FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Almost as soon as Jets ownership’s announcement of the contract extensions for coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan were made Friday, their players rejoiced and, in unison, talked about how “close’’ the team is to being a true playoff contender.
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins went as far as to say that teams are “afraid’’ to play the Jets.
“They’re not like, ‘Oh God, we’re playing the Jets, they’re going to be a pushover,’ ’’ Seferian-Jenkins said. “They know that when they come to play us it’s going to be a really tough game.’’
Well, the oddsmakers in Vegas disagree with regard to Sunday’s regular-season finale between the 5-10 Jets and 12-3 Patriots at Gillette Stadium, where the Jets are 14¹/₂-point underdogs and not expected to be competitive in a game New England needs to win to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“I think not only do we know, but everyone else knows after this year that we are a good team,’’ defensive lineman Leonard Williams said.
“I think we’re pretty close,’’ receiver Jermaine Kearse said. “I just got here [this season] and I like what I see.’’
Well, Sunday against the Patriots would be a good place for the Jets to prove how good they think they are despite their poor record, prove how “close’’ they are to being a playoff contender. They can do that by defeating the defending Super Bowl champions, who have won the last three meetings between the two teams, six of the last seven and 11 of the last 13.
Sunday would be a good time for the Jets to end their three-game losing streak so they don’t end 2017 on a four-game losing streak, having lost nine of their last 11 after a promising 3-2 start.
Sunday’s result in New England will not carry over or count toward the 2018 season, but this is one final chance for the Jets to show everyone that they’re as good as they think they are, as close to being a contender as they believe they are, the improved team they say they are.
It would be a good time for quarterback Bryce Petty, who’s 1-5 in six career starts and has had terrible accuracy issues the last two weeks, to complete at least 60 percent of his passes, not turn the ball over and lead the Jets offense to multiple touchdowns.
Including the game at Denver in which starting quarterback Josh McCown was injured and replaced by Petty, the Jets have scored a combined 26 points in their last three games. The Patriots have scored more than 26 points in nine of their 15 games this season.
So Petty is going to need to lead the Jets to points, because they’re not going to win (or lose) this game 14-7.
When asked how he thinks Petty will fare against Brady, his Hall of Fame counterpart, Bowles said, “Luckily it’s 11-on-11, not one-on-one. We’ve got to help Bryce [and] Bryce has to do his part.’’
Asked about his accuracy problems, Bowles said, “He’s got to improve it for us to win the ballgame. He knows he has to improve it.’’
If he doesn’t, it’s not out of the realm of possibility Jets fans actually will get to see bubble-wrapped former second-round draft pick Christian Hackenberg play for the first time in his curious two-year NFL career of inactivity.
The Jets’ offense should remember that the New England defense is ranked 29th in the league, so it’s not exactly like the Patriots have been suffocating opposing offenses into submission.
Sunday would be a good time for the Jets defense to slow down Brady (30 TDs, eight interceptions and 4,387 passing yards) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (69 catches, a 15.7-yard average and eight touchdowns).
Jets rookie safety Jamal Adams, who has shown a good glimpse of how terrific a pro he’s could be, has had his issues covering tight ends this season — most notably Gronkowski in the teams’ first meeting, a 24-17 Patriots win in October.
Brady, in un-Brady-like fashion, has thrown at least one interception in his last five games. So Sunday would be a great time for Adams to make his first NFL interception.
Sunday would be a great time for Williams, after a curious season of low statistical output (two sacks) in a year he was expecting to break out as a star, to show why he has been considered the cornerstone of the Jets’ building process. Brady has been sacked 33 times this season, so it’s not as if there’s a Trump Wall of Mexico around him.
“It’s not like we have crazy missing pieces,’’ Williams said. “Once we find consistency, I think we can play with anybody.’’