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Brett Favre armed to make title run

BY RICH CIMINI

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Wednesday, December 17th 2008, 8:35 PM

Antonelli/News

Brett Favre muses about future and his arm strength, but stays focused - and optimistic about - leading Jets to Super Bowl.

Brett Favre is slumping, his 39-year-old body is aching and critics are calling his latest Pro Bowl a sham. This isn't how he envisioned the homestretch in his first - and possibly last - season with the Jets, but it hasn't affected his swagger.

The ever-confident gunslinger still believes he can lead the Jets to a championship.

"I'd love to lead the league in the passer rating every year," Favre said -, "but I'd much rather lead this team to a Super Bowl - and I think I have that capability to be that type of leader....That's one thing that you can't measure."

Translation: Stats are for geeks; it's all about heart and victories.

Favre has compiled a 61.0 passer rating over the last three games, dropping him to 14th in the NFL at 86.5, and his interception total has ballooned to a league-high 17. After Sunday's win over the Bills, he questioned his arm strength, and - he hinted for the first time that his throwing shoulder is sore.

Asked how his shoulder is feeling, Favre quipped, "The good one or the bad one?"

Favre did very little throwing during the first 30minutes of practice, which were open to the media, but he didn't appear on the Jets' injury report - meaning he participated in a full practice.

Despite the bumps and bruises, Favre spoke optimistically about the Jets' playoff chances. They face the Seahawks (3-11) in a virtual must-win game Sunday in Seattle, where he will cross paths with his former Packers coach, Mike Holmgren.

"He's having a great year and he's making a big difference on that team," Holmgren said on a conference call. "He looks the same to me."

He was being kind. Even Favre acknowledged that his physical skills are diminishing, saying, "Can I play at a level I did 12 years ago? I have no idea. Most people are going to say no. That may be right."

Favre raised many eyebrows after Sunday's win over the Bills, when he admittedly underthrew Jerricho Cotchery on a deep route - an interception. "Maybe I don't have the arm I once had, I don't know," he said. But, after reviewing the tape, he noticed guard Alan Faneca bumped him during his release, which he believes affected the distance.

"There are a lot of throws I can make that other guys can't make, and that's one of them I can make," he said.

Favre appears to be wearing down, according to an opposing general manager.

"You can't say it's the scheme anymore, so what could you put it on?" said the GM, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It has to be two things: Diminishing returns given his age and other teams doing a pretty good job of dissecting what they've been doing."

Favre hears the clock ticking. He hasn't announced his plans for 2009, but he acknowledged that he is trying to soak in as much as possible - just in case this is the end of his legendary career.

"I'm well aware of the fact that there's two games left," he said. "I'm expecting us to make the playoffs...but it very well could be my last. It could be my last three games, last four games. I don't know."

That he's facing Holmgren in such a critical game seems fitting. They spent seven seasons together in Green Bay, winning the Super Bowl 12 seasons ago. This is the end for Holmgren, his final home game. He announced before the season he would take a one-year sabbatical in 2009.

"The irony is just unbelievable," he said of having to face Favre in his farewell.

Asked if he expects the famously indecisive Favre to return in 2009, Holmgren laughed.

"I've been wrong three times before," he said, "so I'm not going to make any predictions."

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As Chad Pennington looms, Brett Favre & Jets can't throw season away

Deryk/AP

Chad Pennington points the Dolphins in the right direction this season.

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It's never easy with the Jets, but they will beat the Seahawks, a three-win team with their bags packed since Halloween, then take care of the Dolphins, a nice story if not a very good team, and win the AFC East.

Two days after the Jets acquired Brett Favre in August, I said they would be a 10-6 wild-card team. Then Tom Brady went down and expectations went up. Although the Jets have flopped since winning those back-to-back games in New England and Tennessee when they looked like the class of the AFC, they are in prime position to finish this off and win the division.

The Favre of old is just the old Favre now, and by the time he gets into the Hall of Fame, his time with the Jets will be just a footnote to his career, but a piece of his legacy is still at stake.

The losses to the Broncos and 49ers were dreadful, and the Jets should vote Dick Jauron a playoff share for that insane decision Sunday that cost the Bills the game Sunday. But I can't see Favre losing to Seneca Wallace in front of his former coach, Mike Holmgren, who has been having a lousy lame-duck season, and then certainly not to Chad Pennington with the reputation of the organization on the line with what will likely be a winner-take-all, dramatic ending to the regular season.

"How confident am I that we'll be in the playoffs?" Favre said Wednesday. "I think that I have to be honest and tell you that I am really confident, as I should be."

Fear is sometimes the greatest motivation. The Jets know blowing a playoff spot after winning eight of their first 11 and holding a one-game lead is completely unacceptable.

"It can be disastrous," Kerry Rhodes said. "We were sitting pretty. To draw a comparison, it would be like the Mets of a couple years ago where they had the big lead and then didn't get it done. There were changes made. We don't want it to be that way."

Eric Mangini was trying to convince his players Wednesday that they should pay attention to tapes of the Seahawks over the last month and not the numbers. But there is only one number that matters: Seattle is 3-11. Two of those victories came against the Rams and the other against the 49ers.

If Mangini loses two weeks apart to the 49ers and Seahawks after having already lost to the Raiders, then what is the point of keeping him around? If he can't get his players ready against teams already booking their January vacations, then it may be time for Woody Johnson to move on. And forget about the West Coast travel argument. These games are in the continental United States, after all.

