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Jets one win away from punching their ticket to playoffs

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- It all stunningly comes down to this for the New York Jets: win and they're in.

How about that, Rex? A week after mistakenly thinking your team's playoff chances were over, the Jets somehow control their postseason destiny.

"I've been level the whole season," coach Rex Ryan said Monday with a big laugh. "There's no question. Yeah, from a guy that said, 'Well, it's unfortunate we're done,' we're right there. You know, alive and kicking."

They sure are, and a win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the football finale at Giants Stadium on Sunday night would secure the No. 5 seed in the AFC for the Jets (8-7).

"If we can get in, anything can happen in the playoffs," safety Jim Leonhard said. "We just need to take care of this game."

There's been a whole lot of luck involved for the Jets during the last few weeks. And, that's been an uncommon addition to a franchise that has dealt with its fair share of misfortune over the years.

"We have a great opportunity in front of us," running back Thomas Jones said. "It's so funny how things can change in a week in this league."

No doubt about it, especially when you consider that a week ago the Jets were frustrated and downright angry after blowing a late lead in a loss to Atlanta. New York faced the grim task of having to take on an undefeated Colts team in Indianapolis and needing several other teams to lose.

Same Old Jets? Not the way this weekend turned out.

New York caught a huge break when Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell opted to rest Peyton Manning and several other starters early in the second half Sunday, granting Ryan's wish for Santa earlier in the week. The Jets took full advantage by rallying against Manning's backup, Curtis Painter, ruining the Colts' pursuit of perfection with a 29-15 victory and opening up Caldwell to scathing criticism.

"We won the game," Ryan said. "We ended up doing what we had to do, whoever was in the Colts' jerseys. I think that there's very little credit that our football team's given, and that's unfortunate."

Some members of the media blasted the Colts' decision, saying they handled things wrong.

"They don't have to apologize to anybody about anything," Ryan said, "and neither do we."

New York also needed at least three of the four teams - Denver, Baltimore, Miami and Jacksonville - they're competing with for the wild-card spot to lose to put themselves in the driver's seat. Well, all four teams went down Sunday in a stroke of good fortune that had the Jets and their fans shaking their heads in disbelief.

"I think this has been one of the best years, especially here at the end of the season, for teams having to fight for a playoff spot," Jones said. "It's do-or-die every game."

And that's exactly the situation the Jets face this weekend against the Bengals, who have the AFC North wrapped up and could rest Carson Palmer, Cedric Benson and Chad Ochocinco for most of the game.

"We can't control what they do," third-year cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "We can only control what we do, and we're just trying to get this win and go to the playoffs. I've never been to the playoffs, so getting this win on Sunday would be a good treat for me and a lot of other people in this locker room."

Lose, however, and New York will miss the postseason for the third straight year and have no one to blame but itself.

"It is the Super Bowl right now for us," Leonhard said. "You can't lose."

The fact the Jets could be playing their second straight playoff-bound opponent willing to sit its starters has some thinking perhaps New York is a team of destiny.

"We don't make excuses," Ryan said. "We never have. We're just going to play. I like our chances."

That couldn't have been further from what most were thinking just a few weeks ago, when the Jets were 4-6 and had lost six of seven.

"I think we're built to be a team that can win in December and January, and I still feel that way," Ryan said. "I think we would be a very dangerous team if we make the playoffs."

If the Jets do beat the Bengals on Sunday, there's a good chance the teams will meet again the following week in the first round of the playoffs in Cincinnati.

"You'd like to not show a team you might be playing the next week everything you've got, but what are we saving it for?" linebacker Bart Scott said. "If you save it, to be home watching, it's all for nothing."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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