2009-12-18 / Sports

Pro Spotlight: Jets Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

By Elio Velez

Mark Sanchez initially hurt his right knee against Carolina three weeks ago. Photo by Errol Anderson. Mark Sanchez initially hurt his right knee against Carolina three weeks ago. Photo by Errol Anderson. About a month ago, the New York Jets hopes for a playoff berth looked bleak. They were two games below .500 and with the season potentially over, the talk was directed on who the Jets would take in next year's NFL draft.

Heading into Sunday's game at home against Atlanta, the 7-6 Jets have weathered the storm of the loss of QB Mark Sanchez, who missed last week's 26-3 Jets victory at Tampa Bay.

This Sunday's game at 1 p.m. will be a stern test in terms of beating a Falcons team which is reeling. Losers of six of their last eight games, the Jets can secure at least one more week of their playoff lives if they can get a win at the Meadowlands.

Jets coach Rex Ryan's approach is that securing a wild card berth is highly unlikely. They are tied at 7-6 along with Miami, Jacksonville and Baltimore. New York would lose out in a tiebreaker with Miami and/or Jacksonville, who both won over the Jets earlier in the season.

"All I've got to say is it's improbable. That's the way everybody will ap - proach it right now. Our stance is we believe we're going to win every game. That's the way it's been from day one," Ryan said.

"That's the way it will always be. We'll go into every single game, no slight to our opponents, but we're going to believe in ourselves. We believe in our players, the coaches, the organization and that hasn't changed since I got here."

The Jets have won three games in a row with a simple strategy. Continue to use Thomas Jones and Shonn Green as part of a punishing rushing attack that has been first in total yards in the NFL.

If Sanchez doesn't start once again due to spraining the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, backup Kel len Clemens will get his second opportunity behind the center. But Clemens wasn't spectacular, nor either was he bad against the Buccaneers.

That's why Jones, who has rushed for 1,167 yards and scored 11 touchdowns this season, will be vital against the Falcons.

"I just try to take advantage of my opportunities, I've always said that. Actually, the best year I had yard-wise was in Chicago in '05. It wasn't last year, it was '05. I'm just trying to take advantage of my opportunities," Jones said.

"Rex (Ryan) and the coaching staff have done a great job motivating us and coaching us and getting us ready to play and putting us in this situation. It's one of those situations where we know we have to win and the roomfor error thing goes out the window."

What's surprised Ryan is how well a stingy defense has overcome the loss of Pro Bowl nosetackle Kris Jenkins to statistically become first in the NFL.

CB Darrelle Revis has not only cemented his status as a Pro Bowl cornerback, he certainly has become a candidate for the NFL Defensive Play - er of the Year. Though the Bucs were just as brutal on offense, allowing only a field goal shows the defense's confidence to hold down opponents is growing according to Shaun Ellis.

"We're very aggressive in the passing and running game. We have an excellent secondary that helps us out as well. The linebacker corps is playing well," Ellis said.

"Also (the) three up front are playing well. We're gelling together. Everybody knows their assignments. We just go out and put forth the effort."

A win over the Falcons is the most important thing the Jets can do on Sunday. But they must try and curb the scoreboard watching, needing at least two of the three teams that are tied with them to fall. Jacksonville will have played undefeated Indianapolis on Thursday night, Miami travels to Tennessee (6-7) and Baltimore hosts the reeling Chicago Beats (5-8) on Sun day.

Jets safety Jim Leonhard knows his team must take care of business first on Sunday. But even some of his teammates might take a peek at the scoreboard.

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