(Page 2 of 2)

The Dolphins have scored only 84 points in their last five victories. They've always hated to play in cold weather. If the Jets and Dolphins each win this weekend, the game is certain to be switched to Sunday night. What more could the Jets want? They'd have control of their own destiny against their old quarterback, whom management thought so little of that it just cut him, clearly not caring if he signed with a division team.

The Jets are well aware of the potential significance of the Chad Bowl. "You can't help but think about it," Rhodes said. "We know the possibilities of what it can be if we get this win and if they get a win. It will be interesting."

The Jets have to be extremely anxious about the next 10 days. "We haven't gone out and purchased a bunch of Zoloft," Mangini said with a laugh.

The day the season is over, the Favre guessing game starts. Will he play next year? He looked old and tired Wednesday, but it is mid-December and he will be 40 next year. A division title, maybe a playoff victory, one month to think about it and he could be back. If he can't get the Jets into the playoffs, he might as well retire.

Favre will validate the trade if he gets the Jets to the postseason. If not, then it was a waste of everybody's time. "I'm expecting us to make the playoffs, as I hope the rest of our team is," Favre said.

It's all right there for the Jets. They will make it to January, or Mangini might have been better off naming his kid after Chad.

gmyers@nydailynews.com

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'Mangenius' can crack wise

BY RICH CIMINI

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

He used to be "Mangenius." Now, with the Jets struggling to the finish, he's being called a lot of other things.

"It changes so dramatically," Eric Mangini said Wednesday, showing a lighter side. "You can get a nickname one year; you can get a revised nickname the next year. Some are nice. Some aren't nice."

The pressure is on Mangini to get the Jets, who received a league-high seven Pro Bowl selections, into the playoffs. When the Pro Bowl number was brought up, Mangini grouped it with other so-called, pressure-building events.

"It's right on down the line - the free agents (we signed), Brett Favre, new facility, Tom Brady going down," he said. "The only pressure I feel is to give the guys the best plan to win each weekend."

WEST DEFENSE: Mangini, hoping to change the team's West Coast mojo, tweaked the practice schedule in preparation for this weekend's trip to Seattle. Trying to adjust their body clocks, Mangini told the players they don't have to report until 9 a.m. today, one hour later than usual.

The Jets, trying to shake up the routine after losing their first three West Coast games, wanted to leave Saturday, a day later than usual. But complications with their airline charter prevented that.

HE NOSE IT: Pro Bowl nose tackle Kris Jenkins acknowledged that he is in a three-game slump. He gave three reasons: Assorted bumps and bruises (he's listed with a hip injury), his body reacting differently to a new position and changing game plans against him.

"I wish I could be Superman for everybody and I wish I could be 100% perfect every time I go out there," he said. "Honestly, I'm learning a new position and I'm trying to make sure I do the best I can....I knew there would be some adversity. I have to regroup and bounce back. I think my body is responding well now."

PLENTY IN RESERVE: For the eighth time in 15 games, the Jets will face a quarterback who began the season on the bench. Seneca Wallace will start for the injured Matt Hasselbeck (back), Mike Holmgren confirmed. Wallace's elusiveness could pose problems for the Jets, who have struggled against mobile quarterbacks. The Seahawks also probably will be without their entire starting offensive line.

INSIDE TRACK: After only one indoor practice for the first 14 weeks, the Jets went inside for the third consecutive day. What gives? Several players said Favre lobbied Mangini to make the switch....WR Brad Smith, who missed last week with a concussion, returned to practice on a limited basis.

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JENKINS & CO. LOOK TO FIND WINNING FORM

Comments: 1Read Comments Leave a Comment By BRIAN COSTELLO

NOSE TO THE GRINDSTONE: Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, practicing at the Jets' facility yesterday, says the team's defense has been inconsistent, despite "sparks of brilliance."

Last updated: 4:58 am

December 18, 2008

Posted: 2:13 am

December 18, 2008

Kris Jenkins is as puzzled as you are about the JetsNew York Jets defense.

The unit has played well enough to be ranked sixth against the run this season, but has played poorly enough in the last three weeks to give up 414 yards on the ground and 1,165 yards total.

"At certain points in time, we show sparks of brilliance when we play," the Jets nose tackle said. "At certain times we show something else that I do not understand. That's the reality of it."

NEXT UP: SEAHAWKS (PHOTOS)

Marshawn Lynch lit the Jets defense up on Sunday for 127 yards, and the Bills managed 187 yards rushing, a season-high allowed by the Jets. Lynch barreled through Jets defenders, who failed to wrap him up and stop him.

It is not the first time the Jets have struggled to tackle lately. Denver's Peyton Hillis broke tackle after tackle three weeks ago against the Jets.

"We've got to put a lot of the responsibility on ourselves because we didn't have the proper technique, the proper leverage when coming to make tackles," cornerback Ty Law said. "You know, fundamental football stuff that goes back to day one we didn't do very well."

Coach Eric Mangini emphasized getting back to basics in practice last week, but tackling is a difficult skill to practice after training camp. NFL teams don't have any full-contact drills during the season, and contact gets even more scaled back this time of year.

"We've all been playing this game long enough that we know how to tackle," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "I think it's a situation where late in the season some of your technique gets a little lax. It's definitely not right. That's what we've got to take the time to be on point technique wise."

Jenkins got most of the credit early in the season when the Jets defense was stingy against the run, and he's catching a lot of the blame now. There has been speculation that the Pro Bowler is wearing down or he's hurt. He was limited in practice last week and yesterday because of a hip injury.

