Jets Play Like Favorites They Said They Were

No more doubts about whether the Jets belong in the playoffs

By Josh Alper
|  Friday, Jan 15, 2010  |  Updated 2:15 PM CDT
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Any more questions about whether or not the Jets belong in the playoffs?

Surely the doubters and the haters will come up with more reasons why the Jets don't belong and why Jets fans should be sheepish about expressing the slightest bit of happiness about their team, but things are going to ring a bit hollow after Saturday afternoon's 24-14 win in Cincinnati. The Jets weren't perfect -- Cedric Benson ran for 169 yards and Chad Ochocinco actually found enough freedom to catch two passes -- but they were damn close as they moved on to become one of the final eight teams playing in the NFL this season.

To the surprise of almost everyone, Jets fans included, Mark Sanchez was the best former USC quarterback on the field Saturday afternoon. You would be forgiven if you saw Carson Palmer's bulging eyes, wild throws and miserable mechanics and thought he was the rookie everyone said wasn't ready to win a big game. The Jets may have struggled against the run, but they proved that it's going to take a complete performance to end their season.

That's not the surprise, of course. The surprise is that Mark Sanchez is a big reason why the Jets will be playing for a berth in the AFC Championship Game next weekend. Sanchez showed none of the jitters and poor judgment that marked his regular season while completing 12 of 15 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. And one of those incompletions was a flat-out drop in the end zone by Braylon Edwards, something that makes a good day look even better.

He wasn't the only rookie to have a big day. Shonn Greene stepped up to the lead role in the rushing game and churned out 135 yards, but that pales in comparison to the virgin voyage of Rex Ryan's playoff career.

When the gargantuan coach eases himself into bed early Sunday morning, he'll be doing so with an awfully large smile on his face. Ryan was the subject of much mockery this week because he dared to suggest that his team would win this game and he deserves to be the subject of much praise in the days following a nearly flawless performance by his team on Saturday afternoon. It won't work out that way as you'll hear much more about how the Colts (should the Patriots win Sunday) or Chargers (if the Ravens win) will crush the Jets.

Maybe they will, but at some point someone will have to admit that the Jets are alive and kicking long after they were pronounced dead. That's called playing with house money, folks, and that's a pretty sweet position to be in come the third weekend in January.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com.

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