- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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1. Forget about the playoffs: The Jets (6-8) are toast -- and they know it. There's a better chance of Santonio Holmes going to the Pro Bowl than them making the playoffs. Three teams would have to collapse -- the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers -- and that's not going to happen. This would mark three straight seasons out of the playoffs for the Jets. The last time that happened was the dark ages from 1992 to 1997, which covered the Bruce Coslet, Pete Carroll and Rich Kotite eras, plus the first year of the Bill Parcells regime.
2. Rex on the hot seat: This becomes the big story for the final two weeks of the season. Woody Johnson, who has owned the team since 2000, has never experienced a postseason drought this long. Will Rex Ryan pay with his job? If Johnson and general manager John Idzik are undecided, their decision could be based on how the team responds in two virtually meaningless games. Say this for the Jets: They played hard for Ryan on Sunday. It was a three-point game going into the fourth quarter, but they eventually imploded by having a punt blocked and throwing a pick-six. Ryan is 20-26 over the past three season. If his bosses put a lot of weight in that, he could be done.
3. Who's the weakest link? If the Panthers' secondary is the weakest link of their defense, as Holmes declared last week, what does that say about the Jets' pass catchers? The wide receivers combined for only six receptions for 83 yards. True, Geno Smith was under pressure at times, but not all the time. There were instances when he had time to throw and couldn't find anyone open. Clearly, this has to be a major priority for the Jets in the offseason. They need playmakers at receiver and tight end. Hey, maybe they should let Sheldon Richardson run a few routes. He seems to be doing everything else.
4. One killer play: Smith was subdued after the game, as down as he's ever been after a loss. He wanted badly to play a clean game, but his fourth-quarter interception proved costly, as it was returned for a touchdown. There were other hiccups as well. Smith has to do a better job of recognizing the blitz. The Panthers aren't a big blitzing team, but they sent cornerback Captain Munnerlyn on a handful of backside blitzes. Munnerlyn recorded two sacks and had Smith on the run a couple of other times. It has been a long, painful growing process for the rookie, who hasn't given the organization much to be excited about for the future.