This is not where the Jets had envisioned being. At 5-5 and on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, they admittedly need to dig deep to get back to where they think they belong. It all starts Sunday when the struggling Buffalo Bills pay their annual visit to MetLife Stadium.
"Right now, you can't look ahead," LB Bart Scott said today in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room. "It's all about winning this game. Next week we'll try to win that one. We'll stack them up, and hopefully that's enough."
For Scott and the rest of the Jets defense, Thursday's loss to the Broncos was a nightmare. The Green & White played some of their most dominating defense all season, forcing seven three-and-outs and allowing only three of 13 third-down conversions.
However, with the game hanging in the balance, Broncos QB Tim Tebow drove a dagger through the Jets' collective heart. It may have been the only defensive hiccup of the game, but it came at the most inopportune moment.
"We played extremely well for a majority of the game, and then you give up a drive like that and it's all you remember," said S Jim Leonhard. "It takes a couple of days to get over it. All of a sudden you have to put it behind you."
With their backs now up against the wall, the Jets will concentrate on tightening up their play. Still, ugly wins and flashy wins all count the same. At this point, the Jets just want those W's.
"We have to play well, and we have to play well now," said Leonhard. "We can't afford to continue to play inconsistently. We've got to go out there and find ways to get wins. It doesn't have to be pretty, but we have to do whatever it takes to come out on top."
While Scott's notion of "stacking wins" one at a time is a common theme in the locker room, the team ultimately knows where its record must stand after Week 17.
"It takes about 10 wins most years to get in," said Leonhard. "Go ahead and do the math, it's pretty simple. We need to take care of business. We've put ourselves in a situation where it's not in our hands anymore."
The cliché of playing 60 minutes of football every game was reiterated on Thursday and taught the Jets a painful, yet valuable, lesson. Games sometimes come down to one play, and the next time it happens the Jets say they will be ready.
"You don't want it to come down to that, but that's what we signed up for," said Scott. "We can't give up a 95-yard drive, and we can't turn the ball over offensively. Even if we had won that game, those things would still come back and bite you."
With the Broncos squarely in the rearview mirror, the Bills lie ahead. Buffalo has dropped three straight and is tied with the Jets in the AFC East. As has been the case for the past several weeks, it's a pivotal game for both teams.
"They've hit a rough stretch," said Leonhard. "They're struggling offensively, and they're banged up a little bit. We like to think we put a blueprint out there on how to take some of their playmakers away and other teams have run with it. It's our job to go out there and make them continue to struggle."
In their Week 9 matchup, the Jets put forth one of their most impressive efforts of the season in their 27-11 victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium. They dominated the clock, possessing the ball for 37:52 and rushing for 126 yards. The defense lived up to its reputation, allowing the Bills to convert just three third downs in 11 opportunities.
Both sides of the ball will try to duplicate that performance on Sunday afternoon when the Jets will play the first game of their brand-new season.
"We definitely have an added sense of urgency," said Scott. "We've put ourselves in a tight spot. This next month and a half is crucial."