"I'm a year away from 30, man," Jenkins said. "It's not going to look as pretty as it did my rookie year in the league. It comes with the game. That's part of it. Sometimes you might have a couple aches and pains here and there. I haven't had anything serious enough to keep me off the field. At the same time, there are some things I have to work on. I'm learning my body. It's a different scheme. My body's reacting different to it. I'm taking it all in stride.

"I wish I could be Superman for everybody, and that I could be 100 percent perfect every time I go out there."

The Jets defense played better against the Bills, but still failed to get much pressure on quarterback J.P. Losman. The Jets relied mainly on three- or four-man rushes, frustrating the fans who want to see them blitz more.

"I'm not afraid to blitz," Mangini said. "I've always enjoyed blitzing. But to me it's got to be calculated. It's got to be for a specific purpose. It's got to be sound. All those things I think are really important."

brian.costello@nypost.com

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GANG GREEN COULD LOSE AND SNEAK INTO PLAYOFFS

Comments: 0Read Comments Leave a Comment By BRIAN COSTELLO

Last updated: 4:58 am

December 18, 2008

Posted: 2:13 am

December 18, 2008

The JetsNew York Jets are focused on winning the next two games to capture the AFC East crown, but could remain alive for a wild card if they lose this week in Seattle.

Here's the scenario: If the Jets lose to the Seahawks and beat the Dolphins next week, they would be 10-6. If the Patriots win out, they would win the division. But if the Ravens lose this week in Dallas and then beat Jacksonville, that would leave the Jets and Ravens tied for the second AFC wild card.

NEXT UP: SEAHAWKS (PHOTOS)

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, which is not applicable. The second tiebreaker is conference record. In this scenario, they both would finish 8-4 in the AFC. The third tiebreaker is record versus common opponents, which again would be a tie at 4-1 (Bengals, Titans, Dolphins, Raiders). That would bring us to strength of victory, where the Jets currently have a big edge. The teams the Jets have beaten have won 56 games so far. The Ravens' victories have come over teams with a combined 46 wins.

Got it? If the Jets win the next two, you don't have to worry about it. But if they lose Sunday and the Cowboys beat the Ravens on Saturday, there's still hope for the Jets.

*

Brett Favre on his future: "I am well aware of the fact that there's two games left. I'm expecting us to make the playoffs, as I hope the rest of our team is. But it very well could be my last. It could be my last three games, last four games. I don't know. . . . I have no idea, as most players don't, what direction the team would want to go in."

*

Coach Eric Mangini was in a jovial mood yesterday and delivered the line of the day, maybe the season, when asked if there is anxiety around Jets headquarters these days.

"We haven't gone out and purchased Zoloft or anything," the coach/comedian said.

*

First-round pick Vernon Gholston was inactive for the first time Sunday. "I'm not disappointed," the No. 6 pick said. "For me, as a player I want to be out there but at the same time, it's a bigger thing than me. As a team, we're trying to make this push."

Seneca Wallace will start at quarterback for the Seahawks. . . . For the Jets, LB Eric BartonEric Barton (knee), WR Laveranues ColesLaveranues Coles (thigh), LB David Harris (groin), NT Kris Jenkins (hip), WR Brad Smith (head) and LB Bryan Thomas (shoulder) were limited in practice yesterday. WR Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), G Brandon Moore (ankle) and LB Justin Trusnik (knee) practiced.

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JETS CONFIDENT, ARE YOU?

Comments: 0 Read Comments Leave a Comment YES WE CAN: Brett Favre says he is "really confident" the Jets can make the playoffs.

Last updated: 4:59 am

December 18, 2008

Posted: 2:13 am

December 18, 2008

MIDWEEK in Florham Park, and there are no signs of distress, no signals of fear and/or loathing. No hint of terror. No trace of fear. There is even the sound of . . . gasp . . . laughter here, deep in the woods of North Jersey.

While JetsNew York Jets fans sit and shiver and shimmy and shake, waiting for the other shoe to drop (not an unfounded fear because, let's face it, for three weeks shy of 40 years, the other shoe always has dropped), the people who occupy Jets jerseys for a living sure look cheerier than the ones who drop $79.99 for them at Modell's.

NEXT UP: SEAHAWKS (PHOTOS)

"I think that I have to be honest and tell you that I'm really confident, as I should be," said Brett Favre, who has taken in a rodeo or three in his day. "I would hope that if you polled every one of the players in that locker room they would say the same thing. I think confidence is one of the keys to success."

Nobody from Gallup or Quinnipiac was available to process those polls yesterday, but the mood was bright and the outlook sunny, even if the early forecast in Seattle Sunday calls for snow and temperatures in the 20s. Even the coach, not someone you would ever expect to see at New Talent Night at Caroline's, was in an especially chipper mood.

"You can get a nickname one year and get a revised nickname the next year," the coach formerly known as Mangenius said, though to be perfectly accurate he doesn't have a new-nickname problem among Jets fans these days so much as an epithet problem.

That's the way it should be around the Jets, because with two games left in the season, they are exactly where everyone always wants to be this late in any season: in control one's own destiny. This isn't always such a marvelous thing, as evidenced by these two random quotes plucked out of the recent past:

"We are in control of our own destiny." (David Wright, Sept. 25, 2007).

"We have our destiny in our hands." (David WrightDavid Wright , Sept. 23, 2008).

OK. So maybe those aren't so random. Still, just because the Jets' ancient baseball cousins managed to squander the destiny that was clutched so firmly in their hands the past two years, it is still better to have it than to not have it.

