Of all the NY Jets teams, of all the seasons, of all the history of the NFL, this one had to walk into my life. This past Sunday’s 17-14 win against the AFC favorite’s San Diego Chargers was as unlikely as I’ve ever seen. My emotions are torn between elation and a foreboding of devastation to come. Once again the Jets are in the AFC Championships and they are just one win away from the Super Bowl. The last time they had this chance was in 1998, when my fandom was still in its infancy.
There are some similarities between both teams. Both quarterbacks were interception prone, both had brash-smart-talking-defensive-minded coaches and both had a pretty dominant running game and intimidating defense. But that’s where the similarities end. The 1998 Jets were at the top of AFC East, got a bye-week and considered the favorites by some. Their veteran quarterback, Vinny Testarverde’s career resurged in joining the Jets and he even made the Pro-Bowl that year. On top of Curtis Martin for a running back, the Jets also had the amazing tandem of Wayne Chrebet and Keyshawn Johnson at wide-receiver. This year’s Jets have rookie quarterback, Mark Sanchez at the helm, a struggling wide-receiver who they’ve acquired from the Browns in Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery who is still just a decent second-string WR that hasn’t been able to help take the pressure off Braylon Edwards. Not only that, but it took an amazing amount of chances on top of winning the last two games of the season to even make the Wild Card. Now that they are here, they’ve played the best football I’ve seen them do all season.
Despite this amazing post-season I still can’t help but feel a little wary of expecting more. I say this because I still remember the Jets of 1998 in the AFC Championships. Even though they had an amazing team and were even leading the Denver Broncos 10-0 at the end of the first half. Despite all those odds in their favor, a few turnovers later, the Broncos came back from behind and went on to winning the Superbowl, making them reigning champions. The following season, Vinny Testarverde had a season-ending injury and they weren’t close ever again. That is until now. 11 years later, the Jets are back in the AFC Championships.
The fan in me wants this Cinderella story to continue, but the newly formed skeptic in me, raised and nurtured by 11 years of frustration, doesn’t believe this charade can possibly continue. Yeah two years ago, the Giants had a similar experience and won the Super Bowl. But even those Giants had a No. 1 receiver in Plaxico Burress. They had the three-headed running game machine with Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward. Even their quarterback had a number of seasons under his belt and wasn’t a rookie anymore. These Jets really only have moxie and the attitude of their coach leading them on to victory to complement their No.1 defense and dominant running game. The Colts have all their guns at every position lock and loaded. Is it possible for the Jets to pull two more upsets with the odds stacked against them as they are? I guess time will tell. I’ll keep rooting for them as I am a fan after all. But no one can fault me if I’m also bracing myself for the anticipatory crushing-defeat that has been a Jet tradition for all these years.