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Jets-Mets connection hardly one that inspires confidence

Surely, there is plenty of cross-pollination at work across mighty Gotham. Surely, there are plenty of Giants fans who are also Mets fans, and plenty of Yankees fans who are also Jets fans. There's nothing in the constitution that commands you to adhere to one party line. No law requires you to vote a straight ticket. It just seems that way.

"I wish someone would have told me that about 30 years ago," Gary Kelly said with a laugh yesterday. "All I know is, when I was growing up in Kew Gardens, you were a Mets fan in the summer and a Jets fan in the fall. The rest was easy, because everyone rooted for the Knicks and the Rangers. But if a kid showed up on my block wearing a Yankees jacket or a Giants stocking cap . . . well, it was like wearing the wrong kind of gang colors."

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NO CHOKING MATTER: Jets fans, many of whom are also Mets fans, may be concerned Mark Sanchez will make like Tom Glavine in the final game of 2007, when Glavine couldn't get out of the first inning.

Kelly, now a paralegal in Harrington Park, N.J., laughed a little more.

"Nobody should be allowed to root for both the Mets and the Jets in the same lifetime," he said. "Parents who allow that, they should be reported to the authorities."

Kelly the Jets fan has absorbed all the familiar body blows, he wears the scars as proudly as every Jet fan does: Mark Gastineau roughing Bernie Kosar, and Doug Brien's two blown field goals, and the fake spike, and the great collapse of '08, and the Mud Bowl, and Bill Simpson's interception in the end zone, and Leon Johnson. Jets fans can recite them all by rote with the slimmest prompting. They've been wounded. They've been scarred.

They remember 1993, last day of the season, Bruce Coslet's last game. In the afternoon, the Jets were given life by a series of upsets rivaling what happened to them on Sunday. And in the evening, in the old Astrodome, the Oilers torched the Jets 24-0, even though Rex Ryan's father and Tom Coughlin's current offensive coordinator re-staged the Thrilla in Manila on the Houston sidelines.

It speaks to the psyche of a Jets fan -- especially those with dual loyalties to the Mets -- that more than a few of them -- more than a few million of them, as likely -- instantly recalled that game yesterday, as the reality of Sunday's largesse became more evident. All they have to do is beat the Bengals at home next Sunday night -- give Giants Stadium the kind of fitting finale that the landlords were incapable of giving it -- and they're in. No need for an abacus to figure any of that out.

And it was everywhere yesterday, on Twitter and Facebook and in the comments of a whole lot of Jets blogs: the faithful wanting to believe one thing and fearing another, more than one reaching into their Mets-fan alter-ego closet of anxieties, likening this Sunday to Tom Glavine taking the mound on the final day of the '07 baseball season.

"I hate that I feel this way," Kelly said. "But what can I do? I feel this way."

See, this is the biggest quagmire that's faced every Jets coach going back to Weeb Ewbank, trying to shatter the culture of emotional carnage once and for all. They all face it. They all deal with it. Some even manage to tip-toe past it for a bit: as much as Jets fans talk themselves into believing that they've never won a big game, they've actually played 10 games since 1981 just like the one they face Sunday, games where a win got them in. They won six of them. And a seventh time (2004) they qualified despite losing thanks to getting help elsewhere.

And still, and yet, there is the Culture. Earlier in the season, Ryan even addressed it, saying, "I want to establish something here where people aren't just happy when we win, they grow to expect us to win. That's what Jets fans deserve."

This is Ryan's biggest challenge this week: take advantage of what's in front of him. Beat the Bengals. Send that same message to a legion of Jets fans (and their Mets-fan twins) that they really haven't chosen the sporting equivalent of hemlock-flavored Gatorade. And let Glavine get out of the first inning this time.

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Eight days ago, Darrelle Revis sat in Rex Ryan's team meeting, thinking the Jets were toast. He listened to the coach explain the various playoff possibilities on a big screen, and it looked like advanced calculus.

