The biggest reason why people have had such a hard time giving the Jets, and not luck, full credit for their 9-2 record isn't because they have made a habit of winning close games in the final moments.
It is because the Jets aren't winning those games on the back of an overwhelming defensive effort. Teams that win games by scores like 13-9 or 14-10 don't get called lucky. They get called defensive juggernauts and their abilities are lauded across the globe. It doesn't matter if their offense is putrid or if the opposition isn't all that good under those circumstances because when you're all about defense it is okay to be short in other areas.
That's the team everyone thought the Jets were going to be this season. They were going to be bland as plain yogurt on offense and ferocious on defense. That formula landed them a lead at halftime of the AFC Championship Game last season and it was expected to be more of the same this year. A funny thing happened on the way to 9-2, however. The Jets are much more potent than expected on offense and, painful though it is for them to admit it, far less dangerous defensively.
They still do well statistically, of course, and are by no means a bad defense, they just aren't the dominant one they told us they were going to be leading into the season. The comebacks by Cleveland and Houston were signs that they can't squeeze the life out of a wounded foe, and the need to make furious comebacks of their own in Denver and Detroit showed us that they don't always answer the opening bell.
Those aren't traits normally displayed by a great defense, even if Rex Ryan is quick to point out that the team is statistically ahead of where they were in 2009. You get the feeling that Ryan uses that as a crutch because his ego has been bruised by the defense this season and you get the feeling that they've been hearing several earfuls from the head coach about their shortcomings in the last couple of weeks.
The Bengals game definitely represented a step forward, although it is one that must be mitigated by the fact that Carson Palmer is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL today. Tom Brady won't make things quite so easy this Sunday, nor will the fact that their offense is populated with several weapons of an interchangable nature. The Jets' secondary depth, a problem for the last two years, will be tested and their pass rush, intermittent at best, will need to help their lesser lights avoid getting hung out to dry against New England receivers.
Pull that off and the narrative will be very different come Tuesday morning, regardless of the score. It won't be luck anymore. It will be a defense built to smother the opposition that is responsible for the success of the Jets.