Playoffs? Rex, surging Jets won't talk postseason


Playoffs? Rex, surging Jets won't talk postseason

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Those big, bold playoff predictions from Rex Ryan and the New York Jets are a thing of the past.

Ryan's swagger made for plenty of headlines during his first three seasons in New York. Now, it's what the coach doesn't say that raises some eyebrows.

``I'm not going to guarantee a playoff spot,'' a toned-down Ryan said Monday. ``I think part of that is, look, the fact that we're one game under .500, I think you're probably not in the playoff conversation.''

The only thing is, the Jets suddenly very much are. New York (6-7) is a game behind Pittsburgh and Cincinnati - both 7-6 - for the final playoff spot in the AFC with three games remaining. Not that they're talking about it.

``Our next `playoff' game is Tennessee,'' defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson said. ``All we can focus on is the next game. We can't worry about any playoff pictures. We've just got to worry about our next opponent, and that's Tennessee on Monday night.''

The Jets have won two straight since being routed 49-19 by New England on Thanksgiving night, a loss that appeared to have the potential to derail the season and send New York into an offseason of uncertainty.

Instead, things are looking up for the Jets, who have put themselves right in the playoff mix despite having a sluggish offense and a struggling starting quarterback in Mark Sanchez. They must win each of their remaining games, a scenario that isn't so unrealistic, given that Tennessee (4-9), San Diego (5-8) and Buffalo (5-8) all have losing records.

``We just need to keep our head down and keep winning games,'' Ryan said. ``We know the only way we can affect it is to win our games and then we'll see what somebody tells us.''

That's a far cry from the guy who once declared that the Jets would meet President Obama after winning the Super Bowl or writing ``Soon To Be Champs!'' on the outside of an ESPN bus during training camp.

This is the new and maybe more realistic Ryan, who earlier this season acknowledged that his previous declarations put more pressure on his players than he imagined. He's also aware that his team has not looked much like a playoff team in their two most recent victories: pulling out a 7-6 win over Arizona last week after pulling Sanchez in favor of third-stringer Greg McElroy, and then making just enough plays Sunday to beat Jacksonville 17-10 despite the Jaguars being ranked second-to-last in the league in offense and defense.

``We are where we are,'' safety Yeremiah Bell said. ``We're 6-7 and we've still got some work to do. We're not looking ahead at anything. We're just taking it game by game and we'll see what happens at the end.''

That was the running theme in a low-key locker room, once considered one of the league's chattiest.

``The most important game is the one that we can control,'' nose tackle Sione Po'uha said, ``and that's coming up this week.''

``I don't do well when I start thinking ahead,'' defensive end Mike DeVito said. ``The focus is on Tennessee.''

Get the picture?

The Jets don't control their own destiny, either. Even if they win out and finish 9-7, they'll need help elsewhere to get into the postseason. The Steelers are basically two games up because of a 27-10 win in Week 2, which means New York likely needs Pittsburgh to lose two of their last three against Dallas (7-6), Cincinnati (7-6) and Cleveland (5-8). The Bengals have Philadelphia (4-9), the Steelers and Baltimore (9-4) left.

In what would appear to be an unrealistic scenario, New York could also surpass Indianapolis (9-4) for a playoff spot if the Colts lose their last three, including two games against Houston sandwiched around one against Kansas City. The Jets beat the Colts 35-9 earlier this season.

``I have no idea about all that business,'' center Nick Mangold said. ``I just know that we've got Tennessee coming up and it's going to be a tough challenge for us.''

The Jets certainly haven't made it easy on themselves the past two weeks. Despite facing a third-string quarterback in Ryan Lindley on a slumping Cardinals offense last week, the Jets needed McElroy to come in and save the season with the game's only touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

That set off a few days of debates about whether Sanchez should remain on the sideline in favor of McElroy. Ryan, however, decided to stick with Sanchez against Jacksonville.

Sanchez did little to quiet the critics Sunday, going 12 of 19 for 111 yards and losing a fumble. But the Jets went heavy with the run game, as Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell combined for 155 yards rushing. Still, there's no question who the quarterback will be this week.

``I think it's Al Woodall this week,'' Ryan joked, referring to the former Jets quarterback in the early 1970s. ``Nah, we'll go with Mark.''

The defense was also solid for the second straight week, holding the Jaguars to 2 for 16 on third-down opportunities, making opponents 2 for 31 in those situations against the Jets the last two games. After the loss to New England, New York was ranked 19th in overall defense. Two weeks later, the Jets are eighth - just three spots out of the top 5, where they have finished in each of Ryan's first three seasons.

``It's like, `Oh, one loss, it's the end of the world and one win, they're going to win everything,'' DeVito said. ``It's kind of the way the atmosphere is around here. You have to recognize that and realize that the worst thing you can do is when things like that are happening is to pack it in and really believe that either way. You just have to continue each week to be consistent and get better.''


