It was 1998 all over again.
The score was 17-6 Jets, and I was planning the menu for my Super Bowl party, including the very special "Marsh Punch," which has not been tasted in close to seven years. On my bucket list for this decade, the Jets reaching the Super Bowl was very high.
Mark Sanchez was brilliant in the second quarter, outplaying his more famous opponent on the opposite sideline. He was 30 minutes away from being the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to the biggest game of the season.
Then, with just a touch over two minutes left in the first half, Peyton Manning found his rhythm. He took a grand total of 58 seconds to move the length of the field to pull the Colts within four points of the lead.
The handwriting was on the wall.
I need to clarify this a bit before I continue. I was a New York Titans fan—need I say more? I had season tickets at Shea Stadium the year the Jets last went to the Super Bowl and won the greatest upset in sports history.
Since 1969, the Jets have disappointed their fans and themselves to such a great extent that a new saying was born that still has legs. "Same Old Jets" has been heard so many times over the years that it has come to be expected that the team will find some way to lose a game and pull defeat from the jaws of victory.
Needless to say, I'm sure that the final 30 minutes of the game will have many fans continuing the tradition of blaming just about anyone they can after feeling the taste of defeat once more.
To those fans I say, emphatically, "NO! These are not the 'Same Old Jets.'" They are a very young team that achieved far more success than expected. After the heartbreaking loss at home to the Atlanta Falcons, the Jets needed a miracle to make the playoffs.
With these same Colts and the AFC North Division winner Cincinnati Bengals on the horizon, a 7-9 season was a very definite possibility.
What happened next is now football history. They went into Indianapolis and defeated the Peyton-less Colts, then mauled the Bengals at the last game ever played at the Meadowlands. The so-called football experts said the Jets, despite those two victories, backed into the playoffs because both of those victories were tainted.
Then the Jets did something no one expected, except Rex Ryan and his gritty group of warriors. They went on the road and defeated both the Bengals and then the highly-touted San Diego Chargers, who many expected would wind up in Miami on Feb. 7.
In falling 30 minutes short of their goal is by no means a failure. The future is very bright indeed, especially on defense. Darrelle Revis is the best cornerback in football. Manning exposed the rest of the secondary yesterday, but that's not the first team he has done that to.
Bart Scott is as good a linebacker as there is in the NFL. Shonn Greene is one of the most exciting young backs in the league. Brad Smith is the best-kept secret on the team, and Mark Sanchez has future All-Pro written all over him.
Players in the league want to come to New York to play for "Gang Green." Braylon Edwards wants to finish his career here. Now, when was the last time a player said that?
The coaching staff, many of whom will receive offers for higher paid positions with other teams, want to remain on this train, which very well may make multiple appearances in the Super Bowl in this decade.
Wake up, my fellow fans. This team is the real deal. They will, in the coming years, become the team to beat in the AFC East.
They are brash like their head coach. They came out of yesterday's loss not satisfied with their extraordinary year. They are hungry to be the best team in New York. The next step is becoming the best team in the AFC and then the best team in the NFL.
That couldn't happen if this was the "Same Old Jets." They're not, but in fairness to their long-suffering fans, they need to build on the success of this year. They will—and living here in Las Vegas, I intend to put my money where my mouth is.
Two weeks from today, on Feb. 8, the odds to win the Super Bowl for 2011 will be listed in every sportsbook in Vegas.
My guess the Jets should be at about 30-1. I'll take those odds.