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Brett Favre expects Jets to be in playoffs despite recent struggles

By RICH CIMINI

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Jacobsohn/Getty

Brett Favre leaves the field after the Jets' loss at the 49ers.

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Brett Favre expects to return in 2009 - for a playoff game.

What, you thought he made an announcement regarding his future? No, Favre hasn't touched that delicate subject, but he's still planning to be a Jets employee on the weekend of Jan. 3-4, the wild-card round.

Stopping short of a Jim Fassel-like guarantee - sorry, no poker-chip analogies - Favre predicted a playoff berth for the Jets, who haven't looked anything like a playoff team since their resounding win over the then-undefeated Titans.

"It will be tough, obviously, especially based on the way we've played the last two weeks, but I expect us to make the playoffs," the Jets' quarterback said Wednesday. "I would hope that every guy in the locker room feels the same way. Why think any different?"

Why? Because the Jets have dropped two straight, going from so-called Super Bowl contenders to a potential also-ran in the time it takes some people to return a DVD to the local video store. Tied with the Patriots and Dolphins atop the AFC East, the Jets (8-5) realize one more loss probably will kill their playoff hopes.

But Favre, trying to remain upbeat, refused to be drawn into the "Same-Old-Jets" mentality that has enveloped the franchise for...oh, about 40 years. Asked how a non-playoff season would affect the way he views his decision to unretire, Favre said matter-of-factly, "I haven't thought about it. I expect to make the playoffs."

In a motivational ploy, Favre wore his Super Bowl ring, earned 12 years ago with the Packers, on the team flight to San Francisco. A lot of good that did. The Jets were horrible in a 24-14 loss.

Nevertheless, there was no sense of desperation Wednesday at One Jets Drive in Florham Park, N.J., where hip-hop music blared from the iPod in David Bowens' locker and where players went about their business. It was a different story on Monday, when Eric Mangini lashed into the team behind closed doors, several players said. By Wednesday, things had calmed down.

"I wouldn't say there's any panic at all," tight end Chris Baker said. "I'd say it's a higher sense of urgency."

That they face the Bills (6-7), who have lost six of seven and haven't scored a touchdown in two games, probably has something to do with the Jets' confidence. Then again, these are the Jets, and they've been known to gag on prosperity. Favre knows what people are saying:

"Oh, there they go again, the Old Jets," he said, smiling.

"Why wouldn't you say that?" Favre continued. "Pardon my French, but, hell...I'm aware of what's happened here in the past for the most part. But to be quite honest, I don't care. I care about what's happening in the next three weeks."

Growing up in Mississippi, Favre was a Saints fan, so he knows what it's like to root for a star-crossed team. He never put a bag over his head, but: "I was miserable. And I'm sure the Jets fans probably feel the same way as I did....I think it's a huge challenge for us, a fun challenge. This is the position we wanted to be in."

In the playoff hunt, he meant, not in a losing streak.

Favre has gone two straight games without a touchdown pass, only the fourth time that's happened to him - three of the last four Decembers, by the way. Against the 49ers, he passed for a season-low 137 yards. Mangini was careful not to criticize the future Hall of Famer, but he acknowledged that Favre has made his share of mistakes. "It's just different things on different plays," the coach said.

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JET QB 'EXPECTS' PLAYOFFS DESPITE STINKO STRETCH

Comments: 0 Read Comments Leave a Comment By BRIAN COSTELLO

CONFIDENCE GAME: Brett Favre, despite two straight clunkers, expects the Jets to win out and win the AFC East.

Posted: 2:15 am

December 11, 2008

No one is going to call him "Broadway Brett" just yet, but Brett Favre showed his inner Namath yesterday when asked about the free-falling JetsNew York Jets ' playoff hopes.

"I expect us to make the playoffs," Favre said. "I would hope that every guy in the locker room feels the same way. Why think any different?"

The last two weeks have done nothing to inspire confidence among Jet fans. Two brutal losses, at home to Denver and in San Francisco, dented outsiders' view of this team, but the players swear they have not lost their confidence.

The Jets still control their playoff destiny with three games remaining. At 8-5, they are tied with the Patriots and Dolphins atop the AFC East, but they would win the division if they don't lose again.

Nose tackle Kris Jenkins said the beating the team has taken in the last two weeks from media and fans is to be expected.