Would you rather be the Jets right now or the Eagles, for instance? It is safe to say that no playoff contender in the AFC has struggled more than the Jets the past three weeks, and Favre has been limping hauntingly toward the finish line. It is safe to say that no contender in the NFC has soared more than the resurgent Eagles the past three weeks, and Donovan McNabb looks as if he has had a Fountain of Youth I.V. installed in his arm.

Yet this is what has to happen for the Eagles to squeeze in the playoffs:

1. They have to beat the Redskins on the road and the Cowboys (who may well be playing a win-and-in game themselves) at home.

2. They need to hope the Bucs lose at home to either the Chargers (unlikely) or the Raiders (impossible).

3. Or they need the Falcons to lose at Minnesota (the best-case scenario of all) or at home to the Rams (and you, me, Serby and eight strangers couldn't lose at home to the Rams).

Out of the question? Of course not. But it will involve two weeks of teeth gritting and two weeks of borrowing the time-honored baseball tradition of scoreboard watching. The Jets? Just win. Twice. And even that's not impossible, because a Ravens loss in the last-ever game at Texas Stadium likely keeps the Jets alive for a wild-card berth even if they fall in Seattle.

The Jets know all of that. They seem confident. They sound confident. "We are confident," Favre said.

Are you?

michael.vaccaro@nypost.com

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Jenkins, hits big obstacle

by Dave Hutchinson/The Star-Ledger

Wednesday December 17, 2008, 8:29 PM

Jets Pro Bowl nose tackle Kris Jenkins knew this point in the season was coming, he just didn't know when. He knew the normal aches and pains, the constant double-teams from all angles and the adjustment of learning a new scheme would all come crashing down on him.

Wednesday, Jenkins said that day has arrived and apologized for not being "Superman" and not being "100 percent perfect every time I go out there." But, he said, teams are game-planning him differently now that they've seen him in the 3-4 scheme.

After dominating opponents for the first 11 games as the Jets' run defense ranked as high as third in the NFL, the 6-4, 360-pound Jenkins has hit a wall and the Jets' run defense has crumbled along with him.

In their first 11 games, the Jets held five opponents to fewer than 50 yards rushing. Against Buffalo in Week 9, the Bills rushed for just 30 yards on 17 carries as Jenkins turned in a dominating three-tackle, 1 1/2-sack performance. Bills running back Marshawn Lynch had just 16 yards on nine carries while nursing a stomach ailment.

In the past three games, however, the Jets have allowed 100 or more yards rushing each time, including a season-high 187 in their improbable, 31-27 victory over the Bills last Sunday. Lynch rushed for 127 yards on 21 attempts.

Jenkins, who was quiet with two tackles, wasn't on the field when Bills running back Fred Jackson carried half the Jets defense for the final 4 yards of an 11-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run up the middle.

"I was prepared for this when I came in," Jenkins said Wednesday. "I knew there would be some adversity in my path and I have to regroup and bounce back. I had a little bit of a rough spell personally against San Francisco and Buffalo. But I think my body is responding well now and I feel fine and I think I'll be fine as the season progresses.

"I'm a year away from 30 (years old). It's not going to look as pretty as it did my rookie year. ... I'm learning my body. It's a different scheme. My body is reacting different to it. I'm taking it all in stride. I just want everybody to understand that you have to work with me some."

Jenkins, in his eighth NFL season, injured his back in Week 3 against the Chargers and was on the injury list with a hip problem last week and this week.

"It's a long season," said coach Eric Mangini. "He's a big man. Big men, they take a lot of wear and tear. It's no different than other guys of comparable size, not that there are many."

Simply put, the Jets defense, which still ranks sixth against the run (90.9 yards per game allowed), will go only as far as Jenkins can carry it. He has been a force against the run and the pass, and several of his teammates have called him the team MVP. He has 40 tackles (eight for losses) and 3 1/2 sacks this season.

Against the Broncos, Jenkins said veteran center Casey Wiegmann beat him with superior technique. But he said the 49ers and Bills simply beat him. Both teams repeatedly controlled Jenkins with double teams, which Jenkins had been beating with regularity all season.

"I wish I could be Superman for everybody and I wish that I could be 100 percent perfect every single time I go out there," said Jenkins, adding that the Buffalo game was a "tough pill" to swallow. "But honestly, I'm learning a new position. Sometimes everything is good. I can go out and do my thing.

"And sometimes things change. We're playing other teams that are very good. ... There are things that I'm confident I'll be able to get on top of but it's a learning experience."

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Favre may be old, but he's the man to guide New York Jets' playoff push

by Steve Politi/The Star-Ledger

Wednesday December 17, 2008, 8:24 PM

Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger

Jets quarterback Brett Favre may be showing his age, but Steve Politi says he's the right guy to lead Gang Green in their playoff pursuit.His press conferences are starting to feel like the keynote address at an AARP convention. His numbers are way down from last season, with the notable exception of his interceptions, and his famous shotgun of an arm is firing like a water pistol.

The Jets are 9-5 and must win their final two games to guarantee a playoff berth, a telling stretch that will either validate their expensive offseason moves or send their head coach to Kinko's to get his resume ready. So who do they want at quarterback right now?

C'mon. They want the old guy.

They want Brett Favre.

We are conditioned to second-guess just about anything around here, but sorry, this one is bulletproof. No matter what happens in Seattle this weekend and against Miami in the season finale, the Jets absolutely made the right decision to bring Favre to the Meadowlands.

