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The Jets' Playoff Dream Remains Alive

A Jets win on Monday night keeps the postseason in the picture

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The ground game will be a big factor in Tennessee on Monday night.

    There was a real good news/bad news vibe for New York football fans when the Cowboys kicked a field goal to beat the Steelers in overtime on Sunday. 

    For the Giants, it was bad news because it meant the Cowboys were now ahead of them in the pecking order for NFC East superiority. For the Jets, though, the Steelers loss meant that they can keep throwing fuel on the fire pushing their improbable playoff push. 

    If the Steelers beat the Bengals next weekend and both AFC North teams lose in Week 17, the Jets will make it into the postseason if they win all their remaining games. Given the shaky footing the Giants find themselves on right now, it's not unthinkable that the season could end for them in two weeks while the Jets continue playing a little bit longer. 

    Chewing on that for a while will make you wonder why you even bother paying attention to the first six weeks or so of a football season, but it is important to note that Rex Ryan won't be getting a shot to secure his first trip to the White House without three more wins. The first chance to get a win comes on Monday night in Tennessee. 

    While Mark Sanchez will remain the focal point for the Jets because he's always the focal point for the Jets, the game is likely to be decided by the running game. The first half of the Cardinals win appears to be the moment where the Jets finally realized that Sanchez is hurting them more than he can help them and decided to cast their lot with the running game. 

    Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell have made that decision look wise in the last six quarters, controlling the ball and chewing up clock to limit the chances for the Jets to cause themselves damage. As long as they continue to do that in the next three games against opponents incapable of doing much to win games on their own, they are going to give themselves to run the table. 

    Incapable of doing much isn't the same as being incapable of doing anything and the Titans do have one guy who is capable of turning the tables on the Jets in prime time. Running back Chris Johnson's numbers aren't as good as they once were, but he's still the best player on the Tennessee team and the one player they have that's capable of taking over the game. 

    The Jets defense has played very well in the last two weeks, although there's a fairly large asterisk next to those performances. The Cardinals and Jaguars pose about as much offensive threat as a wall, so Johnson will test a run defense that has sprung plenty of leaks over the course of the season. 

    They'll need to stand up on Monday and allow the Jets to win the battle of the running games if the team is going to win the battle on the scoreboard. Do that and you can keep on dreaming the impossible dream. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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