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An overachieving season on the brink for the Jets

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MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 22: Kelvin Beachum #68 of the New York Jets spikes the football after his team scored a touchdown during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 22: Kelvin Beachum #68 of the New York Jets spikes the football after his team scored a touchdown during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Besides ending their two-game losing streak, there is much more at stake as the New York Jets face the Atlanta Falcons in Week 8 at home. Their overachieving season is on the brink as they need to do whatever it takes to win.

It’s a never-ending saga if you’re a New York Jets fan. The 2017 season started surprisingly well, but they’ve lost the last two games in typical Jets fashion. First, they jumped out to a commanding lead, 14-0, against the New England Patriots but couldn’t hold on. A win against its AFC East nemesis would have exponentially boosted the Jets’ confidence. And yes, the overturned touchdown call against Austin Seferian-Jenkins was arguably the worst in NFL history but that’s still no excuse for allowing the Patriots to claw back and win.

The cracks were beginning to show late in the 2nd quarter right when the Jets’ “killer instinct” should have kicked in. Granted, no lead is safe against them, but the Jets certainly had opportunities to put the Patriots away early.

The loss to the Patriots was gut-wrenching but paled in comparison to the miserable performance in the 4th quarter against the Miami Dolphins last weekend. Once again, the Jets allowed an opponent to regain its footing when the outcome should have been decided much earlier in the game. I guess a 28-14 lead in the 4th quarter isn’t enough? Worse, the defense was completely shredded by a backup quarterback, Matt Moore, adding insult to injury and making this loss even more distasteful.

No doubt, the Jets young defense is tough, plays hard, and forces turnovers—all points of pride—but on Sunday the Jets secondary reminded me of a befuddled group of Keystone Cops. Blown assignments, poor technique, missed tackles, and the penalties! The Jets’ meltdown in Miami certainly reminded me why rooting for the Jets can be hazardous to my health!

So we are now at the point of the season where the Jets are all of a sudden on the brink of irrelevancy. With the reigning NFC champion Atlanta Falcons in town, and hungry to win after losing three in a row (coincidentally all losses against AFC East teams), it’s the Jets at risk of losing three in a row. Can this be avoided? We better hope so. Because a 3-5 record at the midway point almost certainly guarantees that the Jets will not make the playoffs.

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Sure, the Jets have already proven the doomsayers wrong; no, they will neither go 0-16 nor are they the worst team in the NFL. Quite the contrary is true, in fact: there has not been one instance where they have been dominated or humiliated.

I suppose that’s a positive sign. Yet the feel-good story surrounding the Jets so far is in serious jeopardy if they lose on Sunday. And it’s a tall order given that a hungry Falcons team is next up on the schedule.

And beyond Sunday, the Jets will have to face the 4-2 Bills (who they’ve already lost to and will have just a few days to prepare because it’s a Thursday night game), the Buccaneers on the road, and then the schedule really tightens up with matches against the Panthers, Chiefs, Broncos, and Saints (the latter two both on the road). If the Jets can enter this stretch of tough games 4-4 as opposed to 3-5 then they have a puncher’s chance of making the NFL Playoffs. No, I’m not delusional; a .500 team at the halfway point of the season has a legitimate shot at the playoffs, giving some of us diehards hope.

Yet, just think for a moment; the Jets’ record would be 5-2 right now if they had beaten New England and Miami. So these losses represent a clear missed opportunity. Plus, they are squandering the great production they have received from stellar offseason moves by general manager Mike Maccagnan.

Jermaine Kearse, Kony Ealy, and Demario Davis have performed beyond expectations. Equally important, these veteran players perfectly complement the young defensive and offensive players who are still developing. For example, I maintain that Darron Lee’s improved play has a lot to do with playing alongside Davis.

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Bottom line, the Jets have a decent, well-balanced team, and overall they’ve been a nice surprise. But unfortunately, if the Jets lose on Sunday then the mindset shifts from a “what could be” to “what could have been” and it might be time to look beyond this season. I hesitate to place so much emphasis on one game, but the reality of the situation is that the Jets are potentially playing their version of the Super Bowl on Sunday, with the season on the line. Let’s hope they play with a sense of urgency, and “play like a Jet” as opposed to the “same old Jets.”

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