So what if he practically creaks when he talks these days, if even he admits that the gunslinger has lost firepower. He gave them something the Jets did not have before his arrival, something he continues to give them as the team sputters its way toward the finish line.

In a word: Hope.

This team still might have the same record with Chad Pennington, who has helped resurrect Miami. But not even the most optimistic fan would hold a sliver of hope that the season could be anything but the usual one-and-done exit from the postseason. Favre gives them an opportunity to reach beyond that.

"The Jets took a chance and I took a chance," Favre said Wednesday. "Why not take a chance? If you don't try, how will you know?"

All right, so No. 4 has looked every bit the big 4-0 in the last three games. Favre might give the Pro Bowl a marquee name, but there's no way he deserved a spot on the AFC team this season.

He leads the league in interceptions, with 17. His completion percentage (57.7) in the past three games has dipped like the NASDAQ and is way too low for a quarterback averaging less than seven yards a completion. That 50-yard bomb to Jerricho Cotchery against the Bills last week went 45 yards -- he had collided with guard Alan Faneca on the play -- leading Favre to admit, "maybe I don't have the same arm I once had."

It was the kind of comment that would have sent Jets fans looking for the tranquilizers, if they weren't already popping them four at a time. Even Favre, who insists he was just being honest, knew the moment the words left his mouth they were going to create an uproar.

But you can't judge Favre on numbers or even arm strength, much in the same way you can't judge Derek Jeter on batting average or fielding percentage. Favre brings an intangible to the Jets that they did not have with Pennington -- or, in truth, they haven't had at quarterback since Joe Namath.

"I'm not going to sit here and lie to you, I don't throw the ball as far as I used to," he said. "But if it's the end of the game and I have to throw the ball 83 yards to win, we're in trouble anyway.

"I knew what I could bring to this team is more than statistics alone, and I knew I was willing to lead the way I know I can," he said. "There are some things you can't measure. I truly believe that, with all my heart."

Actually, you can measure it: In his 16 seasons in Green Bay, the Packers made the playoffs 11 times and had a shot in the final weeks in three others. He is a remarkable 26-6 in the last two games of the regular season, and never has he lost both of them in the same year.

So maybe this is why the famously uptight Eric Mangini was so loose yesterday, even as he faces two games that are a referendum on his coaching. He still turned Gang Green into Shecky Greene, cracking jokes as if he were filming his very own HBO special. Someone asked if the team felt the pressure.

"We haven't rushed out and purchased a bunch of Zoloft or anything," he answered, and all right, so Chris Rock can sleep easy tonight. But all around the Jets, there is a confidence about the task ahead, not the sense of dread that many fans are likely feeling.

That comes from the increase veteran presence in a locker room that now includes former champions like Faneca, Ty Law and Damien Woody. But it starts with Favre.

He was the one who engineered that overtime drive in rainy Foxborough to finally exorcise the Patriots, the one who whipped that pass down the center of the field on third and long to rescue his defense. He is the one that now has to drag this tortured franchise into the postseason.

The run might end with an underthrown interception that will put his right arm on the shelf for good. Or it might end with the type of playoff run that nobody saw coming from this team.

Either way, it was a chance worth taking.

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Colin Stephenson at New York Jets practice

by Colin Stephenson/The Star-Ledger

Wednesday December 17, 2008, 10:36 PM

Mike Roemer/Associated Pres

Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren embracing then-Packers quarterback Brett Favre after their NFL football game in Green Bay, Wisc, in January 2006.FAVRE GIVES CREDIT TO HOLMGREN

Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre won a Super Bowl together in Green Bay. On Sunday, they will stand on the same field for the last time as coach and quarterback when Favre and the Jets travel to Seattle to play Holmgren's Seahawks in what will be Holmgren's final home game as Seattle's coach.

"I can honestly say I would not be here today if it were not for Mike Holmgren," Favre said Wednesday. "He and I worked together a long time ago, but the things he taught me really hit me a little bit later -- how much of a perfectionist he was, how hard he was on me ... he put me in a position to succeed. He allowed me to play, or use my abilities the best way possible to not only catapult me, but to help our team win."

Holmgren was asked if having Favre -- who he coached for seven years -- playing for the other team will add to the emotions he'll have to deal with on Sunday.

"Sure," Holmgren said, adding that he and Favre will talk before the game.

"He has meant a lot to me over the years and seeing him always puts a smile on my face," Holmgren said. "When I saw the fact that, I don't know what came out first -- him signing with the Jets or the schedule -- but having this be my last home game here and Brett being on the team that comes in, the irony is just unbelievable. It'll be good to see him. He's having a great year and making a big difference, I think, with the football team."Eric Mangini never slips up, never varies from his relentlessly vanilla, give-no-information, keep-the-individual-praise-to-a-minimum philosophy. And so, when asked to comment on his team's seven Pro Bowl players, Mangini at first refused to single out one or two as any more deserving of a trip to Hawaii than the others.

But when pressed, it became clear the Jets' tight-lipped coach has a special fondness for kick returner Leon Washington, who earned his first Pro Bowl selection.

"With Leon, the journey he took, I think, is fantastic," Mangini said. "I know in minicamp, I mean, we rode him hard. ... From where he started to where he is now, it's incredible." 

Veteran CB Ty Law, a native of Aliquippa, Pa., sounded very much like a proud big brother of fellow CB Darrelle Revis, another Aliquippa native, whom Law watched grow up and who just earned his first Pro Bowl selection.

