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2012 Isn't 2009

Robert Laberge

It is a comparison I have seen quite a bit. A Jets team that struggles in the middle of the year gets hot at the end of the year. They get a favorable schedule and some help and make the Playoffs. They go on a run to the AFC Championship Game. It happened in 2009. Why can't it happen in 2012?

On the surface, the comparison makes sense, but this Jets team is not as good as the 2009 team. They don't give you the same reason to hope as that team did. I think any comparison between the two teams is flimsy.

The 2009 team was 4-6 at one point, but there were a lot of signs the team's record wasn't indicative of its talent. That team led the league in both rushing and defense. It went beyond the stats, though. They allowed no offensive points to the Houston Texas, 9 to the New England Patriots, and 10 to the New Orleans Saints in the first four games of that year. Those were three of the top four offenses in the NFL in 2009. That defense was built around Darrelle Revis, who was having perhaps the greatest season a cornerback has ever had in the NFL.

Even though they ran it around 60% of the time and faced loaded boxes of eight and nine men more than any team in the league, the Jets gained it for 4.5 yards per rush that year. They had a dominant offensive line that could get a push against almost anybody. These Jets have a defense and run game that have worked against some of the the worst teams in the league but have not come close to reaching consistent success.

Like that season, Mark Sanchez was among the least effective quarterbacks in the league, but in 2009 there was at least real hope he would improve as he got more experience. No such hope exists this year.

The 2009 Jets were bitten by a bit of bad luck. Five of their seven losses were decided on plays either in the last minute or overtime. The only two losses where they lost by double digits out were in Foxborough, always a tough place to play to the 11-5 Patriots at at the Superdome to the eventual Super Bowl champion Saints. This Jets team has been uncompetitive in five of its seven losses, including a three touchdown home loss to 5-8 Miami.

As much as people remember Curtis Painter and the Bengals in Week 16 and Week 17, the 2009 Jets weren't handed a postseason spot. Yes, the Jets got an incredible break that the Colts put Painter into the lineup Week 16, but that game was no sure thing for the Colts. It was a one score game. It has become popular to say the Bengals laid down the next week in the Meadowlands and handed the Jets a Playoff spot, but Cincy played most of its starters in that game, including Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson. The Jets were so inferior to the Bengals' A-team that year that six days later they went into the Bengals' house and scored a decisive victory in a Playoff game. The Colts playing with Manning did eventually eliminate those Jets, but New York did hold a 17-6 lead in that game and was seemingly one play away from a knockout blow.

The point is the Jets were a legitimately good team three years ago. We haven't seen much to suggest this year's team has ability approaching anywhere near that level. Having hope something will happen this year because it happened that way in 2009 isn't on solid footing. These Jets haven't beaten a good team. They haven't even been competitive most of the time they faced a good team. Even if they somehow snuck into the Playoffs, they aren't dangerous unless something dramatic happens. We all hope for that, but the 2009 team didn't have to hope. They were good enough to make it happen.