New York Jets: They're Back In First, But Can They Stay There?

Mike GurnisContributor INovember 8, 2010

DETROIT - NOVEMBER 07:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets looks to throw a pass during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 7, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. The Jets defeated the Lions 23-20 in overtime.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Everything just seemed to go right for the New York Jets yesterday.

First, the Jets played completely inept football against Detroit for about three-and-a-half quarters before pulling off one of the more impressive Jets comeback victories in recent memory. They came back from 10 points down to tie it up and then won on the first possession of overtime on a Nick Folk field goal.

Then afterward, the Jets found out even better news: their old coach, Eric Mangini, managed to work his magic against New England, as the Browns pulled off an impressive 34-14 win.  The combination of a Jets win and a shocking Patriots loss puts the Jets back into a first-place tie and technical lead in the AFC East .

Now obviously a lot of things can happen over the next few weeks, but right now it's almost safe to say that the Jets are in the driver's seat for the AFC East title. Look at the two schedules of the Jets and Patriots.

The Patriots have a very, very tough schedule down the stretch.  They have to play Pittsburgh  (5-2), Indianapolis, a feisty Detroit team, the Jets themselves, Chicago (5-3), Green Bay (6-3), Buffalo, and division nemesis Miami.  Not neccessarily a cakewalk for the Pats.

The Jets, on the other hand, have a pretty weak month of November, as they have to play the Browns (3-5), the slumping Texans (4-4), and Bengals (2-5) the next three weeks. Their schedule gets a bit tougher in December, where they'll get the joy of facing the Patriots, Dolphins, and Steelers three weeks in a row, before ending against the Bears (5-3) and the Bills (0-8).

In other words, the next three weeks the Jets have a real opportunity to step on the gas pedal in the AFC East.  Really, there is no reason for the Jets to not finish November with a 4-0 record, as the next three weeks are teams that the Jets should beat.

But we've seen it plenty of times in the past, just because the Jets should beat a team, doesn't mean they will. They came very close to falling to Detroit yesterday, and if it weren't for some poor coaching by Jim Schwartz at the end and clutch play by Mark Sanchez, the Jets would be 5-3 and in near-panic mode.

The Jets are definitely a flawed team and have a LOT of things to clean up if they want to really get rolling, such as excessive penalties, and inconsistent offensive play.

The Jets are going to have to get better quarterback play.  Although Mark Sanchez came through big at the end of yesterdays game, he struggled mightily throughout the game, and often missed receivers, specifically underthrowing an open Santonio Holmes in the endzone for an interception.  Sanchez started the first four games of the season with eight touchdowns and no interceptions, but in the last three games, he's just thrown two touchdowns and five interceptions.  However if Sanchez can revert to his form from the first four games of the season, the Jets will be in fantastic shape.

If the Jets can clean all of this up, they have a real opportunity to pile up a few wins the next few weeks. But they have to start by doing something that their division rival couldn't do: beat the Cleveland Browns.

It sounds easy, considering the Browns have a rookie 3rd round draft pick in Colt McCoy starting at quarterback, but as the Patriots showed last week, nothing is easy in this league. Also factor in that Browns coach Eric Mangini will be facing his former team for the first time, and there's no question he'll have his team ready for this game. It will certainly be a very interesting matchup in Cleveland.

But in order for the Jets to really assume control of the division, they have to take care of business against teams that well, they should beat.  If they don't, they'll be in serious trouble, and we may be uttering the phrase "Same Old Jets" once again.