Coach Rex Ryan’s decision to bring in linebacker Bart Scott has paid off for the Jets.
Where they stand: The loud-talking, hard-charging Jets are 4-4 and two games behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East standings. The Jets are the AFC's only second-place team without a winning record, which doesn't bode well for their wild-card hopes. Fans were talking about an all-New York Super Bowl after the Jets compellingly opened the season 3-0 with victories over the Houston Texans, Patriots and Tennessee Titans. Rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez played like a veteran. Rookie head coach Rex Ryan's defense was ferocious. But they've since dropped four of five games, with their lone victory against the woeful Oakland Raiders. The Jets own a losing divisional record.
Disappointments: Season-ending injuries to star nose tackle Kris Jenkins and running back Leon Washington will loom in the second half. But what will haunt the Jets come playoff time are their two games against the Miami Dolphins and their sudden death loss to the Buffalo Bills. The Jets were embarrassed by the Wildcat offense in Land Shark Stadium, but traded blows in a fourth quarter that featured five lead changes until Ronnie Brown tacked on one more Wildcat touchdown in the closing moments. In the rematch at the Meadowlands, the Jets dominated the Dolphins offensively and defensively, but two Ted Ginn kickoff returns for touchdowns and a Jason Taylor fumble return for another score sent Fireman Ed nauseous into the bye week.
Surprises: It was remarkable how quickly Ryan's defense came together. He overhauled Eric Mangini's crew, added key personnel such as linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard and came out of the chute with a readymade cohesive unit -- almost like he walked into Modell's and grabbed it off the shelf. On offense, Sanchez has played admirably. The Jets wouldn't have traded up in the draft to select him fifth overall if they weren't confident he would be a franchise quarterback, but the rookie has performed better than a lot of veteran starters out there. Sanchez has endured a couple rough outings, against the New Orleans Saints and Bills especially, but has been an effective game manager more often than not with considerable help from running back Thomas Jones, who has 704 rushing yards.
Outlook: The Jets still have a shot to make the playoffs, but they'll need to catch some breaks. They have a tough road ahead of them. Their remaining opponents are a combined 36-28 for a .563 win percentage. They have some winnable games against the Bills, who already beat them, Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But they finish against the Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals. At the very least, 2009 will be a foundation season for Ryan to build from.