"I told him (Tuesday) that I expect 10 more (Pro Bowl selections) out of him," Law said. "I'm so proud of him, and to still be playing in the league with him -- 12 years his senior, from the same hometown ... that's a major accomplishment."

Someone asked Law -- a five-time Pro Bowler -- if playing with Revis and watching him earn Pro Bowl recognition feels a little bit like passing the torch.

"The torch is passed," said Law. "Until somebody else comes out of our hometown, he has to hold it down." -- Favre, who underthrew Jerricho Cotchery last Sunday and then wondered if he was losing arm strength, was relieved to say that after looking at the film he either stepped on guard Alan Faneca's foot or Faneca stepped on his, which explained the underthrow. 

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-- WR Brad Smith, who missed Sunday's game with a concussion, was back at practice. The Jets say he was limited but is expected to play Sunday. LB Bryan Thomas (shoulder) was added to the injury list as limited participation. 

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-- Matt Hasselbeck (back) did not practice for Seattle and will be the Seahawks' third QB, with Seneca Wallace starting. 

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-- Jets backup QB Erik Ainge returned to the team after serving his four-game suspension for using a performance-enhancing substance. 

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-- The Jets released OL Kyle Devan from the practice squad, put DE Ropati Pitoitua on the reserve-injured practice squad, and signed G Ryan Keenan and DL Brian Schaefering.

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Wear and tear getting to Jets' JenkinsBY ERIK BOLAND | erik.boland@newsday.com

December 18, 2008

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The Jets' rushing defense ranks sixth in the league, allowing 90.9 yards per game, but it has been far from dominant the last three weeks.

Not coincidentally, neither has Kris Jenkins.

Jenkins yesterday admitted that the constant double-team punishment the nose tackle gets in the 3-4 defense has had an effect.

"I am a year away from 30," Jenkins said with a smile, initially deflecting a question about how he was feeling. "It's not going to look as pretty as it did my rookie year."

But ...

"Honestly, it comes with the game. Sometimes you might have a couple of aches and pains here. I haven't had anything serious enough to keep me off the field, but at the same time there are some things that I have to work on. I am learning my body."

Jenkins, who tweaked his back in the first quarter of the Week 3 loss in San Diego, was limited in practice last week with a hip injury and was limited again yesterday.

He has not played well, in his own estimation, recently and the run defense has suffered, allowing 127 yards to Denver, 100 to San Francisco and a season-worst 187 to Buffalo the last three weeks.

Jenkins came to the Jets after playing for seven seasons in a 4-3 system at Carolina. He said his transition to a new position isn't complete, though his performance in most of the first 10 games suggested otherwise.

"It's a different scheme; my body is reacting different," Jenkins said. "I am taking it all in stride. I want everybody to understand that you have to work with me. I wish I could be Superman for everybody and I wish that I could be 100 percent perfect every time I go out there. Honestly, I am learning a new position and I am trying to make sure that I do the best I can. Sometimes, everything is good, I can go out and do my thing. Sometimes, things change."

Jenkins said he wasn't worried about the remainder of the season.

"I think that my body is responding well now," he said. "I feel good and I think that I will be fine as the season progresses."

The Jets hope so. There's not much season left.

Injury report

Besides Jenkins, LB Eric Barton (knee), WR Laveranues Coles (thigh), LB David Harris (groin), WR Brad Smith (concussion) and LB Bryan Thomas (shoulder) were limited in practice. Five Seahawks, including QB Matt Hasselbeck (back), missed practice, making it likely that Seneca Wallace will start for the third consecutive week.

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Jets' Mangini is uncharacteristically looseBob Glauber | bob.glauber@newsday.com

December 18, 2008

FLORHAM PARK, N.J.

Having been around Eric Mangini on a regular basis for the better part of the last three years, I can honestly say this is the first time I've ever seen him quite like this.

Normally robotic, scripted and dreadfully dull and unquotable, Mangini spent most of yesterday's news conference cracking jokes, pushing back at criticism of the Jets' struggles in West Coast games, and telling reporters he felt like "a proud parent" when many of his seven Pro Bowl players were focused more on winning Sunday in Seattle than booking flights to Honolulu in February.

Mangini even won a friendly wager with Jets PR man Bruce Speight about which reporter would ask the loaded question about whether there was more pressure on the coach now that the Jets have a league-high seven Pro Bowl selections. As soon as a reporter in the front row asked the question, Mangini turned to Speight, smiled, and said, "See? I told you she'd be the one to ask that. I knew it."

Wow.

With Mangini doing a little Rodney Dangerfield and Tom Coughlin going Richard Simmons with a few jumping jacks during his own presser yesterday at Giants Stadium, it's New York Coaches Gone Wild. Just in time for two massive games on Sunday for the Jets and Giants.

Mangini faces the biggest two-game stretch of his career, yet he was as loose as I've ever seen him. And no, there were no mind-altering drugs at work. When someone asked him if there was a sense of anxiety in the building because of the magnitude of these final two games - games that will decide whether the Jets will go to the playoffs for the second time in his three seasons in New York, or whether they will miss out and invite plenty more Mangini criticism and questions about his qualifications for the job - the coach rattled off another one-liner.

"We haven't gone out and purchased a bunch of Zoloft," he cracked. "The guys are excited. They enjoy where we are at this point in the season. It's a great opportunity. Now we have to seize that opportunity."

