DALLAS — Jets coach Todd Bowles doesn’t mince words when it comes to his team’s playoff hopes.
“We definitely have to win out — and that still may not be good enough,” he said.
Even at 8-5, losing is not an option.
The Jets essentially face a one-game playoff scenario each week in which the next opponent becomes even more important than the last. Saturday night’s game has the potential to undo everything they’ve built to this point: three straight victories and a postseason run.
The Cowboys (4-9) are struggling, but they’ve got enough weapons — Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and a stout offensive line — to upset the Jets. But they have their sights set on something bigger than just a win over Dallas.
“This is what we play for every year,” cornerback Darrelle Revis said. “To get to the postseason and try to make a run at the Super Bowl.”
The Jets are in the thick of the AFC wild-card hunt, along with Pittsburgh and Kansas City (both 8-5), but the Jets will be the first of those teams to play this weekend.
“We know we have to win out and we’re trying to win,” Bowles said. “As long as we win and take care of ourselves, what happens on Sunday happens on Sunday. But we have to play Dallas on Saturday and that’s all we’re concerned about.”
The Jets have been clicking offensively in recent weeks, with Ryan Fitzpatrick leading the charge.
The 33-year-old quarterback, who was named AFC offensive player of the week, is five touchdown passes shy of breaking Vinny Testaverde’s franchise record (29).
Running back Chris Ivory — a native of Longview, Texas, who grew up a Cowboys fan — is 86 yards shy of reaching 1,000 rushing yards in a season for the first time in his six-year career. And receiver Brandon Marshall needs only five catches to break Al Toon’s single-season mark of 93 set in 1988.
While they’re focused on the task at hand, the Jets say postseason play is their biggest motivator.
“I think that’s great,” said Fitzpatrick, who, like Marshall, hasn’t played in the postseason. “That’s why we play, to get into that race. But the way we’re going to have to do it right now is continue to maintain our focus on each week. That’s worked for us the last few weeks and not trying to look ahead or think about scenarios or possibilities, and that what we’re going to continue to try to do.”
The Jets haven’t fared well on the road this season. Three of their five losses came as the visiting team, and they were outscored 88-60 in those games. Being the road team again will be a difficult challenge.
“I’m not going to sit here and say the home team gets the majority of the calls, but everything is working against you [when you’re the road team],” outside linebacker Calvin Pace said. “You have to be able to go into somebody else’s home and try to find a way to win the game.
“The key is just starting fast. I think when we’ve been bad on the road, we haven’t started fast. The energy, the body language, it’s like we just wait too long to kick it in gear.”
Jet streams. The Jets placed rookie Devin Smith on injured reserve and signed practice-squad linebacker Taiwan Jones to the active roster.