"He maps it out, saying, 'This team has to lose, this team, that team.' You're like, 'What?'" the star cornerback said Monday. "I thought there was no hope."

Hope lives. Wait, check that: Hope is thriving.

Emboldened by their victory over the previously unbeaten Indianap Col (sorry, they get only a partial spelling after playing a partial game), the Jets are thinking like a team that expects to be playing into mid-January, perhaps beyond.

"I think we're built to be a team that can win in December and January ... so I think we would be a very dangerous team if we make the playoffs," said Ryan, whose scrappy team has fought (and lucked) its way into a win-and-in scenario for the season finale.

They will make the playoffs. Not even the Jets, who have been known to gag in these types of situations, will blow this opportunity. They have overcome too much these last few weeks (and have received too many breaks) to let it slip away against the Bengals, who will have little or nothing to gain by winning Sunday night at the Meadowlands.

The Bengals (10-5) already know they will be the third or fourth seed in the playoffs, hosting a wild-card game, so you can bet Marvin Lewis is thinking about resting quarterback Carson Palmer. He admitted as much yesterday. The Jets, facing a fifth seed-or-bust scenario, could get a heavy dose of J.T. O'Sullivan, a more experienced version of Curtis Painter.

That, in itself, is no reason to be thinking about a run into January. So why should the Jets consider themselves so dangerous only a week after being left for dead by their own coach? This is the NFL, where every non-power approaches this time of year with a "Why not us?" attitude.

Recent history shows that lower seeds can make magic in the postseason. In 2005, the Steelers won the Super Bowl as the sixth seed. Two years ago, the Giants won it all as a five. And isn't it funny that a few Jets made unsolicited references to the 2008 Cardinals? Surely, you remember the Cardinals' improbable journey.

Lost four of their last six games, including a 47-7 embarrassment to the Patriots in Week 16. Finished 9-7. Landed the fourth seed only because they won the crummy NFC West. Endured endless ridicule from fans and media who said they didn't deserve a playoff berth.

And came within Santonio Holmes' fingertips of winning the Super Bowl.

"Look at the Arizona Cardinals," linebacker Bart Scott said. "They got in and everybody thought they were a joke, that there was no way they were going to beat Philadelphia and Carolina. But they got the job done."

Revis took it one step further, saying, "That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to rack up a few wins and grab that momentum."

It's hard to make a total investment in the Jets because their inexcusable loss to the Falcons is so fresh, but take a step back and the picture becomes a bit brighter. After all, they have won four of their last five games, and those so-called gimme wins over the Panthers and Bucs look more impressive given the events of the past weekend.

The Jets also play a physical brand of football, evidenced by their two calling-card stats - No. 1 in rushing offense and No. 1 in total defense. They can be hell on quarterbacks. Pouncing on that theme, Scott, a former Raven who faced Palmer many times in AFC North battles, recalled: "I probably hit him more than any quarterback I've ever hit in this league."

It sounded like Scott was sending a message to Lewis.

With a mistake-prone rookie at quarterback, the Jets can't be considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender. But they have definite strengths, they know how to use those strengths and, if the matchups are right, they could do some damage.

If they beat the Bengals, the Jets probably would face them again in the wild-card round, a favorable matchup. The Bengals run the ball and rely on their defense, just like the Jets. Statistically, the Jets are better.

"You don't luck into those stats," Ryan said. "That's what makes us a dangerous football team right now."

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Judging from the comments from Palmer and Ochocino, I just do not see Cincinnati resting their starters. They haven't been playing lights out early, so a week off could really kill any momentum they have right now, and if New England loses early on in the day, they could be playing for the 3rd seed.

Plus, they know they can beat Baltimore and or Pittsburgh. They don't know if they can beat us.

I very much doubt they rest.