Especially Mangini. With a team featuring a $140-million offseason makeover and the addition of the most famous quarterback in the game, the pressure's on more than ever. A run to the playoffs, and Mangini will be closer to the coach he was in Year 1, when he led the Jets to a surprise trip to the postseason. A season-ending collapse, and he won't hear the end of it.

If he's still working here, that is.

The way he was behaving yesterday, Mangini expects to be here for a while. Which means he's feeling pretty good about a 9-5 record, a share of first place in the AFC East, and destiny in his own hands. If the Jets win out, they're in. At Seattle. Home to Miami. On the West Coast, where the Jets are 0-3 this season. And home to Chad Pennington's Dolphins in what could be a winner-take-all game at the Meadowlands.

The season's on the line, but Mangini was embracing the moment, not recoiling from it. Even in the midst of intense criticism for the team's inability to put away pitiful West Coast teams in three straight tries. Lose in San Diego. Lose in Oakland. Lose in San Francisco.

Heck, Mangini was even getting the business from the media after Sunday's narrow escape against the Bills. One more West Coast loss, and the vitriol will only get louder.

"There's no magic pill to playing well on the West Coast," he said.

He even tried to mix things up by scheduling the flight on Saturday instead of Friday, but that didn't work, either. Why not, if it's only a charter flight?

"Feel free to ask the airline," he said.

Exasperated after a series of questions about the Jets' record out west, Mangini finally said, "We are actually playing a team on the West Coast. We're not playing the West Coast."

I've seen Mangini in these tight spots before, and this wasn't his usual demeanor. He tends to be as uncomfortable as he sometimes looks on the sideline chewing gobs of gum as his team struggles. His attitude can be so flat-line that I once described it as "a creepy sense of detachment."

Not yesterday.

When I asked him how he's processing the criticism he's taken over the last two seasons, Mangini wondered if perhaps I was included in that group of skeptics. Why, yes.

"I don't spend a lot of time on it," he said. "It changes so dramatically. You get a nickname one year, and then you get a revised nickname the next year. Some are nice. Some are not so nice."

From Mangenius to Mangidiot, the coach has experienced the highs and lows.

Right now, he's in between. What happens the next two weeks will determine which nickname applies. He understands there is no in between.

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Holmgren: Going against Favre in last game ironicBY ERIK BOLAND | erik.boland@newsday.com

December 18, 2008

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Mike Holmgren knew better than to make any projections.

No thanks, Brett Favre's former coach said. He'll weigh in on this one down the road.

"I've been wrong three times," Holmgren said with a laugh yesterday when asked what he thought his most famous quarterback project would do next year. "So I'm not going to make a prediction. I'm just going to sit and wait, watch and then after he makes his decision I'm going to say, 'I knew that.'"

Holmgren, who has announced this will be his final season with the Seahawks - though he was emphatic in calling it a "sabbatical" rather than a "retirement" - coached Favre in Green Bay from 1992-98. The two teamed up to go 84-42, including the postseason. The Packers beat the Patriots in the 1996 Super Bowl and returned in 1997, losing to the Broncos.

"I can honestly say I would not be here today if it were not for Mike Holmgren," Favre said. "He and I worked together a long time ago, but the things that he taught me really hit me a little bit later, how much of a perfectionist he was, how hard he was on me. And that's the way I study and prepare today. He put me in a position to succeed."

Holmgren appreciated the comments when they were repeated to him.

"It's kind of why I got into this business in the first place, way back when, when I was a high school history teacher and coach," Holmgren said. "You hope, you really hope, that you're coaching the football game, the football team and the players, but you really hope that you can make a difference on the field and maybe off the field, just a little bit for your players."

Holmgren said he talked to Favre before the quarterback announced his retirement but wasn't surprised when he decided to come back, knowing "physically" Favre could still play. Though Favre hasn't played well in three straight games, "he looks the same to me," Holmgren said.

Holmgren said he is looking forward to Sunday.

"Seeing him always puts a smile on my face [and] here he is again," he said. "Having this be my last home game here and Brett being on the team that comes in, the irony is just unbelievable.

"It'll be good to see him. He's having a great year and making a big difference, I think, with the football team."

Holmgren just hopes not too much of a difference Sunday.

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Jets' Favre focusing only on the near futureBY ERIK BOLAND | erik.boland@newsday.com

December 18, 2008

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Brett Favre said he hasn't come close to deciding what he will do next year, but yesterday he also acknowledged the obvious.

"I am well aware of the fact that there's two games left," Favre said. "I'm expecting us to make the playoffs, as I hope the rest of the team is. But it very well could be my last [two games]. It could be my last three games, last four games. I don't know."

Could the way the season finishes impact the decision?

"Well, I guess, yes and no," Favre said.

He looked at the reporter who asked the question.

"Who would have thought I'd be sitting here answering that question in front of you?" Favre said, meaning in New York. "If you'd asked me that last year before the Championship Game, I would have said, 'You need to quit drinking.' But here I am. So who knows? To predict or assume, you know, is wrong."

Favre said his primary attention is on making sure the Jets don't become West Coast toast for the fourth time this season when they play the 3-11 Seahawks on Sunday in what will be coach - and former Favre mentor and close friend - Mike Holmgren's final home game.

"My sole focus is to try to beat the Seattle Seahawks," Favre said. "I know that's going to be difficult. I know what's possibly ahead for us , but I have no idea what's possibly ahead for me."

Keep in mind, Favre said many of those things the last several years in what became an annual "Will he or won't he?" soap opera in Green Bay.

