Big Question: Nick Folk

With the game on the line at Heinz Field, can the Jets trust Nick Folk?

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- On the sideline, several New York Jets could not bear to watch.

They averted their eyes from the field and definitely from the goal posts. They waited for the Lucas Oil Stadium crowd to tell them whether they had won or lost.

Silence, and the Jets had beaten the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the playoffs. A roar, and the Jets go home.

Nick Folk lined up for what should have been a gimme field goal, 32 yards on artificial turf in a dome.

Yet there was doubt. Folk has been far from automatic throughout his career.

Folk, of course, made that kick as time expired. The Jets eliminated the Colts, sent fans quietly filing into the cold Indianapolis night. They advanced to the next round of the playoffs -- where Folk missed a potentially dear 30-yard field goal against the New England Patriots.

And in an AFC Championship Game likely to be dictated by two of the league's elite defenses, it's foreseeable Folk might be called upon to make another clutch kick that could send the Jets to the Super Bowl or end their season.

The Jets will play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field, a treacherous pitch on which to kick.

"He's just looking forward to the next kick," Jets holder and punter Steve Weatherford said Wednesday at the team's training facility. "It could have come down to a field goal in that game we were in [referring to New England].

"He's been here before. He's missed a kick before. He knows how to bounce back. ... If this game were to come down to a game winner, even on that crappy field, I feel confident he would do it."

Folk's inconsistencies are infamous. He had a disastrous 2009 campaign with the Dallas Cowboys, who waived him two games before the playoffs. He missed a kick in each of his final six games with Dallas, the last being a 24-yard attempt against the New Orleans Saints.

Folk's 64.3 percent success rate was third lowest of anybody who attempted a kick that year.

The Jets made Folk their reclamation project. He replaced the reliable Jay Feely as a roster move that allowed them to sign outside linebacker Jason Taylor under the NFL's rules for an uncapped season.

Folk was efficient at first. Through Week 9, he converted 16 of his 19 kicks. He kicked a 48-yarder on opening night and surpassed that as his longest kick three more times by Week 6, topping out at 56 yards.

Then came trouble. Folk missed three field goals in an overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 10. He missed at least one field goal in four straight games.

The Jets, concerned Folk could cost them, brought in veteran free agent Kris Brown for a tryout in early December.

"You just have to be confident and go out there," Folk said last week. "You have to embrace the pressure that comes with the job. I've done it my whole life. I've enjoyed these situations."