CHICAGO -- Say this for the New York Jets: It's never routine for them, not even when they reach a milestone.
The Jets (10-5) secured a wild-card berth for the second straight season under head coach Rex Ryan, who announced that he probably will sit quarterback Mark Sanchez (sore throwing shoulder) next week against the Buffalo Bills.
On Monday, he was less certain on Sanchez, saying he'd wait to make a decision because "he's hot right now."
Backup quarterback Mark Brunell would start in the final regular-season game if Sanchez doesn't go.
Ryan was in the middle of his postgame news conference when he heard a loud roar from the locker room, confirmation that the Jaguars had lost in overtime. Ryan's mood brightened immediately.
"Ooh, my goodness," Ryan said, beaming. "This is great. Man, oh, man ... I'll be honest, I would've much rather won it ourselves, but I'll take it."
Emotions were mixed in the locker room when they heard the news.
"I was like, 'Am I supposed to celebrate?'" tight end Dustin Keller said.
Said Sanchez, "I don't know how we're supposed to feel."
The Jets were talking Super Bowl after jumping to a league-best 9-2 record, but they've dropped three of their last four games, humbling Ryan's big-talking team. They could've made it easy on the nerves by simply beating the Bears, but they surrendered 21 points in a horrible third quarter. It was a brutal day by the defense, which allowed five touchdowns and 322 total yards.
Sanchez's health was a concern, but he made it through the game without any apparent problems. Sanchez (24-for-37, 269 yards, one touchdown) played well until his final pass, when he was intercepted by Bears safety Chris Harris in the final minute.
Afterward, Sanchez acknowledged that his right shoulder is "pretty sore." He has cartilage damage in his shoulder, according to sources. Sanchez said he'd like to play next week, but he recognized the importance of rest.
"This isn't my 18th year, so I need as many reps as possible," he said. "With the situation we're in now, with my shoulder, we want to see how it responds to the game. We'll take it day to day. I'm with Coach. Whatever he thinks is best for me and the team, we'll handle it like that."
Ryan said he'd like to use the final game as a quasi-bye week, resting banged-up players. Asked if he expects an argument from Sanchez, Ryan smiled.
"Yes, but that's OK," he said.
The Jets will be the fifth or sixth seed in the playoffs, meaning they will play the third or fourth seed in the opening round. If the Jets win, there's a very good chance they will meet the top-seeded New England Patriots in a divisional grudge match. The Jets were embarrassed by the Patriots, 45-3, starting their late-season swoon.
But the Jets always find ways to make the tournament. A year ago, Ryan mistakenly proclaimed the team mathematically eliminated after a Week 15 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. They won their final two games, catching every conceivable break. That included the controversial decision by the then-undefeated Indianapolis Colts, who pulled Peyton Manning in Week 16 against the Jets.
The Jets capitalized, reaching the AFC Championship Game before losing to the Colts.
"We know we're a team that will be dangerous in the playoffs," defensive end Shaun Ellis said.