"We're put on a pedestal that's more like one of those dunking tanks," Jenkins said. "As long as you're doing good, you're on a pedestal - smile, everybody's looking at you. But everybody is also kind of looking for that one point that that ball hits that target so you go, 'whoosh.' "

Adding to the feeling of doom and gloom around this team is the franchise's history. The Jets have made an art out of breaking their fans' hearts through the years. If this year's squad that started 8-3 fails to make the playoffs, it will be right there alongside Al Groh's 2000 disaster (lost final three games), the 1994 five-game slide that began with Dan Marino's fake spike and ended Pete Carroll's brief tenure, and Bruce Coslet's swan song in 1993 (lost final three games - again).

"I'm aware of what's happened here in the past for the most part," Favre said. "But to be quite honest, I don't care. I care about what's happening in the next three weeks. . . . I can't control what happened in the past here.

"I was a Saints fan growing up. I never quite got to wearing a bag over my head, but I was close. Every time something went wrong, same old thing. And I was miserable. And I'm sure Jets fans probably feel the same way as I did growing up as a Saints fan."

Some of the Jets' mishaps of the last two weeks would make Archie Manning blush. They are 4-for-21 (19 percent) on third down over the two games. Their wide receivers have eight catches for 55 yards and no touchdowns. The defense has given up 859 yards, with little pressure on the quarterback and coverage softer than CC Sabathia's stomach.

"We backed ourselves into a corner," safety Kerry RhodesKerry Rhodes said. "We've got to come out and win, which is good for us. In situations where we've been counted out, we've done well. In situations where we were expected to achieve and stride forward, we didn't do so well. No we're in the position we like, I guess, from seeing how we reacted this year. We know the opportunity is there for us if we win our games. We're in the driver's seat."

brian.costello@nypost.com

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FAVRE'S TROUBLES A 'SHORT' STORY

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Posted: 2:17 am

December 11, 2008

BRETT Favre said yesterday he expects to make the playoffs. With games remaining only against the dying Bills, the 2-11 Seahawks and a Dolphin team that has beaten Oakland, Seattle and St. Louis by a total of eight points, even Browning Nagle would expect to make the playoffs.

The JetsNew York Jets probably must run the table, but look at that table and watch the Ol' Gambler laying five-buck chips only on red or black. Favre insisted yesterday that the opposition hasn't figured out how to stop the Jets' short-passing game. And that a mere three Favre completions have gone for 40-plus yards in the last nine games tells you he surely hasn't stretched the defense in his favor.

What, then, was the point of bringing him here? And that's a question he will leave the Jets to answer should Favre be one-and-done in New York.

"I haven't even thought about it," Favre said again, before turning that into a declaration of his expectations of making the playoffs. He didn't say anything about winning in the playoffs, probably the better question.

Two clunkers in two weeks, one over a good team's quota this late in a season, buried the concept of the Jets' rapidly improving into the NFL elite. It was nice for the one game at Tennessee that it lasted. But the pass-coverage problems have continued, and the Jets, for reasons of practicality (10 Favre interceptions in a five-game midseason stretch), are using the same short-passing offense they had felt compelled to upgrade from Chad PenningtonChad Pennington .

"People want to say, 'They figured out the short-passing game' or, 'You guys can't throw deep,' " said Favre. "No one's figured out anything. It's a matter of execution."

When a team goes 1-for-10 on third downs last week and has two three-and-outs in the fourth quarter, execution is a problem. And Laveranues ColesLaveranues Coles - who again didn't make himself available to reporters yesterday after leaving his frustration open to interpretation in last week's conference call with Bay Area media - might be having a problem with catching only three balls for seven yards the last two weeks.

"His locker is next to mine, he knows where I stand and I know where he stands," said Favre. "Laveranues will tell you what he feels or doesn't feel and without thinking.

"That's the way he is, what makes him special. It doesn't bother me one bit. I'm doing my best to get him the ball."

Last week Coles and Jerricho Cotchery caught a mind-boggling one pass apiece in a game in which the Jets netted only 59 rushing yards. Asked about that, both Favre and coach Eric Mangini wondered how debilitating Dustin Keller's drop was on the first possession.

Gee, and if only Al Toon hadn't been forced to retire, too. The excuses sound plausible for Week 4, not Week 14. Reasons for the failure of one play can't become reasons for the failure of the next.

In truth, there hasn't been room for excuses at all since the Jets pried open this tiny window for Favre. They are down to three games to make this work, just as a 39-year-old quarterback, who in March said, "I know I can still play, just don't want to," is running out of time to convince himself to play in 2009.

