This holiday season hasn't been memorable for the Jets.
Before Thanksgiving, they were 8-3 and the playoffs seemed to be a certainty. But a swoon ensued and they'll be on the outside of the postseason tournament dance tournament on Christmas Day.
That ominous forecast could change by the New Year. The Green & White will qualify for the tourney with a home win over the Dolphins in the season finale coupled with either a Patriots loss in Buffalo or a Ravens loss to Jacksonville.
"We're ready to move on. We can't control what happened a couple of days ago," said Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. "We can control the future. We know it's kind of tough —we need the Patriots to lose and the Ravens to lose — but we're just going to focus on us. We just have to keep a narrow path to focus on Miami."
For a while, the Jets became the hunted. After a .500 start in the first quartet of games, they caused the league to take notice as they won six of seven, including a thrilling overtime win at New England and then a trouncing of the then-undefeated Titans.
"When you play at a high level, games just get harder and harder and harder. I kind of can attest to what New England has experienced the last couple of years because every time they play a team, they're going to get their best game," said defensive captain Shaun Ellis. "You have to rise above that and continue to play your best ball. I think that's where we kind of wavered a bit there."
Even though the Jets don't have any recent championship banners, Ellis' thought has merit. After the Broncos came into the Meadowlands and stunned the Jets, rookie running back Peyton Hillis spoke about Denver's pregame mindset.
"I knew coming in here today it was going to be a good day for us. The team was real motivated today," said the rookie, who became the first back to rush for 100 yards on the Jets. "Especially with all the commentators saying we shouldn't even get off the plane. That kind of fired up me and the team and we just went out there and played our best."
And so did the 49ers and so did the Seahawks. Even the Bills — the only team the Jets have defeated over the past month — played well before being turned away in the final moments.
"It's a shock. We didn't expect this. It's tough, man," Revis said. "We just have to stick together as a team and move forward. Nobody in this locker room wants to lose."
This is a team that intends to end the season on a high note. The reality, though, is the Jets could destroy the Dolphins on Sunday and still miss the postseason. Miami, a 10-5 club that hasn't lost a game between Thanksgiving and Christmas, will wrap up an improbable division title with a road victory in the finale.
"We both are fighting for playoff chances. For us, we want to go 10-6 and we want to be 5-1 in the division," Ellis said. "I think that says a lot about where we came from last year [4-12]. It's real important for us to go out and get this win."
Six years ago the Jets faced a similar fate. To gain postseason entry, they had to get help from either the Falcons or the Patriots, then they had to beat Brett Favre's Packers in their regular-season finale.
Things looked bleak as the Jets prepared for their late afternoon affair with Green Bay. Cleveland held on to top Atlanta on a late goal line stand, eliminating the Jets from wild card contention. And Miami held a double-digit fourth-quarter lead over New England. But the Patriots somehow came back to tie, and when Adam Vinatieri struck a 35-yard field goal in OT, 80,000 Jets fans in the Meadowlands rejoiced.
That Pats' win gave the Jets control of their divisional fate and they went out and smashed the Pack, 42-17, to take the AFC East.
So there is some history there, but the Jets can't waste any time this week analyzing the Pats/Bills or the Ravens/Jags matchups.
"We know Miami and they know us well," Revis said. "It's going to come down to a close game. It's a rivalry game for us."
The teams opened the season down in South Florida and the Green & White escaped with a 20-14 victory as Revis halted a Chad Pennington comeback bid with an end zone interception in the final seconds.
"We beat them the first time, so they're going to be extra hungry and they have a lot on the line, too, so we're going to get our best effort," Ellis said. "I think it's going to be a great game."
While the Jets own a 5-2 mark at home, the Dolphins have won three consecutive road outings and hold an impressive 5-2 record on the road. Somebody's going to do some celebrating Sunday and the Jets wouldn't mind a pre-New Year's party.
"We want to take the momentum fast, try to cause some turnovers and even try to score on defense," Revis said. "We know the crowd's going to be there and they're going to be excited. They're nervous right now, but we need the crowd to help us win this game."