The New York Jets control their own destiny with just one game to go. Yes, that's right. Beat the Cincinnati Bengals at home next week, and the New York Jets, who were left for dead even by their own coach, just seven days ago, make the playoffs.
With Miami, Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Denver all losing, the Jets are now the #5 seed in the AFC, in line for a rematch against the Bengals in the playoffs. How did this happen? The Jets stopped perfection, beating the 14-0 Colts 29-15 in their own building.
Critics will look at the fact that the Jets outscored the Colts 19-0 when Peyton Manning left and dismiss what the Jets did, but it does not matter one bit. The Jets can only play who is out on the field. And in a 15-10 ballgame, the Colts took out Manning and put in backup Curtis Painter who simply could not lead the offense.
Not only that, but the Colts took out a number of defensive starters as well. The offensive line stayed in, and some defensive guys played, but the Colts pretty much gave up in the 2nd half, which kind of makes a football fan feel a little betrayed.
But as a Jets fan, who cares? The Jets control their own destiny, and like I said, they can only play who is on the field. Painter was atrocious, and his presence directly led to the Jets go-ahead touchdown on a Calvin Pace strip-sack recovered by Marques Douglas in the endzone.
Offensively, it wasn't really pretty, but the Jets' running game got into a groove late, and Shonn Greene and Thomas Jones were both great. Greene had 95 yards on 16 carries and Jones crossed the century mark with 105 on 23 carries.
Mark Sanchez only managed 106 yards through the air, but that was okay. The Colts' pass defense is very tough, and he did not turn the ball over. He was 12-19 and converted five first downs, so he did what the team needed him to do.
Speaking of 106, that was the amount of yards Brad Smith covered on the new longest play in Jets' history. Every kickoff from the Colts went about 5-6 yards deep into the endzone. Smith returned one back, and he made it count, going the distance to stun the Colts coming out of the 2nd half. He broke a few tackles on the way, and the special teams unit, which has been much maligned this season, gave the team a huge spark coming into the 2nd half, helping propel the team to victory.
The offensive line of the Jets deserves a ton of credit as well. Sanchez only had pressure on him twice when Dwight Freeney was inexcusably not blocked, but other than that, Sanchez had all day to throw, and the line created big holes for the backs to run through.
Defensively, they did a decent job against Manning and company in the first half. 9 first half points has to be a victory, but the Colts barely missed a couple of big plays that would have made that bigger. The Jets also blocked an extra point on the Colts' first touchdown, making the Colts chase points all game, and they converted on two two point conversions.
Would the Jets have beaten the Colts' starters? New York was losing when they came out, but they were right in the game. It feels a little cheap knowing that the Jets beat a paper Colts team in the 2nd half, but that is not their fault. Rex Ryan's team did what it had to do and shocked the world.
One more victory, and the Jets are going to the playoffs. And oh by the way, the Bengals probably will have nothing to play for either. I think there's a good chance the game gets flexed back to be the Sunday night game, given that it will no doubt be an impactful game in terms of the playoffs. The Bengals are locked into the #4 seed if New England wins, so if the Patriots win, Cincinnati will probably treat it as a bye week and not give the Jets an opportunity to scout. In that case, Jets' detractors will be out in full force, but they'll have an opportunity to beat that same Bengals team a week later.