Two weeks from Sunday, a spectacular irony likely will find Favre trying to out-dink Pennington for the division title. Of course, if the Jets win it, they won't have to say they are sorry for the second-rounder Favre cost, at least until a better team shows them the following week how far away they are from true contention.

jay.greenberg@nypost.com

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FAILING GRADES FOR PASS DEFENSE

Comments: 0 Read Comments Leave a Comment By BRIAN COSTELLO

Posted: 2:16 am

December 11, 2008

The JetsNew York Jets ' pass defense sunk to 31st in the league rankings this week, better than only dismal Seattle.

Niners quarterback Shaun Hill and his receivers had a field day against the Jets, racking up 275 yards and facing very little pressure. The Jets have not shown much aggression with their defensive schemes, rarely bringing extra blitzers.

"We definitely have been reacting a little bit more," safety Kerry RhodesKerry Rhodes said.

"Teams are coming out and abandoning their gameplans. They're not doing what they usually do. They're doing, I guess, what they see from a prior team or something and they try to exploit it in a different way. We're going into the game more in a reaction mode anyway. Teams are figuring out what they want to do against us from the previous game.

"They're going outside of their box. They're not doing what they like to do. They're doing what they've seen has been successful against us."

So, what's preventing the Jets defense from going "outside the box" and changing their scheme?

"You've got to talk to Coach about that one," Rhodes said. "I have no answer for that one."

*

It looks like the Jets will see J.P. Losman at quarterback for the Bills. Losman started last week in place of Trent Edwards (groin injury). Bills coach Dick Jauron would not commit to Losman, but Edwards did not practice yesterday.

*

TE Dustin Keller on his third-and-2 drop on the first drive Sunday: "That definitely was a rough one, especially on third down. I can't let that get me down."

*

WR Brad SmithBrad Smith did "light things" at practice, according to Eric Mangini. Smith was clocked by 49ers LB Patrick Willis near the end of Sunday's game in a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit. Mangini did not give an update on Smith's condition, but it's possible he won't play Sunday. Expect speedster David Clowney in his place. . . .

LB Eric Barton (knee), NT Kris Jenkins (hip) and LB Bryan Thomas (shoulder) were limited in practice yesterday. S Eric Smith was removed from the team's injury report. . . . For Buffalo, besides Edwards, WR Josh Reed (back), DE Aaron Schobel (foot), DT Marcus Stroud (hip) and S Donte Whitner (illness) did not practice yesterday. CB Jabari Greer (knee) was limited.

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Mangini shortens New York Jets' practices

by Dave Hutchinson/The Star-Ledger

Wednesday December 10, 2008, 7:38 PM

Kyle Terada/US Presswire

Jets coach Eric Mangini has decided to make practices shorter, according to several players.Jets coach Eric Mangini, a notorious stickler for long, physical practices, has cut practice short nearly a half-hour -- starting Wednesday -- in an effort to shake things up and snap his team out of a two-game losing streak, according to several players. The players, who saw the schedule prior to yesterday's practice, spoke on the condition of anonymity because Mangini hadn't publicly acknowledged the change in the practice routine, and they could be subject to reprimand under Mangini's rigid media policy.

During training camp this summer, practices averaged just under two hours as Mangini unveiled a kinder, gentler side after doing extensive research over the offseason on how the body recovers.

But during the season, practices have lasted more than 2½ hours. Usually, practices started at 11:20 a.m. and lasted until roughly 2 p.m. Afterward, the players have position meetings and more film study.

"I think it'll help us a lot," said one player before practice outside in a steady rain. "We've been going at it pretty hard here. The thing now is we need to change something. It might give us some extra recovery time to get us fresh for the games.

"I'm not saying we weren't fresh. It's a matter of just being a little bit more mentally focused by getting more meeting and classroom time. ... I don't think we've been outphysicalled in any game. (Teams) have just been outscheming us a little bit. We're not in the right place, and we're not making the right adjustments and we're making communication errors."

After the past two games, players have openly commented how practices haven't been as crisp as they had been. They admitted that practices have been lax, guys weren't finishing plays and weren't executing properly.

Perhaps after reeling off five straight victories, including back-to-back wins over the Patriots and Titans, players simply wanted to exhale.

In losses to the Broncos and 49ers, the Jets (8-5), who are in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East with the Dolphins and Patriots, did a poor job executing, tackling and made uncharacteristic mistakes.