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Esiason still feels sting from losing Jets '93 win-and-in finale

By STEVE SERBY

Boomer Esiason in 1993 was in the same spot these Jets are in -- regular-season finale in Houston, win-and-they're-in, lose-and-go-home. The final was Oilers 24, Jets 0. Boomer and the Jets went home.

"That," Esiason recalled yesterday, "was a [behind]-kicking of monumental proportions."

To say that the defeat made the Jets sick would not be accurate.

"I think I missed Friday's practice. I was ill to the point that getting on the plane Saturday was a chore," Esiason said. "I do remember eight or nine guys all suffering from the flu that day and I remember getting our [behinds] royally kicked."

That was the day Oilers defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, Rex Ryan's father, took a swing at offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride at the end of the first half for not running out the clock.

"It was not a pretty sight," Esiason said.

The Jets had been 8-5, then 8-6 when they traveled to arctic Buffalo and lost when Cary Blanchard missed three field goals.

"If he makes one of them, we go to the playoffs," Esiason said.

Blanchard missed a 42-yarder with 53 seconds left in a 16-14 loss.

So they were 8-7 when they hit the road again for Houston, and this is what Esiason recalls before the game: "How the team basically had no energy -- no physical energy, no mental energy. We lost the playoffs the week before in Buffalo."

The Oilers, who already had clinched a playoff spot, dismantled the Jets with Cody Carlson, Warren Moon's backup, at quarterback. The Jets were 8-8 and going home.

"It was one of the worst flights of my career," Esiason said. "I was traded here [to the Jets] because Bruce [Coslet] really wanted me to run his offense. I was traded here to get the team to the playoffs, which we failed to do. I really felt bad for Bruce. He and I were really close."

Coslet wouldn't get a chance to coach his fifth season with the Jets. He was soon fired, and replaced by defensive coordinator Pete Carroll.

These current Jets are more fortunate. Jim Caldwell gave them that Christmas gift when he pulled Peyton Manning for Curtis Painter in the third quarter.

These Jets also get Esiason's old Bengals in their house.

"It's gonna be a raucous crowd, it's gonna be Sunday night . . . different circumstances for them than it was for us," he said. And hopefully, for long-suffering Jets fans, a different outcome

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YOU SUCK CIMINI

Emboldened by their victory over the previously unbeaten Indianap Col (sorry, they get only a partial spelling after playing a partial game), the Jets are thinking like a team that expects to be playing into mid-January, perhaps beyond.

They have overcome too much these last few weeks (and have received too many breaks) to let it slip away

"I think we're built to be a team that can win in December and January ... so I think we would be a very dangerous team if we make the playoffs," said Ryan, whose scrappy team has fought (and lucked) its way into a win-and-in scenario for the season finale.

F YOU

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YOU SUCK CIMINI

Emboldened by their victory over the previously unbeaten Indianap Col (sorry, they get only a partial spelling after playing a partial game), the Jets are thinking like a team that expects to be playing into mid-January, perhaps beyond.

They have overcome too much these last few weeks (and have received too many breaks) to let it slip away

"I think we're built to be a team that can win in December and January ... so I think we would be a very dangerous team if we make the playoffs," said Ryan, whose scrappy team has fought (and lucked) its way into a win-and-in scenario for the season finale.

F YOU

It's more like Fuc You.

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I very much doubt they rest.

You said the EXACT same thing about Indy. Not sayin', just sayin'.

I think the Bengals actually SHOULD rest their starters, and I didn't think the same about the Colts, and this isn't just the Jets fan in me speaking.

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Does anybody else get the feeling that Rex Ryan is very well liked around the league-other than in Miami, NE, and Buffalo? I mean he ALWAYS says good things about the opposition-coaches and players. Could this be a little bit of "here ya go Big Guy" goin' on? I, for one don't mind it at all. Who knows maybe it's a little bit of The Luck 'O The Irish...pulling two teams with nothing to really play for at the end of the season and all the stuff that happened that needed to happen Sunday...

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