The Jets won their third straight game last Sunday against Kansas City, 37-10, in a game that was not even as close as that score would indicate. This game was easily the Jets best performance of the season. The offense started (inexplicably) with a timeout, then proceeded to dominate both lines of scrimmage. The Jets broke to a 28-3 lead, holding the Chiefs to a total of four yards of offense in the first half. Mark Sanchez was efficient, scoring four touchdowns (two rushing, two passing) and playing mistake-free football, and Shonn Greene had a career-high 187 yards from scrimmage. The Jets played the way a good team is supposed to play, putting away a lesser opponent at home with a complete performance on both sides of the ball.
New York has picked the right time of year to be rounding into form. They were fortunate enough to get losses from both Tennessee and Cincinnati last week, which means that the Jets now control their playoff destiny. If they win out, they get the #6 seed and a trip to play the #3 seed during Wild Card weekend.
The first (or fourth, depending on how you look at it) step to that path is today in the late window against Mike Vick, Shady McCoy, and the rest of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have been disappointing, never living up to the hype generated by their rash of free agent signings before the season, but they did look pretty good last week in dispatching the Dolphins. The Eagles pass rush was able to generate nine sacks, disrupting Miami in an easy win. The ability (or inability) for the Jets to handle that pass rush will be the key to the game. When Sanchez has time and space to step up in the pocket, he is much better decision maker and a more accurate thrower.
If the Jets are able to protect Sanchez enough so that he can be efficient throwing the ball, the rest of the Jets offense flows like water. The Jets defense has to deal with a big play offense that leads the NFL in plays of over 20 yards. The Eagles will take chances to make big plays, which means there are opportunities to force turnovers for their opponents. The Jets lost Jim Leonhard for the rest of the season last week, which means for the second consecutive year, the back end of the defense will have to cope with different personnel during key late season matchups. I expect the Jets to handle the situation better than they did last season.
This will be a difficult test for the Jets, but will reveal much about who they are as a team. The Jets have struggled on the road all season, and, to advance in the playoffs (if they get there) they will need to prove to themselves that they can travel anywhere and win. There is no better time than now to begin teaching themselves that this, and all other things, are possible.
Kickoff from Philly is at 4 pm today.