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Jets, Packers have issues that make reaching playoffs a struggle

Reuben Canales / NFL
The Jets have scored just nine points during their two-game losing streak.


From "Hard Knocks" to little resistance. The New York Jets are on the verge of falling out of the playoff hunt and dredging up memories of two seasons ago, when rented ringer Brett Favre built things up for a painful crash over the final five games that left them out of the postseason. Except this time, it's fresh-armed, but inconsistent, Mark Sanchez leading the slide.

The woof tickets coach Rex Ryan's been selling all season might not be worth anything upon exchange, seeing as though the Jets were supposed to be better than any team in the NFL but could end up not among the six AFC playoff teams.

Their painful 10-6 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday dropped them to 9-4 and followed a thumping by New England. While it's still one of the best records in the NFL, it leaves them out of contention for the AFC East title that will be won by the scorching-the-earth Patriots. New York's record isn't the worry; it's where it is trending and what lies ahead.

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The Jets would be the No. 5 seed if the season ended today, but it doesn't and New York has scored nine points in two games. The Jets' next two opponents, Pittsburgh and Chicago, boast the second- and fourth-ranked scoring defenses, respectively. New York has the sixth-best scoring defense, allowing 18.6 points per game but the offense hasn't generated half that many points the past two games.

Adding to the situation -- there always is something else with these Jets -- Ryan said he thought about removing Sanchez from the game in the loss to Miami. He said he opted not to because it wasn't all Sanchez's fault. That's not going to make a sensitive player feel any better knowing that, even for a fleeting second, a coach who's had his back lost faith.

Sanchez and Ryan will spend this week downplaying the situation. But when the quarterback reflects on turning the ball over with more frequency (12 interceptions in the last eight games after none in the first five) and not getting his team into the end zone, while guys like David Garrard and Josh Freeman have elevated their games over the past few weeks to get their teams in contention, he could start to press even more.

Then you have real problems. Well, on that note …

The Jets do have a real problem. Strength and conditionaing coach Sal Alosi opted to go Shane Stant on Dolphins special teamer Nolan Carroll, who was running downfield on punt coverage and was temporarily injured. Instead of using a collapsible baton to bang Carroll on the knee like Stant did to figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, Alosi leaned his knee out and tripped Carroll, who had been re-routed out of bounds on the Jets' bench.

Alosi has apologized and was suspended for the rest of the season and fined $25,000 by the team, however, this was such an out-of-place deal, it will have enough legs to be discussed for a few days, possibly masking the problems with the Jets -- or adding to them.

With all these compound fractures, we're beginning to hear about heartbreak of the past, most recently when the Jets traded for Favre in 2008 and he led the team to an 8-3 start, only to have New York lose four of its final five games and finish out of the playoffs.

It could or could not happen again, but there is not much reason to believe New York is going to get well this week at Pittsburgh, which is trying to stay ahead of Baltimore in the AFC North and gain even more momentum for a playoff run.

The Jets shouldn't feel too bad because they have company from another team many of us pegged to play in the Super Bowl: Green Bay.

The Packers suffered a potentially catastrophic loss to Detroit on Sunday after starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers got knocked out of the game with a concussion. Green Bay fell to 8-5, which leaves it on the outside of the playoffs for now. When I say outside, it's really for the one wild-card spot available.

The Saints (10-3) or Falcons (11-2) will get one wild card, with the other winning the NFC South. The Giants or Eagles seem set to claim the other wild card, although a skid of any sort by either could open the door for the Packers -- or better yet, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sure Green Bay is only a game behind the Bears for the NFC North title. However, its 7-3 loss to Detroit was a division game. Chicago doesn't have a loss in the NFC North, with one of its four division victories coming over Green Bay. The Packers have two division losses. Green Bay has only one more divisional game -- that coming against Chicago in the season finale.

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For Green Bay to win the division, Chicago has to continue losing and it has to probably win out.

The Bears have to play Minnesota next -- it is scheduled to be played Sunday in Minnesota but odds are that it will be played somewhere else besides Mall of America Field after the roof damage sustained this weekend. A Chicago victory, and it's pretty much a wrap.

The Packers, meanwhile, have to face the Patriots and Giants before ending the season against the Bears. With Rodgers sustaining his second concussion of the season, there is no telling if he'll be available to play Sunday night in New England.

Green Bay didn't build up then tout its hype. We in the media did at the beginning of the season when it seemed like Rodgers was going to blow up and the defense would be even better. The Packers have been ransacked by injuries. Should they miss postseason play, their fall wouldn't be like the Jets'.

New York made it to the AFC title game last season and ran its record to 9-2 before dropping two straight. Should the Jets stumble, the thumbing of noses at Ryan and the self-hype machine will be immeasurable. They'd have brought it on themselves. The only way they can prevent that is to play their best football of their season over the final three weeks. However, the obstacles in their way are serious -- with some of those hurdles coming from within their own building.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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