Jets picking up speed as postseason nears - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather

Tom Curran,

Jets picking up speed as postseason nears

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The noise on the Jets' plane Sunday evening was deafening.

"I'm sorry," Kris Jenkins shouted over the din. "We're just having a little raffle here and Eric Barton won."

To the victors go the raffles. And the happy plane rides home. After a 34-13 crunching of the previously perfect Tennessee Titans, Gang Green was giddy.

"We introduced ourselves to the people out there when we beat New England," Jets guard Damien Woody said. "Now they'll get to know a little bit more about us. Each game just gets bigger and bigger now."

The Jets shook up the AFC just a little bit, rocking the Titans in their own stadium. The win was New York's fifth straight and moves their record to 8-3 as they maintained a one-game edge on New England in the AFC East.

And while the guy who was brought in to help the Jets over the top - Brett Favre - played pretty well against the Titans, it was the Jets defense that turned the tables on the previously impregnable Titans.

It wasn't close, either. The Jets never trailed. When they took a 20-3 lead late in the third quarter, they had significant advantages in nearly every area.
# First downs: Jets 20, Titans 5.
# Total yards: Jets 282, Titans 99.
# QB comparison: Favre 195 yards, Kerry Collins 54.

The Jets also held a three-to-one edge in time of possession.

"We're putting it together," Woody said. "We're starting to know who we are and what we're about and we're play with a lot of confidence."

Which they should be considering the ridiculous numbers they've been putting up since their third game. Since Week 3, New York's point totals are 29, 56, 26, 13, 28, 26, 47, 34 and 34. The 13 came in a "what was that??" loss to the Raiders.

The Jets' defense hasn't generally matched their offense a lot of weeks. Against New England, New York led 24-6 in the second quarter, then was outscored 25-7 heading into overtime before they escaped with the win. But Sunday, they made Collins look like the journeyman quarterback that he is.

Collins finished the game with decent fantasy numbers (21 for 39 for 243 passing yards, with a touchdown) but when the game hung in the balance, New York held Collins and the Tennessee passing game in check. At the break, Collins was 7 for 21 for 54 yards. The passing numbers were rolled up against a Jets defense intent on keeping plays in front of it and letting time bleed away.

And while the bouquets and hosannas will no doubt be lobbed at Favre's feet this week after a 25-for-32, two-touchdown, one-pick performance, he kept Tennessee in the game in the first half with two strip-sack fumbles (one recovered by the Titans) and an interception. It was the New York ground attack (Thomas Jones ran for 96 yards and Leon Washington picked up 82) that opens some eyes because - as a rule - folks don't run on Tennessee.

"Everybody talks about them but we wanted to show we're a good offensive line," said Woody, who - along with former Steelers guard Alan Faneca - came over to New York as a free agent. "We're not a bunch of stiffs out there, we have a pretty good group of guys up front and we can play with anybody."

That the Jets did it against a Titans team that welcomed back defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch makes it even more impressive. And the Titans didn't love that.

"It got chippy out there and you had to watch your back a little," Woody noted. "We said that to each other in the fourth quarter but, really, we had to do that all game."

The Jets, meanwhile, made a prophet out of Vanden Bosch who told two weeks ago, "We're going to lose a game. We're going to lose more than a game. I don't think anybody here is talking about an undefeated season or expecting to go undefeated. We're going to lose."

The loss doesn't mean a lot to the Titans, who are still a virtual lock to win the AFC South (which entered Sunday with a four-game lead against Indy). But if things break the Jets way over the season s final five games and go against Tennessee, New York will have a handy tiebreaker that could lead to home field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

Perhaps more important for New York is the fact that a win on the road against the AFC's best team keeps them above the wild-card fray. A lot of teams are already jockeying for those two spots - the Patriots (7-4) and Ravens (7-4) lead the way, with the Bills (6-5), Dolphins (6-5) and Colts (6-4) right behind.

Actually, an AFC that after the season's first few weeks seemed muddled and hard to watch because of rampant inconsistency from "power" teams is getting fascinating.

Every team's got a story, whether it's the Favre-led Jets trying to step into the void left by the Brady-less Patriots.

The Patriots duct-taped together an offense and are still winning. The nearly-dead Colts are off the mat and in the playoff conversation in what might be Tony Dungy's last year. The retooled Dolphins Wildcatted back from a 1-15 record in 2007. The refurbished Ravens are getting it done with a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach and a pack of old lions on defense. And what of the AFC West where Denver can barely get out of its own way (a beating from the Raiders?!)?

It's apparent the playoff picture won't be clear until the regular season expires.

As for the Jets, this mish-mash of veterans who've come together for New York - Favre, Woody, Faneca, defensive tackle Kris Jenkins and linebacker Calvin Pace - keep establishing who they are.

"That's important," said Jenkins. "I don't think we're looking to establish an identity. We're human like any team. We had our hands full today but you gotta understand we haven't played with each other but we played against each other and we know what type of team we got here. We're excited about that and we're coming together.

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