The New York Jets are legit.
Before their huge 27-11 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium, there were still questions pertaining to just how well the Jets could contend. Those questions have quickly faded.
The Jets have struggled to stop the run all season, but a phenomenal performance against the Bills All-Pro running back, Fred Jackson, has the Jets looking like the defense they have played like the past two seasons under Rex Ryan.
Jackson, the NFL’s third best rusher, was held in check for much of the Jets Week 9 romp, tallying just 82 yards on 18 carries—23 of which came on one carry. Jackson had runoff three straight games with 110 rushing yards or more and five 100-yard rushing games overall.
For a team that ranked 25th in run defense coming into Week 9, it was a good start to a much-needed turnaround for an otherwise flawless Jets defense.
Meanwhile, the Jets pass defense gave Bills quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick fits, forcing him to throw two costly interceptions. The Jets needed to keep Fitzpatrick on his heels and force him to make stupid mistakes, and they did just that.
The often doubted young Jets quarterback, Mark Sanchez, on the other hand, did his job once again, playing efficiently and avoiding costly mistakes of his own—with the exception of one interception he threw in the end zone during the first quarter. It was just his second turnover in the last four games.
The interception ultimately went unpunished and did little to harm the Jets eventual rampage upon the Bills and their stealthy defensive unit.
Sanchez completed 20-of-28 passes for 230 yards and a third quarter touchdown to Santonio Holmes to cap a quick three-play 79-yard drive. The score gave the Jets a comfortable 20-3 lead.
The win is the Jets third straight win and second against a valid contender in the AFC playoff race. In doing so, the Jets have put themselves on a clear path to the playoffs and if they continue to fire on all cylinders maybe, just maybe—the Super Bowl.
With an enhanced passing game and a rejuvenated ground attack—Shonn Greene rushed for 76 yards on 19 carries—the Jets have the look of a Super Bowl contender.
Their toughest remaining game—and potentially their greatest test this season—comes next Sunday when the hated New England Patriots enter MetLife Stadium for the second meeting between both teams.
The atmosphere in MetLife Stadium will be that of a playoff game and it would be expected that the attitude of each team would be much of the same. A victory over the Patriots in impressive fashion could be just the thing the Jets need to launch them through the second half of the regular season and to their first AFC East Division crown since 2002.
A divisional crown could place the Jets in prime position come playoff time. A better position than the Jets have found themselves in the past two seasons, playing through three straight games on the road only to fall short in the AFC Championship Game in two of the toughest places to play: Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.
With a win against New England, that may be all the push the Jets need for a playoff run that leads in their favor and into Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
The New York Jets team that played in Buffalo Sunday might be the one to get them there.