Last week, the Jets had a season-high eight penalties against the 49ers, including one that nullified a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Leon Washington.

And for the first time this season, an opponent dominated the Jets at the line of scrimmage. San Francisco held the ball nearly twice as long (39:49 to 20:11) as the Jets.

"I think we'll be able to just focus in on exactly what we need to do," another player said. "We can get on the field, get our work done and get off the field as opposed to doing a lot of different things. I think it'll be beneficial."

Asked what happened to the kinder, gentler Mangini, the same player said, "Compared to the last few years, yeah, he is, no doubt about it."

In his first two seasons, Mangini routinely had three-hour practices in pads deep into the season. Privately, players criticized Mangini for working them too hard. Only wide receiver Laveranues Coles spoke out publicly.

The change also comes with the Jets having gone winless on the West Coast in three tries and returning there in two weeks to face the Seahawks. In their previous trips, the Jets have departed on Friday, but this time Mangini is considering leaving on Saturday to tweak the routine.

"I wouldn't say guys are tired, but I wouldn't say guys aren't tired," the player said. "This time of year everybody is tired. It's anything we can do to be fresh on Sunday. That's what counts now.

"Then again, this is the NFL. By the time you get to mid- and late December, guys are just hanging on trying to get through the year, trying to make that playoff push. I think it's a smart move by Eric."

Said a third player: "It's going to keep guys fresh, especially with the end of the season here and the stretch of games we're about to have. We're going to have to pull out these games, and this will help."

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Favre: I expect Jets to make playoffsBY ERIK BOLAND | erik.boland@newsday.com

December 11, 2008

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Although it wasn't quite Jim Fassel's "I'm shoving my chips in the middle of the table" speech guaranteeing a playoff spot for the Giants in 2000, it was something.

With negativity swirling around the Jets after back-to-back losses dropped them into a three-way tie for first in the AFC East, Brett Favre was the first player, publicly, to state where he thinks the team is headed.

"I expect to make the playoffs," Favre said yesterday. "I didn't expect us to lose the last two games. But I don't know if too many people expected us to win five straight; maybe our team did. So if we're able to win five straight and accept that, then we have to be willing to deal with these two games that we've lost and figure out a way to turn it around."

Favre acknowledged the ugliness of the losses to the Broncos and 49ers, but said the Jets are still in position to accomplish what they set out to do at the start of the season.

"The bottom line is we're 8-5 and we're tied for the division," Favre said. "So there's three games left. We can't worry about the remaining two. We have to worry about this one. It will be tough, obviously, especially based on the way we've played the last two weeks. But I expect to make the playoffs. I would hope that every guy in the locker room feels the same way. Why think any different?"

Told of Favre's gusto, nose tackle Kris Jenkins laughed. "You gotta go with what Brett says," Jenkins said. "Brett's the dude."

But he hasn't been the last two weeks. The Jets haven't come close to resembling the team that after a 34-13 win at Tennessee was being discussed as a Super Bowl contender and, Favre said, was probably "the toast of the town."

It has been the secondary getting toasted the last two weeks. Favre hasn't been much help, totaling 384 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

"People want to say, well, they figured out the short passing game or you guys can't throw deep," he said. "No one's figured out anything. It's a matter of execution."

Favre said the worst thing he or the team could do would be to "hit the panic button," though he knows quite a few on the outside have done that.

For a recent arrival, Favre has shown a fairly good grasp of the Jets' fan base. He understands, because he grew up a Saints fan.

"I never quite got to wearing a bag over my head, but I was close," Favre said. "Every time something went wrong, same old thing. And I was miserable. And I'm sure the Jets fans probably feel the same way as I did growing up a Saints fan."

So, with the exception of the word "same," Favre delivered the lament pretty accurately.

"Oh, there they go again, the old Jets," Favre said of the reaction the last two weeks. "I haven't read that but I'm assuming that's - why wouldn't you say that? I consider it a challenge ... I don't know what's going to happen. I really don't. I'm aware of what's happened here in the past for the most part. But to be quite honest, I don't care. I care about what's happening in the next three weeks. I care about what's happening this week."

Favre also understands he was brought in to lift the franchise out of "same old Jets" mode.

"I've always looked at myself as, if I'm on the field I give you an added edge," Favre said. "And that's not being ****y. I think every player should feel that way."

Sunday

Buffalo at Jets

1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 2

Radio: WEPN (1050), WABC (770), WRCN (103.9)

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