NOTES: LB Bryan Thomas has a strained pectoral muscle and is day to day, while an MRI exam revealed that WR Stephen Hill has a sprained lateral collateral ligament in his right knee. The team will know more about his availability later in the week, but it is believed he will not need surgery. Ryan said defensive back Aaron Berry has a hamstring issue. ... Ryan told 98.7 ESPN New York that he would have played Tim Tebow in front of his hometown fans in Jacksonville if the game had been a blowout, but would have had him only hand off the ball. Tebow was active, but didn't play for the third straight game while dealing with two broken ribs. Ryan was also asked if he thought Tebow might be disappointed he came to the Jets given the circumstances. ``That's probably a true statement,'' he said. ``As a competitor, you want to have success, you want to have probably more opportunities and the fact that we're one game below .500, so we haven't had success as a team I'm sure he was anticipating. But, again, I think he's happy to be a Jet. I truly believe that.''


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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Important victory: Saturday night's game between the Wizards and Pacers had several layers of playoff implications on the line and it was Washington who rose to the occasion and showed the urgency commensurate for the stakes.

By beating the Pacers, the Wizards locked up the season series between the teams, two games to one. That gives them the tiebreaker for playoff seeding if the teams finish the regular season with the same record. That could very well prove paramount. As of now, the Wizards and Pacers have the same record (40-30) with 12 games to go.

The season series advantage means the Wizards are above the Pacers in the standings despite having the same record. They moved into fourth place in the East with the win and the Cavs slotted back into third. There will likely be a lot more movement as these next few weeks play out, but the Wizards now hold an important edge over the Pacers.

The win also pushed the Wizards to 14-8 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. Wall could return this coming week or the week after and the Wizards have more than stayed afloat during his absence.

The Wizards' magic number to make the playoffs is now just five. 


Sato went off: The Wizards jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter mostly thanks to a hot start from Tomas Satoransky, who scored the Wizards' first five points and had 10 by the end of the first quarter.

Satoransky's floater was automatic. He dropped in several in the lane from all different angles. Satoransky was practicing the same shots, floaters off each foot, the day before in practice and it paid off.

It was a well-rounded night for Satoransky. In addition to his 12 points, he also had eight assists and five rebounds, including this one to find Marcin Gortat for the dunk:

Gortat came up big: Speaking of Gortat, the Wizards' big man had one of his best games of the season. He poured in 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists a steal and a block. Gortat shot 6-for-8, consistently having his way on the block.

The Pacers were without two of their best big men in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and Gortat took advantage of that. He was way too much for Al Jefferson.

The Pacers tried to roll with small-ball lineups using Trevor Booker and Thaddeus Young as their big men, but it didn't work. Gortat was too big for them and his teammates did a great job finding him for open looks.

Gortat's 18 points were his most since Jan. 3 when he had a season-high 21 against the Knicks. Lately, Gortat has seen his minutes dwindle with the increased role for Ian Mahinmi, so Saturday night must have felt good for the Polish Machine.


Bojan held in check: Bojan Bogdanovic, who spent part of last season with the Wizards, was a major factor in the first two matchups between Washington and the Pacers this season. He had 20 points in one game and 29 in another, each time getting hot from three.

The Wizards, though, made some adjustments in this one and held Bo Buckets in check. He didn't make his first shot until nearly the midway point of the second quarter and it was only because Kelly Oubre, Jr. (16 points, 18 minutes) lost his balance. Oubre stumbled backward, giving Bogdanovic a split second to get off an open three. That was the only shot he hit in the first half as he began the game 1-for-4.

Oubre did a good job harrassing Bogdanovic and not giving him space on the premiter. Otto Porter (eight points) and Bradley Beal (19 points) did as well. Both Porter and Beal stripped the ball out of Bogdanovic's hands early in the third quarter. Midway through the third, Bogdanovic got past Porter only to be called for an offensive foul on a collision with Gortat. All in all, it was a frustrating night for Bogdanovic, who had 11 points, three below his season average.

Bogdanovic is a very good shooter and when he's hot can alter games. But when you take his shots away, there's not much else he can do to hurt you. The Wizards did a good job taking away his strengths and making others beat them. Not having to focus on Turner and Sabonis certainly helped. 

Sessions is still in the rotation: It turns out those five games for Ramon Sessions over the course of his second 10-day contract weren't just an audition. Now that he has been signed for the rest of the season, Sessions is still getting the nod over Tim Frazier as the backup point guard.

Sessions logged 18 minutes and even played alongside Satoransky and Jodie Meeks in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had a sizable lead and head coach Scott Brooks decided to experiment with his lineups. That is something to keep in mind for when Wall comes back. Once he does, Sessions will be the third point guard and likely rarely see the court. But if they see something they like about him at shooting guard, that could open the door for more playing time possibilities.

Up next: The Wizards have three off-days before their next game. That will be on Wednesday when they head to San Antonio to face the Spurs. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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