The Jets at the Halfway Point - NBC New York

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The Jets at the Halfway Point

The highs and lows of the first eight games



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    The Jets have been a rollercoaster ride ever since Rex Ryan took over as coach and the 2011 season hasn't proven to be much different.

    Two wins, three losses and three wins have made it impossible for anyone to get overly comfortable about the state of the team as they reach the midpoint of the season.

    Even within individual games, the team's play can fluctuate so wildly that it feels like you're going to throw up before the car makes it back to the station.

    But those last three wins have provided a little bit of calm to what was spiraling into a really ugly scene and things are starting to look a bit more like what we expected to see at the start of the year.

    A win on Sunday night against the Patriots will have the Jets by themselves on top of the AFC East, which is just about the place you want to be with the schedule taking a turn for the easier in the second half.

    With a few days before that game gets underway, let's take a look back at the men who have contributed to this year's thrill ride to the halfway point. They'll likely be a big part of things the rest of the way.

    MVP: Darrelle Revis has had four interceptions in three games this season and his interceptions were among the biggest, if not the biggest, plays in each of those games. Revis is the Defensive MVP of the NFL through the first nine weeks of the season and, if it is even possible, is playing better than the considerable hype that trails behind him.

    Breakout Player: The only highlight of Joe McKnight's rookie season was his spotlight role on "Hard Knocks" as a guy who vomits during practice because he's out of shape. This season he's a special teams demon who blocks punts and returns kickoffs so well that he helps shape games.

    Most Improved: McKnight's rookie shame came during practice, but Kyle Wilson was made to look bad every time he stepped on the field last season until the Jets mercifully benched him. He's back as the nickel corner this year and he's flashing some of the skills that made him a first-round pick as part of the resurgent defense.

    Biggest Disappointment: There have been some signs of turnaround the last two weeks, but Shonn Greene was expected to be so much more than he has been through the first eight games. Some of that is thanks to a line that had to play without Nick Mangold, but Greene's burst wasn't there and his vision was lacking throughout the first half.

    Best Game: The Bills game was the best overall performance, but it was the Chargers game before the bye that finally saw the light go on for the Jets. The second half saw the return of the Jets defense and a pounding run game coupled with the realization that Plaxico Burress is a weapon that must be exploited offensively. That's the blueprint game and the rout of the Bills was just the natural progression.

    Worst Game: The loss to the Ravens was horrific on every single level and it really felt like the team might not be able to recover from it as quickly as they have. Mangold almost won MVP up top because of how bad the line played without him, but even with him it is a game that's going to linger should the Jets and Ravens meet again come playoff time.

    Unsung Hero: Sione Pouha doesn't get the attention lavished on Revis, Bart Scott and other members of the Jets defense, but we've got a feeling that's going to change before all is said and done this year. He's a beast in the middle of the line against the run and his play in the last two weeks has put an end to the Jets' issues in that part of the game.

    Biggest Questions: Can the defense keep it up? After a shaky start, the last six quarters have seen the Jets defense return to the championship level essential for any serious Jets run this season. Barring injury, there's not much reason to expect them to dip back although there wasn't much reason to expect the poor performances against Dallas, Oakland or New England either.

    What's the outlook for Mark Sanchez? We delve into all things Sanchez on a weekly basis, but to this point every positive step from the quarterback has been matched by glimpses of the erratic play that hampered him in his first two seasons.

    There's been enough good to hold out promise for the final eight games, especially with his connection to Plaxico Burress looking stronger every week.

    Is there a home playoff game in the future? This week's game with New England will go a long way toward deciding that.

    The Jets have been strong at home this season and all their toughest games will be in the building the rest of the way, so beating the Pats puts them in position to take it the rest of the way.

    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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