Let the good old times roll: Hot Jets resemble distant cousins from '98

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They have an older, kicked-around quarterback who came to the team as a backup and is now playing the best ball of his life. They have two prolific wide receivers: a charismatic touchdown machine and a quietly productive slot man. They have a tough-minded defense filled with seasoned vets and a couple young studs.

These are your 2015 New York Jets, but it sure sounds like the 1998 team of Vinny Testaverde, Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet.

There are many similarities between '15 and '98, the franchise's last great offensive team, but the biggest common denominator is this: The current Jets, like their distant cousins, are peaking at the right time. They have won three in a row for the first time since December 2011, if you can believe that. On a spring-like Sunday at MetLife Stadium, they tossed aside the hapless Tennessee Titans 30-8 and made a mockery of the notion that it could be a dangerous trap game.

"If you're the Golden State Warriors, you can have a trap game," coach Todd Bowles said with a smile. "We're not that good."

He's right: They're not that good (is anybody?). But this team is getting good in a hurry. Left for roadkill after a demoralizing loss to the Houston Texans, the Jets have rebounded to the point that they have to be considered a tough out. They're not going away; they will be in it until the end. Only three AFC teams have better records than the Jets' 8-5, and you can bet none of those teams would want to see the Jets in a first-round playoff game.

For weeks, the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals have dominated the conversation as the conference elite. When that was presented to the Jets' Sheldon Richardson, he gave a typical Sheldon response: a hint of defiance.

"Let 'em keep talking," he said. "Let 'em keep talking about them until they play us. That's how I feel. I ain't got too much else to say about that."

The Jets didn't do too much woofing after the game because that's not their deal anymore. Their loudest statement came earlier in the day -- after the opening kickoff, to be exact. On the first possession, they marched 80 yards on 14 plays for only their second game-opening touchdown of the season. They broke the Titans' will and began what would be their most lopsided win of the season. In the past seven quarters, including last week's overtime, the Jets have outscored their opponents 43-8.

"I'd definitely say we're peaking," safety Calvin Pryor said.

They're peaking because Ryan Fitzpatrick, much like Testaverde in '98, is enjoying a late-career renaissance in New York. He threw three touchdown passes, which gives him nine over the past three games. With 25 TDs, he is only four shy of Testaverde's team record set in 1998. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker combined for 13 catches for 199 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, which gives them a combined 20 touchdowns. Back in '98, Johnson and Chrebet had 18 between them.

Chris Ivory is no Curtis Martin, a Hall of Famer, but he cracked 100 yards for the first time in eight games. Ivory doesn't have to be great. He just has to be good enough to create balance on the offense, which is putting up its best numbers since ... well, you know. The emergence of Bilal Powell in the passing attack fills the void of a No. 3 option and takes pressure off Marshall and Decker.

The Titans (3-10) are terrible, so perspective is important. But even so, the Jets deserve credit for confusing rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, clogging his escape routes and smothering his receivers. Muhammad Wilkerson (three sacks) was a monster, but he had help from the secondary, which welcomed back Darrelle Revis. Revis' return meant the Jets are back to full strength, which could be a huge factor in the playoff push.

"I think when you have a great team, this is the time you usually click: in November, December and going into the postseason," Revis said. "Today was an example of that, playing a complete game."

Bowles said, "We're playing more complete football as the weeks go on. That's what you look for."

The Jets could finish the season with a six-game win streak, just as they did 17 years ago en route to the AFC Championship Game.