40-14 on the road to the same Lions that eked out their 20-17 win over the Jets.
But the TNF bug will bite the Jets only if they let it. Perhaps the best thing for the Green & White will be to put their collective whole-body-and-mind tiredness on ice, attack practice for the next three days, and let the short week keep them focused on playing with and beating the Jaguars, much as they did in last year's 16th week, 26-21.
Saleh wasn't speculating on whether Mike White would be well enough to pass the medical team's muster and return as the starting QB or if Wilson would retain the position through the short week. But the coach did say that DL Quinnen Williams, who's in the midst of a monster career year but had to sit out the Lions due to a calf injury, "has a couple of hurdles he has to clear" but has "got a chance for Thursday."
DL Sheldon Rankins reminded that this week is not about executing a three-game win streak all in one Thursday night game but in making it one in a row and going from there.
"You've got to worry about one at a time," Rankins said. "We'll review this one, we'll get this one corrected, and then short week, on to Jacksonville. We've got to be able to get a win at home on Thursday."
"Watch this film and get it out of your head quick," TE C.J. Uzomah advised. "You can't really feel sorry for yourself. My mindset is always like you get the night. Whatever the game is, you get the night or you get the morning if it's a night game. Make sure you watch the tape, correct the tape. Watch it with your coach, talk about it with your coach. You have to let it go. That's the mindset.
"We have another game on Thursday that we have to win."