Presumably refreshed after their bye, which included seven days of R & R, the Jets (3-5) return to their rapidly fading season Sunday against the Seahawks (5-4). The Jets' margin for error is all but gone. If they want to make a prophet of Antonio Cromartie, who guaranteed a playoff berth, it has to start with an upset in Seattle.
Kickoff is 4:05 p.m. at CenturyLink Field. Here's what to watch for:
1. Bring the ear plugs. The Jets should be accustomed to noise, considering all the yapping they do, but this will be a challenge like no other. This might be the loudest outdoor stadium in the NFL, and the fans love making life miserable for opposing offenses. (There are rumors that the Seahawks pump up the volume by blasting artificial crowd noise, which is a no-no.)
Since 2005, they lead the league in opposing false-start penalties -- 113. The Jets are good for one per game; they have a total of nine. They tried to simulate the noise by blaring loud music at practice. They also will rely heavily on hand signals and silent snap counts. No doubt, the noise will test the Jets' poise.
2. Lynch pin. The Jets' biggest defensive challenge is containing RB Marshawn Lynch, the league's second-leading rusher. The run defense has improved over the past three games (3.3 yards per carry), and Lynch is the type of runner that should be in the Jets' wheel house.
He won't exploit the Jets' suspect edges, as he leads the league in runs between the tackles, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But that doesn't mean he'll be an easy mark. He's second in the league in yards after contact (359), and the Jets happen to be terrible in that category -- 485 yards, the fourth-highest total in the league. In other words, it's time to man up and hang on for dear life.
3. Rex vs. the rookie. Historically, Rex Ryan-coached defenses eat up rookie quarterbacks -- a 1-to-8 touchdown/interception ratio since 2009, per ESPN Stats. Now here comes Russell Wilson, who appears unflappable at home. The kid doesn't make many mistakes, he throws well on bootlegs, he's deadly on third down and he scorches opponents with his home-run ability. He has five touchdown passes on throws more than 20 yards (all at home), the second most in the NFL.
His favorite target is WR Sidney Rice, but Rice will have trouble against Cromartie. The Golden Tate-Kyle Wilson matchup is huge. Wilson could be a target because he doesn't have great catch-up speed.
4. Avoid killer mistakes. This means across the board -- offense, defense and special teams. The Jets can't win if they commit turnovers in the red zone (Mark Sanchez has three interceptions) and self-destruct in the kicking game, as they did in their previous game. They also need to be sound in pass protection, because the Seahawks can bring the heat, especially from the edges with Chris Clemons and rookie Bruce Irvin.
The Jets' blitz pick-up is suspect, which could be a factor because Pete Carroll loves to blitz with defensive backs. The Jets' receivers must help out by gaining quick separation, but they'll have to eat their Wheaties because the Seahawks' corners, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, are 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-4, respectively.
5. Role playing. The Jets used the bye week to tweak the roles of certain players. Naturally, the biggest spotlight is on backup QB Tim Tebow, who could get a few more snaps on offense. How many times have we heard that before?
The big question is whether they have the onions to give Tebow an entire series or two at quarterback. OLB Ricky Sapp will be used as a situational pass rusher, perhaps at the expense of Aaron Maybin. WR Clyde Gates, LB DeMario Davis and LB Marcus Dowtin also could have bigger roles, as the Jets attempt to get more speed on the field.