Outside of Super Bowl III, it's hard to think of a day where more things went the Jets' way than December 27th. Coincidentally or not, both days featured victories against the Colts when they weren't playing their best quarterback.
Forty years ago, the Jets built a big lead against Earl Morrall and then held on to win in Miami after Johnny Unitas came into the game and failed to lead the Colts to victory. On Sunday, Peyton Manning sat to rest for the playoffs halfway through the third quarter and Curtis Painter made a huge blunder to help set the Jets on their way to a victory.
Painter fumbled on a sack by Calvin Pace, Marques Douglas recovered it for a touchdown and the Colts' decision to sit their starters brought their bid for an undefeated season to an end. It wasn't all about the Colts' personnel choices -- the Jets defense did a fine job holding the Colts to nine points in the first half and Mark Sanchez didn't throw an interception -- but Jim Caldwell deserves some love from the Jets faithful. The victory was the icing on a cake that Santa, Joe Namath or some other deity had been baking up for the Jets all day long.
The Jaguars, Dolphins and Ravens all lost in Sunday's early games, which meant that the Jets could find their way into the playoffs with two straight wins. As you can read above, the Colts were only too happy to provide nothing more than token opposition which took care of win number one. Meanwhile, the Bengals did their part by wrapping up the AFC North with a victory and there's nothing they can do to put themselves in position to get a first round bye. What's more, their starting linebacker Rey Maualuga fractured his ankle and that will make them even less likely to risk the health of players in a game that holds no benefit for them.
Like we said at the top, a good day to be a Jet.
And so, improbably, the Jets are in the driver's seat for a playoff spot seven days after their coach and everyone watching them lose to the Falcons proclaimed them dead in the water. Every break went their way, which either means the worm has turned in this roller coaster season or we're being set up for one helluva kick to the groin in a week's time.