When the Jets resume practice Monday in Florham Park, they will face a test. With six games remaining in their 2017 regular season, what will their mindset be?
"Now at 4-6, I don't think it's about the game of football as much as it's about you as a man, and what you believe in and what you stand for and what you want your individual performance to look like, and then how that will affect the team's performance," said Chad Pennington on The Jets Official Podcast Network. "That's what it comes down to when you get into this type of situation. When you're 4-6 and you have six games left, it could go anywhere between 4-12 and 10-6 or somewhere in between. You are going to be tested as a man and as a professional to continue to fight and grind and play as hard as you can, play as smart as you can and try to find ways to get a victory. That's really the biggest challenge."
Before departing for the Bye Weekend, Todd Bowles reiterated to reporters that Josh McCown will be his club's quarterback during the stretch run. Despite struggling in a 15-10 loss at Tampa, McCown is on pace to throw for 3,587 yards and 22 touchdown passes — both would shatter personnel bests. The 38-year-old McCown also ranks No. 3 in completion percentage, connecting on 69% of his attempts.
"Coaches have to coach to win football games and they have to put the players out there who are going to give them the best chance to win. And right now, Josh McCown does that. And what Josh McCown also does is he's playing good football where the coaching staff can evaluate the entire team," Pennington said. "You put a young quarterback in that's going to have his ups and downs and not play consistent, it makes it very difficult to evaluate other positions as an organization and that's important as you're trying to build for the future.
"It's not just about the quarterback position — you have to be able to have a chance to evaluate all positions and when a quarterback is playing well behind center, it gives you a chance to do that more consistently," he added. "That's what Josh has allowed this organization to do up to this point this season."
Bowles will search for more consistency from his team after the break and that means eliminating mental errors. Penalties prevented early offensive rhythm in Tampa and helped the Bucs seal the game on a back-breaking late drive. Entering Week 11, only the Seahawks (94-780) had more penalties charged and penalty yards accumulated than the Jets (81-739).
"Consistency starts with focus and concentration and being technically sound. You can't have offside penalties and false starts and holding penalties and illegal formations and illegal motions and things like that are just negative for your offensive football team," Pennington said. "It creates a negative aura, which is not good. Secondly, it has to be more consistent on first and second down in mixing the run and the pass and getting positive yards."
Top Photos from the First 10 Games of the 2017 Season
Schedule SnapshotWeek 12 vs. Carolina (7-3): The streaking Panthers have won three consecutive games and are 4-1 on the road. They boast a tenacious defense that ranks No. 1 overall (278 Yds/G), No. 2 against the run (80.6 Yds/G) and No. 4 against the pass (197.4 Yds/G). The Panthers haven't turned clubs over though and their -7 turnover differential places them tied for 28th.
Week 13: Kansas City (6-3): After starting 5-0, the Chiefs have dropped three of their past four contests. Kansas City has turned it over a league-low four times as Alex Smith has compiled some eye-popping numbers with 18 TD passes and one INT. He has explosive targets around him in RB Kareem Hunt, TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreek Hill.
Week 14 @ Denver (3-6): The Broncos have lost five consecutive games, but they still sport a 3-2 mark at Mile High. OLB Von Miller, who has racked up 81.5 sacks in seven pro seasons, has eight in nine games. After scuffling with Trevor Siemian, the Broncos have turned over the offensive controls to the 6'7" Brock Osweiler. Denver has uncharacteristically yielded 40-plus points in back-to-back games and had a horrendous special teams performance in a loss to the Patriots last Sunday.
Week 15 @New Orleans (7-2): The Saints are cruising, having won seven in a row. The run game has been the story down on the Bayou with the Saints dominating in the trenches and Mark Ingram (144-672-7TD) and rookie Alvin Kamara (64-417-4TD) are starring on a team that is No. 3 on the ground (142.2 Yds/G) and whose 14 rush touchdowns rank No. 1. The Saints are also sixth in scoring defense at 18.3 Pts/G. This will be a homecoming for Jets offensive coordinator John Morton, who served a couple of stints under Sean Payton. And Payton just lured former Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff out of retirement to oversee his special teams group in New Orleans.
Week 16 vs. LA Chargers (3-6): Running back Melvin Gordon is the focal point of the offense, producing four touchdowns both running and receiving. Defensively, the Chargers feature a talented tandem on the edge in Melvin Ingram (8.5) and Joey Bosa (9.5) have combined for 18 sacks. The Jets will have opportunities to run on Christmas Eve as the 'Bolts surrender a league-high 135.1 Yds/G and healthy 4.7 yards a pop.
Week 17 @ New England (7-2): After a non-descript start, the Pats have won five in a row. They remain the favorite in the AFC, humming along with the NFL's top offense and a defense that ranks No. 32 in yards allowed (408.3 Yds/G) but more importantly No. 14 in scoring (21.7 Pts/G).