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Post-Bye Blues Not an Option for Jets

Rex Ryan's gotta change history this week

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    The Jets can't afford a replay of last year's return from the bye week.

    The Jets got a pretty big gift from the Steelers during their bye week.

    By beating up the Patriots at Heinz Field, the Steelers gave the Jets a shot at vaulting themselves back into the race for the AFC East crown over the next two weeks.

    It also helped that the Steelers made the Patriots' defense look about as vulnerable as a newborn gazelle in the Serengeti, although we still need to see quite a bit more from the Jets offense before we're ready to suggest they can take full advantage.

    The biggest help might have been that the Steelers ignored their four straight losses to the Pats and their miserable history against Tom Brady by taking a different approach to the game.

    They didn't run their patented zone blitzes every down and concentrated on possessing the ball as long as possible to bring about a different result.

    That's the more significant piece because the Jets are facing their own nasty little history in Buffalo this Sunday. It is the history of two straight awful performances coming off bye weeks under Rex Ryan.

    Against the Packers in 2010 and the Jaguars in 2009, the Jets came out with nothing close to the requisite levels of effort and execution and went down to defeat as a result.

    Ryan elected not to change anything about their bye week schedule, although Monday's return to practice featured some changes from the last two seasons in an effort to get the team ready to play. 

    It had better work out, because it isn't all that hyperbolic to say that the Jets' playoff chances have a lot to do with the next two weeks. The Bills and Patriots are tied atop the AFC East with 5-2 records, meaning that the Jets are going to have to battle one of them for the Wild Card, although they can shoot for even more if things go right.

    With games against the Bills and Pats on the slate, the Jets are a two-game winning streak away from at least a share of the division lead with seven games to play. Given how bleak things looked after the Jets' last date with the Patriots, that's a pretty remarkable turnaround in just three weeks.

    Coming back fat and sassy simply isn't going to work this time around, because a loss to the Bills would slam that turnaround right into a brick wall. It would give Buffalo a two-game lead at the halfway point of the season, not insurmountable, perhaps, but not a hole you want to be in when the Patriots are coming to town the next week.

    So the Jets can't have a half where Mark Sanchez can't move the offense or a half where Ryan's defense appears totally unprepared for what the Bills are throwing at them. The team has to be ready to go from the first whistle because they've already had their walk in the darkness for the season.

    The next nine games are about reversing the damage done in that losing streak and it starts from the first moment they are back on the field in Buffalo.

    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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