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No Letdown Allowed for Jets This Week

Jets can't have one of those games against the Chiefs

By Josh Alper
|  Friday, Dec 9, 2011  |  Updated 5:28 PM EDT
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Which side of Rex Ryan will prevail this Sunday?

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When thinking about this Sunday's game against the Chiefs, it is hard not to think about it as a microcosm of the entire Rex Ryan era.

On the surface it looks like a game that the Jets should completely dominate to pick up their eighth victory of the season. The Chiefs are playing Tyler Palko at quarterback, Jamaal Charles was lost a long time ago and Kansas City has had a disappointing season across the board after winning the AFC West last year.

The Jets, on the other hand, have everything in the world at stake when they take the field on Sunday afternoon. A win keeps them in good shape for a playoff spot and they are coming off of two faith-restoring wins over the Bills and Redskins.

And yet it feels like one of those games for the Jets, one of those Sundays in December when they go out and play so poorly that it makes you question what in the world Ryan does to get his team ready to play games they can't afford to lose. They had one against Atlanta in 2009 and another against the Dolphins last season, losses so bad and so inexplicable that it makes the ensuing playoff runs seem even more miraculous.

So there's a sense of fear even when your mind struggles to figure out why confidence isn't shooting through the roof. Such is life with the Jets come December in the Ryan era.

Whatever trepidation you might feel about this game is tempered by the fact that it matters at all. The Jets have looked dead and buried at multiple points this season, but Ryan has figured out a way to keep the train from jumping off the rails.

Just as in the past two seasons, the Jets are still breathing because they haven't let bad losses sway them from their belief that they are a good team with better days right around the corner. All of that comes from the identity that Ryan started installing the moment he took the job in 2009.

That leaves you doing a weird little dance as you try to negotiate feelings of both confidence and doubt in the Jets team that will face off with Kansas City this Sunday. In Rex you trust, for better or for worse.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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