Thoughts and observations for Week 15:
1. Tone's time of the year: Santonio Holmes' dumb comment about the Carolina Panthers secondary ("the weakest link") makes you wonder if he's headed toward a repeat of 2011, when he became a disruptive influence in the locker room during the New York Jets' losing stretch run. "I wouldn't be surprised if he goes off the reservation again," a source close to the team said.
That year, Holmes' antics also started in Week 15. He was a mental no-show for a blowout loss in Philadelphia, where he lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, juggled a pass that was intercepted and drew a taunting penalty for a stupid end zone celebration. Afterward, he had the audacity to show up for his postgame news conference wearing a Superman T-shirt. In the ensuing days, he feuded with quarterback Mark Sanchez behind closed doors, culminating with his meltdown in Miami. Where have you gone, Wayne Hunter? The huddle altercation was Hunter's finest moment as a Jet.
Holmes wasn't around for the bitter end to last season (he was off rehabbing his foot injury), so these next two weeks will be his first exposure to a potential losing situation since the infamous finish to 2011. Losing and Holmes don't mix well, so beware. He knows he won't be back next season, despite what he says, so he doesn't care if he burns bridges. You'd think he'd want to be on his best behavior, knowing he'll be looking for a job, but that didn't stop him from insulting the Panthers secondary. So much for supporting your rookie quarterback.
Fittingly, the Jets close the season in Miami, setting the stage for a Holmes encore. Hunter is available, by the way.
2. Three strikes and yer out: If Jets history repeats, Rex Ryan is done.
The last coach to survive three straight non-playoff seasons was Walt Michaels, who actually missed the playoffs in his first four seasons (1977-80) before qualifying in his fifth year. Let's face it, it's unusual in the current NFL climate for a coach to stick around after three misses, and Ryan is on the verge of missing the tournament for the third straight year. Consider: Woody Johnson's first three coaches -- Al Groh, Herm Edwards and Eric Mangini -- combined for five non-playoff seasons.
I'm not saying Ryan is doomed, but when you throw in the possibility of general manager John Idzik looking to put his stamp on the team ... well, it puts Ryan in a tough spot.
By the way, Michaels changed offensive coordinators before his fourth season, perhaps offering up a scapegoat to ownership. It was John Idzik, father of the current GM.
3. Going down Hill: Stephen Hill's knee ailment, which resulted in him being placed on injured reserve, is curious. The knee showed up on the injury report in Week 11, coming off the bye week. That alone is puzzling. He played the next three games, clearly not at 100 percent. Now there is swelling in the knee, which was surgically repaired last December. Is it possible he was overworked in practice, exacerbating the condition? That is one school of thought. With Jeremy Kerley (elbow) sidelined during that stretch, and with Holmes practicing part-time, Hill couldn't catch a break on his sore knee. For Hill's sake, you hope this doesn't become a chronic condition.
4. Money to burn: Cap space won't be an issue in Idzik's second offseason. Right now, the Jets have about $100 million committed to what is being projected as a $126 million salary cap. They can create another $16.5 million by releasing Holmes and Sanchez. Memo to Idzik: Think offense.
5. Head case: Antonio Cromartie's concussion last week showed there are still flaws in the NFL's system for diagnosing head trauma. Players are supposed to be checked after big hits -- there's an independent neurologist on the sideline -- but Cromartie didn't receive an immediate concussion test, only a general medical evaluation, the team said. The concussion test didn't occur until after the game, when he complained of concussion-like symptoms. Cromartie later admitted he started experiencing the symptoms during the latter part of the game. Basically, he slipped between the cracks. You wonder how often that occurs throughout the league.
6. Where's Mo?: DE Muhammad Wilkerson has been relatively quiet the past two games. He thinks it's because opponents are paying more attention to him.
"I rushed the passer and there were three guys on me," he said, referring to last week. "Not to make excuses, but [the Oakland Raiders] were able to make plays running away from me. I guess I'm making a name for myself and offensive coordinators are scheming it up and doing what they feel is best for their offense to make plays. But I'm not going to let that stop me from making plays. When there are plays to be made, I'm going to make sure I'm there to make them."
7. Dynamic duo: Even though the Jets lost their No. 1 ranking in rushing defense (yards per game) to the Panthers, they remain the best run-stopping unit if you consider all the other major statistical categories. The Jets also have the best run-stopping duo, Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson. They've combined for 37 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage on running plays, the most of any two teammates in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
8. Air Ridiculous: How bad is the Jets passing offense? Their leading receiver is Jeremy Kerley (388 yards). They're the only team without a 400-yard receiver and -- dig this -- 98 players have at least 400 receiving yards. The Cleveland Browns' Josh Gordon, whom the Jets face next week, had 498 yards in Weeks 12 and 13 alone. Just keeping it real, folks.
9. The Carolina Jets: This may sound crazy, but I think the 2014 Jets could be the 2013 Panthers -- with a couple of breaks.
The Panthers were 7-9 last season, but the potential was there and they stayed the course with Ron Rivera, who has built a terrific defense. The Jets have a strong foundation on defense and a solid running game. The one big difference, of course, is the Panthers have Cam Newton at quarterback. The Jets? Will it be Geno Smith in '14? Who knows? If the Jets can stabilize that position, they could take a giant step.
10. Feeling the Tebow effect: It was a lot quieter in training camp without Tim Tebow -- just the way Idzik wanted it -- but his absence made an impact on the economy in Cortland, N.Y. The attendance and revenue numbers were way down, compared to 2012, according to a SUNY Cortland study. For the Summer of Tebow, Jets camp drew more than 35,000 visitors and generated $5.5 million for the local economy. This past summer, the totals dropped to 21,000 and $3.7 million. I guess the Mark Sanchez-Geno Smith competition wasn't as appealing as the Tebow circus. The Jets have an option on whether to hold their '14 camp in Cortland. Ryan likes it there, but they could have it elsewhere if he's not the coach.