In essentially an exhibition game, the Jets whipped the Buffalo Bills 38-7 to close out the regular season.
The Jets held out LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene, Darrelle Revis, and Antonio Cromartie, while Mark Sanchez played just one series, not throwing a single pass. Other starters like Nick Mangold and Dustin Keller barely played at all. And even without all of these players, the backups stepped up and not only won the game, but imposed their will on the Bills.
Buffalo was relegated to third string quarterback Brian Brohm, and it showed. In just his second career start, he was overwhelmed by the Jets, who forced six turnovers by the time the game was over. The Bills' offense managed just 162 yards and zero points. The only touchdown was scored on an ill-advised throw by Mark Brunell that Bills' safety Jairus Byrd returned 37 yards for the score.
It was a simply dominant performance by the defense. The only chance the Bills had of scoring was on their very first drive. But safety Emanuel Cook stripped Steve Johnson, and Dwight Lowery recovered it. The Bills never returned to the red zone the rest of the game.
Offensively, without the quarterback, runningbacks, and center, it was a very stripped down Jets' attack. But it didn't matter. Rookie Joe McKnight became the workhorse, getting 32 carries for 158 yards. The much maligned rookie had a huge game, showing patience and burst through the hole, as well as showing off talents returning punts, catching passes, and covering kicks. Fullback John Conner also added 44 yards and a touchdown on 8 carries in a game where the backups received most of the playing time.
You couldn't have written a better script for the Jets. They got the win in dominant fashion while still able to rest their starters. Momentum switches week to week, but a performance like this without the team's stars must be a confidence boost heading into the playoffs.
With Kansas City losing to Oakland, the Indianapolis Colts clinched the #3 seed and the right to host the Jets in the first round of the playoffs. Peyton Manning's team ended the Jets' season last year 12 months ago on the same field, prompting Rex Ryan to acquire Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson to improve the secondary. Now is the time to prove the Jets have made the necessary strides.
Obviously, it's more desirable to face a Matt Cassel-led team than a Manning-led team in the playoffs, but the Colts are a shell of what they were last season. Arguably, Manning's two favorite targets, Dallas Clark and Austin Collie, are injured, and the running game has been inconsistent all season. Defensively, Indianapolis has struggled stopping the run, and the secondary hasn't made many big plays this season. Any team with Manning at quarterback is very dangerous, but the Jets may be the better team.
If the Jets can get by the Colts, their revenge tour would continue in New England. There's a very good chance the Jets need to face Manning, Brady, and Roethlisberger on the way to the Super Bowl, all on the road. This is the hole the Jets have dug themselves. Now, their backs are against the wall. Four wins in a row will bring the first Super Bowl title to the green and white since 1969. Nobody thinks the Jets can do it, but as long as Rex Ryan is inspiring the team, you can never count the Jets out. For despite all of Ryan's bravado, the Jets remain the underdog, albeit a dangerous one.