Before he braved the cold weather at practice, Chad Pennington met up with reporters for his weekly Wednesday media briefing. Pennington, who owns a smoldering right arm as December rolls on, dismissed any chance of playoff talk.
"You know what - in this league - all you ask for is an opportunity, and then for a chance to be successful and to have something to play for," Pennington said. "Right now, we are excited about where we are and our improvement every week. That stuff is important – the improvement we make every week. We are trying to get better and become a wholesome team."
The Jets' landscape sure appears different than it did two weeks ago. Prior to Thanksgiving, Pennington openly talked about his struggles in the passing game but he was excited to rectify things. Then he went out and ravaged a couple of secondaries while completing 49 of 66 for 549 yards and three touchdown passes, leading the Jets to landslide wins over both the Texans and then the Packers.
"I'm excited about the opportunity; I'm excited about having the chance just personally to play in December," he said. "December is a fun month and it is exciting for me. After injuries and missing games and things like that, it is exciting to be with your teammates on the field and put forth a winning effort."
This is uncharted territory for Pennington. Now in his seventh year, Pennington has yet to start more than 13 games in a regular season. But his upcoming start against Buffalo will mark the first time Pennington has started 13 consecutive contests in the same campaign. At 7-5, Pennington and the Jets have been one of the league's surprises.
"We've won through the team concept," he said. "One week it has been the offense to step up and another week it has been the defense to step up. Another week it has been the special teams providing huge plays whether it's scoring points or providing field position. Also what we have done a really good job of is finishing games. That is what it's about in this league."
In their previous meeting with the Bills, the Jets captured a 28-20 contest in Buffalo and were able to separate themselves in the second half. But Pennington, who completed 19 of 29 for 183 yards with one score in that September meeting, says the Bills are talented and dangerous.
"We are playing a tough team," he said. "The difference between us being 7-5 and Buffalo being 5-7 is less than a touchdown. They have won two out of their last three games.
"They are playing extremely well on both sides of the ball - they are complementing each other well on both sides of the ball," he added. "Their special teams are the best in the league, so this is huge task for us."
Pennington will study the Bills this week, but he will also be immersed in his offensive game plan. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer reminds his passers to think inside-out.
"You have to really concentrate on your own game plan and what you are doing," Pennington said. "If you don't understand what you are doing, you don't have a shot to even figure out what your opponent is doing. He has done a great job of that, and we have worked really hard in the quarterback room to really concentrate on the fine details of what we're doing."
Schottenheimer is an innovative play caller who is always looking for an advantage. Pennington was asked if he gets excited to see what Schottenheimer has in store in each week.
"It makes Tuesday meetings interesting – no doubt about that," he said. "And Wednesday morning is interesting to see exactly what he is thinking about certain looks and how we're going to use our personnel for the week. He has done a great job being very versatile and having multiplicity and using all the talents of our guys."
Against the Packers, Pennington completed his first eight passes to eight different receivers. The Jets knocked the Packers out early, but that's past history. There is another defense to attack, another round to be won.
"With Coach Mangini, what I have learned under him is just take the same approach week in and week out," Pennington said. "That is what our team has been able to do – win, lose or draw – to maintain the same approach, not be too high or too low and understand it's a marathon. It's a full 16-round fight. In the NFL, every round counts. Every game counts. You cannot let a game slip by or let one opportunity slip by."
Soon after the Jets trotted onto the field today, "Eye of the Tiger" blasted from the loudspeakers. Pennington, who has come back from two rotator cuff surgeries and a fight for his job in the summer, appears prepared to go the distance.
Wednesday Injury ReportJets
Questionable: FB B.J. Askew (foot), CB David Barrett (hip), LB Matt Chatham (foot), Eric Smith (foot) LB Bryan Thomas (shoulder) & S Rashad Washington (illness)
Probable:*RB Kevan Barlow (calf), *CB Andre Dyson (neck), *DE Shaun Ellis (ankle), *RB Cedric Houston (knee), DB *OL Pete Kendall (knee), *WR Justin McCareins (foot), *DL Rashad Moore (hand), *QB Chad Pennington (calf) & *WR Brad Smith (shoulder)
Bills Out: LB Angelo Crowell (fibula)
Questionable: LB John DiGiorgio (ankle), RB Willis McGahee (ankle) & CB Terrence McGee
*Denotes players who participated in practice