For a franchise and a fan base that's become so accustomed to heartbreak and misery over the years, the 2010 season is shaping up as an unusual one. After losing their opening game, the New York Jets reeled off four straight wins, which at the time was the longest winning streak in the NFL. And the schedule looked promising: at Denver, versus Green Bay, at Detroit, at Cleveland.
WEEK 6: JETS AT BRONCOS
History: The Jets had not won a game in Denver since the 1999 season. That year the Jets entered the season as one of the prohibitive Super Bowl favorites, after advancing to the previous AFC Championship Game, where they squandered a double-digit lead -- sound familiar? -- in the Mile High City.
This season: The Jets entered the game with a top-five rushing defense, while the Denver Broncos entered with the worst running game in the NFL. Yet Denver managed to run for 145 yards, the most the Jets have allowed to any opponent this season. Rookie Demaryius Thomas beat the formerly unbeatable Darrelle Revis for a touchdown, giving the Broncos a 17-10 lead, and after the Jets tied the game at 17, Denver marched right down the field for a field goal with just 3:55 remaining. The Jets got the ball back and began driving.
The play: Fourth-and-6 at Denver 48
What usually happens to the Jets: Mark Sanchez narrowly avoids getting sacked before seeing a receiver break away downfield, but Sanchez underthrows him and the pass is intercepted by a Broncos defensive back. Game over. Jets lose, fall to 4-2 on the season, and go into the bye week on a low note.
What actually happened: Sanchez narrowly avoided getting sacked before seeing a receiver break away downfield, but he underthrew him. But Santonio Holmes was interfered with by the Broncos' Renaldo Hill, the flag was thrown and the Jets got the ball at the Broncos' 2. One play later LaDainian Tomlinson marched in for the score. The Jets held on for the win to improve to 5-1 on the season and entered the bye week on a high note.
Fast forward three weeks, after the bye and then getting shut out at home by the Packers.
WEEK 9: JETS AT LIONS
History: In 1997 the Jets went to Detroit needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive. They led 10-6 in the fourth quarter before giving up a 15-yd TD run to Barry Sanders and losing 13-10.
This season: The Jets hadn't allowed an opening-quarter TD in the first six games. On the opening drive the Detroit Lions marched 79 yards to the end zone. After the Jets scored 10 unanswered points, the Lions were forced to settle for a field goal in the third, but following a roughing the kicker penalty they got a new set of downs eventually resulting in a touchdown run. Detroit missed the extra point but followed up with another TD in the fourth quarter to take a 10-point lead. The Jets, who scored to close the gap to three, needed a stop.
The play: Third-and-6 at Detroit 38, Lions' ball, up 20-17
What usually happens to the Jets: With no timeouts remaining, they face a must-stop situation and send the blitz. The Lions, with the choice to either run the ball to kill some clock or pass, choose to roll the dice and go for the win behind their third-string QB, Drew Stanton. Despite bringing pressure, the Jets are just a split-second late as the Lions have a receiver wide open just past the first-down line. They kneel out the game; Jets are now 4-4.
What actually happened: The Jets, with no timeouts remaining, faced a must-stop situation and sent the blitz. The Lions, with the choice to either run the ball to kill some clock or pass, chose to roll the dice and go for the win behind their third-string QB, Drew Stanton. The Jets brought the pressure and Stanton, instead of just falling down, attempted to hit his receiver, but fell short, stopping the clock and giving the Jets the ball back with 1:40 remaining. The Jets got a game-tying field goal in regulation before a big play from Santonio Holmes in overtime put them in position for a game-winning field goal. Jets improved to 6-2.
WEEK 10: JETS AT CLEVELAND
History: The last time the Jets played in Cleveland was 2006, Eric Mangini's first season as Jets coach. New York fell 20-13 after a disputed touchdown catch by Chris Baker in the final minutes was ruled incomplete.
This season: A few weeks earlier this looked to be an easy win for the Jets that would validate the decision to replace Mangenius. Yet after the Cleveland Browns easily dispatched the Saints and Patriots, the game no longer seemed like a lock. The Jets controlled the time of possession but still found themselves tied at the end of regulation after allowing a TD with only 44 seconds remaining. Each team turned the ball over in the OT, and Nick Folk missed his third field goal of the game. The Browns were forced to punt from their own end zone with less than a minute remaining, a kick which the Jets returned to Cleveland's 37.
The play: First-and-10 at Cleveland 37, 24 seconds remaining, no timeouts
What usually happens to the Jets: They complete a slant to Santonio Holmes, who is tackled after a 12-yard gain. The Jets run up and spike the ball with time for one final play, a 42-yard field goal attempt, and a shot at redemption for Nick Folk. Folk pushes the field goal right and the game ends in a tie, the Jets' first since 1988. They are now 4-4-1, leaving fans to moan: "SAME OLD JETS."
What actually happened: The Jets completed a slant to Santonio Holmes, who broke free for the second straight week in overtime, this time taking it all the way to the house for a game-winning touchdown reception that made the Jets the first team in NFL history to win an overtime game on the road in consecutive weeks. The Jets improved to 7-2, tied for the best record in the NFL. It's the second-best nine-game start in team history.
So what does this all mean?
Are the Jets the first team to win games they don't deserve to?
No, but they may be the first team in franchise history to come up with wins it could have easily lost, especially road wins.
Could it be that a franchise that has routinely been dealt gut-wrenching losses is finally due for some good luck?
Or are the Jets just setting up the fan base for the biggest collapse of all?
Steven Glasser is a production researcher for ESPN Stats & Information.