When Mike Tannenbaum swung the trade for Favre in August, the Jets general manager at first asked for a two-year commitment. He got one year, and Favre said several times this season that there would always be the possibility that "they might not want me back."

Favre was selected to his 10th Pro Bowl Tuesday and he's thrown for 3,052 yards with 21 touchdowns but also 17 interceptions. His last three games have not been good. His quarterback rating against the Broncos, 49ers and Bills was 60.9, 60.8 and 61.4, respectively. In the previous three games - all wins - against the Rams, Patriots and Titans, the ratings were 117.7, 119.4 and 103.6.

Favre said yesterday his problems the last three games have had nothing to do with his arm. He started a brush fire after Sunday's game when he said, "Maybe I don't have the arm I once did." Yesterday he said he almost immediately regretted the remark. "I knew the other night when we left the podium, 'Here we go, Favre.'"

Favre said the comment was more in reference to a specific pass, an underthrown deep ball down the sideline for Jerricho Cotchery that was intercepted in the second half, when Favre and the offense struggled. After going 12-for-17 for 149 yards in the first half, Favre finished 17-for-30 for 207 yards.

"Second half of that game last week was not offensively very productive," he said. "First half I thought was very productive. Did I drastically change in the second half? No. Did my arm strength waver in the second half? No."

He was emphatic about that and the team's playoff chances. Last week he said he "expected" the Jets to be there, and repeated it several times yesterday.

"I like our team," Favre said. "I think we have proven, for the most part this year, that we can be a very good team. And given the stakes, I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be confident. But we still have to go play."

Sunday

Jets at

Seattle

4:05 p.m.

TV: Ch. 2

Radio: WEPN (1050),

WRCN (103.9)

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Most comical time of the yearTo ease pressure, Coughlin lightens up

Tom Rock | tom.rock@newsday.com

December 18, 2008

At times like this, a football coach has a catalog of inspirations from which to draw. Men like Lombardi, Landry and Parcells have spit fire at their teams to get their attention and make them aware of the dire circumstances, and built championships with their chewed-out players.

So which immortal did Tom Coughlin use as a role model when meeting with his team yesterday as they prepare for their single most important game since Super Bowl XLII?

Richard Simmons.

Coughlin gave a near-giddy news conference complete with jumping jacks and one-liners and vowed to carry that bubbly "We can do it" message to the team. After losing two straight games with a stagnant offense and suffering through three weeks of relatively somber moods since the Plaxico Burress shooting incident, it was clearly time for Coughlin to lighten the tenor and remind the players that they are still in control of everything they want to accomplish this season.

Yes, you read that right. Jumping jacks. Yes, that Tom Coughlin.

"That isn't the first time we've seen him do jumping jacks," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "Everyone knows him as Commander Tom Coughlin, but he's a guy who is very passionate about what he does and he has no problem as far as showing it towards us."

Showing it in public is a bit of a departure for him, though.

"I know," Tuck said with a wink. "It's a special time of the year."

It can be if the Giants win on Sunday night, which might be why Coughlin decided to lose the snarl and loosen his collar. Among his uncharacteristic jokes:

When asked about the Giants' recent skid, he feigned amnesia. "What two weeks?" he asked. "I have no idea what you're talking about. It's what's up front, what's coming up. Let's go. Forget about yesterday. Yesterday doesn't matter."

After speaking about Pro Bowl selection John Carney and his remarkable season after being a late addition to the Giants' roster, he was asked who the kicker will be against the Panthers. "I'll make that decision at game time," he said, chuckling.

Asked if the players shared his euphoria, he quipped: "They will in about 15 minutes."

And then there was the question that prompted the stunning exercise. Coughlin was asked about the potential of having three weeks without a meaningful game should they win on Sunday and clinch the top seed in the NFC playoffs. He simply looked straight ahead, lifted his hands from the sides of the lectern, gave two quick jumping jacks in perfect form, cracked a smile ... and answered the question.

Coughlin even seemed tickled that there was snow on the ground yesterday morning. It was like watching that green ogre sled down Mount Crumpit returning Christmas to all the Whos in Who-ville. His heart, they say, grew three sizes that day.

And he wasn't alone. Eric Mangini sported a similarly lighthearted disposition yesterday while discussing the Jets' two remaining regular-season games. He didn't resort to calisthenics, but the message was clear to both teams: Let's relax a little.

"I think in some ways we've pressed in the last two games because we know that one more win gives us that bye," Tuck said. "I think now we definitely need to let the game come to us. Sometimes we can make football more complicated than it is."

So what does it mean? Will the Jack LaLanne routine work? If it does, will Coughlin do push-ups in the playoffs? Cartwheels? Are the Giants truly that loose, or is this a desperate, premeditated attempt to refocus a team that has lost its bearing?

"You lose two straight and it's tough on you," defensive tackle Jay Alford said. "You have to remind yourself sometimes that we're still in this, we still can win this."

Linebacker Antonio Pierce said all of the doom and gloom hasn't knocked the team's confidence. "We're not the 0-14 Detroit Lions," he said.

No, but the Giants and Lions do have the same record over the last two games. That has to be a concern to the Giants, and it was on Monday when several players spoke in the wake of the Dallas loss as if they were at a wake, in hushed tones and confused about the meaning of it all.

That changed by the time yesterday rolled around, when there was an air of jocularity in the locker room. And it all trickled down from the top.

"Just think about that a minute," Coughlin said, his soul fluttering at the excitement of Sunday's game. "If you can't be excited about this, I'm not sure what the heck you can be excited about."

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