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Jets capable of making AFC playoffs a 'wild' time

For the second consecutive year, the New York Jets are a wild-card playoff team. And "wild" would be an apt description for their whirlwind season.

Outside of Minnesota, no team has had a more interesting 2010:

  1. Super Bowl expectations
    1. The Darrelle Revis holdout
    2. HBO's Hard Knocks
    3. The Sal Alosi tripping scandal
    4. Rex Ryan's foot thing

That's not even counting what happened on the field. They've played in some of the most exciting games of the year, with nail-biting finishes in almost every victory and defeat.

In wins over Miami, Minnesota, Denver, Detroit, Cleveland, Houston and Pittsburgh, the Jets either scored late to win or made a defensive stop to preserve a one-score lead.

In losses to Baltimore, Green Bay, Miami and Chicago, the Jets had opportunities to win in the fourth quarter.

Despite being battle-tested and relatively healthy, there is one big reason why no one outside of the Jets' locker room, believes this "wild" bunch has a prayer of advancing to its first Super Bowl since Joe Namath.

Playoff picture

The Jets have lost three of four games, but managed to back into the playoffs in Week 16. Check out what has to happen for the Jets to earn the AFC's No. 5 seed. **More ...**

Yes, granted, it was only one game. Only 60 minutes of football, that could easily be learned from and forgotten. But it was a 45-3 embarrassment, against a fierce division rival, on national television.

It was a game that has lingered in the memory of NFL fans, and is the biggest reason why no one is picking the Jets to make any noise in January.

But if we've learned anything during Rex Ryan's two-year tenure, it's that we should expect noise out of the Jets, and lots of it.

The biggest reason I believe in the Jets? Well, there are two reasons, really. One, they went into Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers. It was a playoff atmosphere and they delivered one of their best performances of the season. And two, they won twice on the road in the playoffs last year.

The Jets love the big stage and thrive on it (aside from that flop in New England, of course).

In our Anatomy feature, we've highlighted three plays from the Pittsburgh game that should give Jets fans hope; three plays that capture the Jets at their best, executing under pressure, against a quality opponent, in a hostile environment:

Play No. 1:Brad Smith's 97-yard kickoff return touchdown to open the game (Highlight).

Smith ranks second in the NFL in kickoff return yardage and has been a deciding factor in many games this year. In Jets wins, he averages more than 31 yards per return. In losses, he averages less than 25.

Play No. 2:Mark Sanchez's 38-yard completion to Braylon Edwards (Highlight).

With a running game that averages more than 4 yards per carry, but produces few explosive plays, the Jets need chunks of yards from their passing game. This 38-yard strike on second-and-8 was a simple play design and easy read for Sanchez. The execution was flawless and the play led to a field goal.

Play No. 3: Sanchez's 16-yard completion to Edwards on third-and-9.

At its best, the Jets' offense runs the ball for 3, 4 and 5 yards a pop and converts on third-and-short. The Jets are a drive-sustaining team that doesn't make many big plays. But against a great defense, sometimes third-and-long situations are unavoidable. Those are the situations, in the playoffs, where championship quarterbacks and offenses separate themselves.

On this play, Sanchez avoided a free blitzer and threaded a pass to Edwards, who was in tight coverage. The conversion led to the winning field goal.

The Jets shouldn't be favored to win any of their playoff games.

They'll be on the road. They've given up tons of points since Jim Leonhard was lost for the season. They don't have many big playmakers on offense. And they will likely be facing the likes of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning.

All I'm saying is don't dismiss them. They have a knack for keeping things interesting, never boring you, and always living on the wild side.

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