Nobody expected much out of the Jets at the start of the 2009 NFL season. After all, they finished 4-12 in the 2007 season, and last year, with Brett Favre at quarterback, could do no better than 9-7, going 1-4 in their final five games.
So who would have thought they would have gotten this far with a rookie head coach and a rookie at quarterback?!
The record may be the same, but much has changed in the past year for the Jets. They have discovered their identity as a team with a devastating running game, and a punishing defense that, over the course of 60 minutes, will wear down the best of offenses.
And when the Jets do what they do best, they're next to unstoppable. They went 3-0 to start the season, relying heavily on the running game. In fact, many television analysts had speculated early in the year that there could very well be an all-New York Super Bowl.
Then they deviated from the running game, and along came the midseason slump. In fact, after that surprising 3-0 start, the Jets seven losses in the regular season came in games where Sanchez attempted more than 20 passes.
Once the Jets reverted back to being a running team, they started winning again. Winning five of their last six games, and floating under the radar, the Jets crept back into playoff contention, and after putting an end to the Colts' perfect season (albeit with the Colts resting their starters), and absolutely destroying a Bengals team that seemed to lose its focus, the Jets were in.
This 9-7 Jets team is light years ahead of last year's AFC East basement-dwellers. The confidence beaming from coach Rex Ryan, the maturity of rookie quarterback Sanchez, the emergence of rookie running-back Shonn Greene, the acquisition of receiver Braylon Edwards, and corner-back Darrelle Revis keeping opposing teams' offensive weapons neutralized.
Is it really any wonder that the New York Jets find themselves one victory away from the Super Bowl?
Over the course of the regular season and through their remarkable postseason run, the Jets have beaten the best that the AFC has to offer: their division rival, and eventual AFC East Champion New England Patriots, the AFC South Champion and No. 1 seeded Indianapolis Colts, the AFC North Champion Cincinnati Bengals, twice, once in the regular season finale, and again one week later in the Wild Card round.
Then they took out the surging AFC West Champion San Diego Chargers in the Divisional round.
Now these Jets take aim at the AFC Championship, taking on those very same Colts who sat their starters against the Jets in Week 16, essentially surrendering any chance at a perfect season, and allowing the New York Jets the opportunity to control their own playoff fate. A decision the Colts may now be second guessing.
And how ironic it would be if the Jets were able to silence their doubters and send the Colts packing.
The Jets may be the statistical underdogs, but in their own eyes, it's the Colts who are feeling the pressure. All the Jets have to do is exactly what they have been doing for the past month; run the ball down Indy's throat, and shut them down with their bruising defense.
If the Colts can manage to score early and often, they could come away with the win. If the Jets can keep the Colts out of the end zone in the first half, I believe Rex Ryan and his Jets will be punching their tickets to Miami.