Bowles, Jets concerned about wins, not playoff scenarios
DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
Dec. 15, 2015
NEW YORK (AP) — Todd Bowles will leave the scoreboard watching to everyone else.
The New York Jets coach insists what other teams are doing in the AFC playoff race won't change how he's approaching things.
"It's no different than the last couple of weeks," Bowles said Monday. "Just keep doing what we're doing and getting better and take it one game at a time — and try to win out in December."
Even-keeled and focused.
That has been Bowles' way all along, even a month ago when the Jets' playoff hopes appeared dim following four losses in five games. New York has made a stunning turnaround since, winning three games in a row for the first time since 2011 and positioning itself directly in the wild-card hunt.
"We're not complete," wide receiver Brandon Marshall said after the Jets' 30-8 win over Tennessee on Sunday. "We're not even close to complete."
The Jets (8-5) currently hold the sixth and final playoff spot, but are hardly on solid footing.
In fact, if New York, Kansas City (8-5) and Pittsburgh (8-5) all win out, making them all 11-5, the Jets would be on the outside looking in because of tiebreakers. That means Bowles' bunch does not control its own playoff destiny.
"That's what we were dealt and the bed we made ourselves," the coach said. "We understand that and we're just going to continue to get better as a team."
So there's no extra concern over what the Chiefs do next weekend at Baltimore. Or, what the Steelers do against Denver.
"No, I'm just rooting for our team right now," Bowles said. "Everything else will take care of itself. We don't go into the season rooting for a certain team, so I'm not going to end the season rooting for a certain team. I'm just going to root for us and hope we do well."
The Jets' final three-game stretch begins Saturday night in Dallas, a struggling non-conference opponent in prime time.
"We're right where we want to be," Marshall said. "This is a huge week for us. Obviously, we only have three games left. We are continually trying to get better in all three phases. We have a lot of young guys. This is the week for veterans to really step up and put their foot on the pedal and push everybody because Dallas is going to give us their best shot."
After the Cowboys, the Jets host AFC East-leading New England and then head to Buffalo to face former coach Rex Ryan in what could have enormous implications in the playoff hunt.
There are several convoluted postseason scenarios, but the most simple in favor of the Jets remains this: If they win their last three games, they're in if either the Steelers or Chiefs lose once. Pittsburgh has Denver, at Baltimore and at Cleveland remaining; Kansas City is at Baltimore and then hosts Cleveland and Oakland.
"We have to take care of our business," wide receiver Eric Decker said, "and that's all that we can control."
The fact the Jets are even in this position is a credit to Bowles. As a rookie coach, how he'd handle the team's slump and poor play during it was an intriguing story line.
Bowles made key adjustments on defense by moving away from his heavy blitzing tendencies to attacking offenses with some zone. The defensive line has also been downright stingy, holding opponents under 75 yards rushing in three straight games.
The pass rush has also picked up, with Muhammad Wilkerson leading the way with a career-high 12 sacks.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense have been stunningly dangerous. In the three games since trimming his bushy beard to "switch up the mojo," Fitzpatrick is 79 of 123 for 930 yards and nine touchdowns with no interceptions and a passer rating of 111.5. He also has thrown a career-high 25 touchdown passes, four off Vinny Testaverde's franchise record.
Mojo switched, for sure.
"He gets the job done," Decker said. "He's made some really good decisions these last three games. He's led us down the field in critical situations. It's not anything that's flashy. He just makes the right reads and does the right thing."
Marshall and Decker have been dominant, as dynamic a receiving duo there is in the NFL. With a combined 20 TD catches — Marshall has 11, Decker nine — they are tied for the most TD catches by a Jets wide receiver tandem in team history.
"I think when you have a great team, this is the time you usually click, in November, December and going into the postseason," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "(Sunday) was an example of that, playing a complete game. You could see it out on the field. We were focused, we were locked in and we've got to continue to stay locked in throughout the rest of the season."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL