NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, December 30, 2015, 8:25 PM
It comes down to Rex vs. the Jets in order for Gang Green to reach the playoffs.
From the moment the 2015 NFL schedule came out, this seemed almost inevitable.
Of course Rex Ryan is the Jets’ gatekeeper to the playoffs. Of course their regular season has to end by facing their old coach in Orchard Park. And so the drama is heightened even further for a game that already has the Jets’ postseason hopes riding on it.
Ryan was asked Wednesday if this week’s contest is just another game for him.
“Absolutely,” the coach responded with obvious sarcasm.
Nobody’s buying that. Because the Bills “failed miserably” — Ryan’s words — this season, the only consolation left for the Buffalo head coach has to be stopping his old team from getting to play past Jan. 3, even if he won’t come right out and say it.
“Is there gonna be a little more satisfaction that way? I mean I can’t tell you that because there’s a lot of people there that I care about and you want them to do well,” Ryan said. “But I don’t want them to do well at my expense.”
Bills defensive lineman Marcell Dareus said knocking Ryan’s former team out of the playoffs hadn’t been explicitly mentioned this week, but that it didn’t need to be.
“I’m pretty sure it’s the elephant in the room,” Dareus said Wednesday. “We’re out of the playoffs and they have a shot at the playoffs. It’s just kind of crazy altogether now that at the back end of the season, their playoff hopes depend on us. It’s just crazy how it all bounced in this direction.”
The situation is not lost on the Jets’ players, either.
Antonio Cromartie says the Jets wouldn’t have it any other way than to face Rex Ryan and the Bills with a playoff berth on the line.
“But I don’t think we would have it any other way,” Antonio Cromartie said. “To finish the season on a high note, playing against the Buffalo Bills.”
But in order to secure that win that they so desperately covet, most of the Jets’ locker room tried to play down the Ryan angle on Wednesday. The hope, for them, is that if they treat this final regular season game like they have the last five, they’ll get the same result.
“You don’t want to put no pressure on yourself,” Cromartie said. “You don’t want to put pressure on your teammates or make guys feel like they have to press or do something extra.”
Todd Bowles, too, didn’t want to put the cart before the horse. Asked what it felt like to be so close to be the playoffs, Bowles said, “It’s just close. It doesn’t count.”
Sunday’s contest against the Bills marks the end of a dramatic turnaround for the Jets. The team went 4-12 a season ago but quickly reloaded in the offseason into a contender. Now, they are on the precipice of a playoff birth, which would have been a surprise to many in the preseason. But not Cromartie, the veteran cornerback who is in his second stint with Gang Green. When he re-signed, he said, he did not see the Jets as a rebuilding project.
“Honestly I didn’t even look at it as a rebuild,” Cromartie said. “I looked at it as an opportunity to change the saying of ‘Same Old Jets.'”
That they have done, but they still need to finish the job. The Same Old Jets would lose on Sunday, but Cromartie said the Jets, obviously, are intent on winning.
“That’s the plan. I’m not going guaranteeing (anything), our plan is to go in and win,” Cromartie said. “We’re not looking at it any other way.”