The Jets' 27-11 victory at Buffalo on Sunday was a critical step in the right direction. Coupled with a New England loss, the Jets, Bills and Patriots all sit atop the AFC East at 5-3. As important as the victory in Buffalo was, the Jets were all business on Monday.
"We've known all along that it's going to come down to November and December," said S Jim Leonhard. "We had a rough patch earlier this year but we came out of it, and now everything is in front of us."
Directly in front of Leonhard and the Jets are the Patriots. Coming off of two consecutive losses, the Patriots are 2-1 in the division, holding an advantage over the Jets in the AFC East due to their 30-21 victory over the Green & White in Week 5.
"You look back at that game, we did a lot of good things, but we weren't good enough to win," said Leonhard. "It's not like we brushed it under the rug. We learned a lot from it and obviously we've moved on."
That loss was the last in a string of three in a row, which put the Jets at 2-3 and struggling for answers. Now in the midst of a three-game winning streak, the team is continuing to improve.
"Through experience, there are ups and downs to a season," said G Brandon Moore. "We lost three and it didn't look too bright there. But we've gotten better from it, and I think we're a better team for it. We're in good position now as far as controlling where we end up at the end of the season."
The defense has shored up the few weaknesses they may have had, allowing an average of only 12.7 points over the last three games. That kind of production makes life on the offense much easier, leading the unit to get back to its "Ground and Pound" roots.
"Our formula works for us," said Moore. "Run the ball, completions, efficiency on third down, defense getting stops, capitalizing on turnovers — that's the formula. If we want to win, we have to play like that on Sunday."
The Jets have averaged 130.7 yards rushing during the last three games, well above the 76.2 yards they averaged over the first five. The offense is converting 40 percent of its third-down opportunities, while the defense is allowing third-down conversions only 31.4 percent of the time, second-best in the NFL.
"We got our confidence back," said Leonhard. "When you start losing football games, you start questioning things. We've gotten back to what works for us. If we do those things, and someone beats us, you tip your hat to them and we move on. Now we feel like we're back to playing the brand of football we're used to."
Although still early in the week, there is already a growing buzz surrounding Sunday night's game against the Pats at MetLife Stadium. The football world is well aware of the sudden struggles of New England, but don't tell that to the Jets.
"They're a team that doesn't panic," said Leonhard. "They've been through this before, and they know what it takes. Their backs are against the wall, just like us a couple of weeks ago, and they'll come out swinging. They're going to give us everything they've got."