Misery loves company, especially in sports.
After a surprising 7-4 start, the Jets season has come crashing down.
Gang Green has lost five consecutive games and was knocked out of playoff contention last weekend at Seattle. Now the Jets will try to do the same thing to their divisional rival Dolphins in the season finale.
“It’s another championship game,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “It’s technically not, but you have to keep that mindset anytime you have a chance to step out on the field, you gotta step on the gas and do your absolute best you can.
“Would it be nice for [Mike] McDaniel hanging out with me poolside in a couple of weeks, you’re damn right it would. But really it is more about us and making sure that we are focused on finishing the season strong and doing our absolute best.”
Saleh’s team has been in a free fall for the last month-plus. They’ve also won just two games since Halloween when they were in charge of the AFC’s seventh and final playoff seed. However, a quarterback carousel followed by an anemic offense that has them without a touchdown in eight quarters has them playing spoiler instead of having a meaningful game in Week 18.
This week, the Jets turn to Joe Flacco, who coincidentally began the season as the team’s starting quarterback following the preseason knee injury to Zach Wilson. Mike White, who was slated to start the game this week, reaggravated his rib injury during last weekend’s 23-6 loss to the Seahawks.
Flacco has been the Jets starting QB, their backup and even their third stringer throughout the year.
“Every season presents different challenges,” Flacco said. “Yeah, can you get angry and act like a baby and do all those things, I guess so.
“I hope that I would never do that and just look at it and find positives in things and continue to come into my work day the best that I can and see where that takes me. I have an opportunity to play the last game of the season and go have a lot of fun on Sunday.
“So at this point, you forget about all that stuff and you’re just excited to go play a football game.”
In the end, the one word that sums up the Jets’ 2022 season is chaos. They will end the season with three quarterbacks playing at least four games — Flacco (four), White (four) and Wilson (nine). That has a lot to do with why the Jets will miss the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season (the longest drought in the NFL).
“We still have a job to do,” Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins said. “At the end of the day, obviously, emotions are high with that loss and understand what it meant.
“Being back in the building, guys still have that sense of urgency to finish this thing off strong. You never want to go into the offseason with a bad taste, you never want to go into it wounded … or dragging, you want to go into it with a positive mindset.
“Obviously, we didn’t achieve everything we wanted to achieve but being able to hang your hat on so many positives that came with the year. With the young guys we have and how they took over this thing, played well, new acquisitions and how they meshed and gelled and how we truly become a team, not just a collection of players. No, we don’t finish [in] the playoffs, but we can finish the season off strong and continue to build on everything we want to achieve going forward.”
As atypical as the Jets season has been, the Dolphins’ season has been similar. Like the Jets, the Dolphins have lost five straight games and have seen multiple starting quarterbacks under center this season due to injuries.
On Christmas, Tua Tagovailoa sustained a hard hit during the second quarter of the loss against the Packers. He played the rest of the game but threw three interceptions during the fourth quarter.
Following the game, Tagovailoa entered concussion protocol for the second time this season. Teddy Bridgewater started the following game against the Patriots, but he dislocated the pinky on his throwing hand. Skylar Thompson, the seventh-round rookie draft pick out of Kansas State, finished the game.
The Jets played against Thompson in the first meeting against the Dolphins in October after Bridgewater was knocked out of the game on the first play from scrimmage. In the Jets’ 40-17 victory, Thompson finished 19 of 33 passes for 166 yards with an interception.
Despite the revolving door at QB and a long losing streak, the Dolphins still have a chance to make the playoffs with a win and a Patriots loss to the Bills. Thompson will have to do it against a Jets defense that is ranked third in yards allowed (311.6) and points allowed (19.1).
“For this team, it has been a unique journey from the onset,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “We started winning three and then we lost three and we won five. As a team, especially the veteran players, the coaches, people that have been around and what it takes to do things down the stretch in the National Football League recognize that we do have a young team that hasn’t been used to win or go home football, which is what the playoffs is.
“We have been approaching it with that severity and that type of communication for several weeks. They’ve approached it with vigor and been left disappointed for a multitude of reasons that change every game, particularly the last three, have been unique.
“Our objective is to get a much-needed win in the worst-case scenario to do right by this team that has lost five in a row that they all feel that shouldn’t be the case.”