The New York Jets are 8-5 and winners of their last three. But is Saturday night’s game against the Romo-less Dallas Cowboys a trap game?

By Israel Gonzalez

The New York Jets are closing in on their first playoffs appearance since the 2010 season. That season, the Jets came within a touchdown of their first Super Bowl appearance since Super Bowl III back in 1969. That was not to be, however, and the Jets, to put it nicely, haven’t been very good since.

This is a different New York Jets team, though. This Jets team isn’t plagued by the inconsistencies of Mark Sanchez or the sporadic play of Geno Smith. No. This team is led by a player, Ryan Fitzpatrick, who up until last month, looked more like someone who could be an extra on the television show, Vikings.

These are not the Jets of yesteryear. They are not a team that can be ridiculed. They are not the butt-fumbling team of the Sanchez era. They are not the same team that talked, often too much, about what they were going to do to opposing teams, and then proceeded to do the opposite. No. This team hits you in the mouth without warning, and better yet, they say nothing after they’ve done so.

To say that Coach Todd Bowles has changed the culture of the New York Jets (for the better) is an understatement of epic proportions. Not to take anything away from Rex Ryan (the team did make back to back AFC Championship games), but Coach Bowles has a different aura about him. He gets players to play at levels far beyond what they are normally capable of.

However, while there are some players like Darrelle Revis and Stevan Ridley, who have played in (and won) a Super Bowl, for many on the 2015 New York Jets, this is uncharted territories.

But that is not stopping the Jets from thinking about the bigger picture. They aren’t thinking about merely partaking in the playoffs. Like every other team, the New York Jets are thinking about playing for a championship.

According to team leader Revis, a player who understands what it takes to reach the next level, the Jets have picked the right time to be playing their best ball.

“This is where you want to play your best ball, heading into postseason,” said Revis to Steve Serby of the New York Post. “This is where you want to be peaking during this time. We’re in good spirits. We’re very upbeat. I think we had an awesome practice this whole week. And guys are locked in, you can tell out there, guys are very locked in.”

There are times when the Super Bowl winner isn’t (or wasn’t) necessarily the best team that year. Just look at the 2007 and 2011 New York Giants who went 10-6 and 9-7, respectively. Those teams weren’t even supposed to come out of the wildcard round, let alone win the Super Bowl. But they peaked at the right time, and in the case of the 2007 Giants, defeated the previously undefeated New England Patriots in one of the biggest upsets in NFL history.

Darrelle Revis knows that once you make the playoffs, all bets are off. Anything goes.

“You can win one any year,” said Revis. “Once you get in the Big Dance, anything can happen. We went to AFC Championship games by barely getting in. Anything can happen. We clicked at the right time later in the season when made those runs to the AFC Championship game, so anything can happen.”

For the New York Jets, this could be that year. This could be the year that they put it all together. This could be the year that they stop being the laughingstock of the NFL. Fans can replace paper bags with a Ryan Fitzpatrick jersey. They can replace sorrow with joy.

But before anyone can think about the playoffs, first up is the Dallas Cowboys, in a game that is surely going to be considered a potential trap. No Tony Romo should mean an automatic win, but it doesn’t. The Cowboys are that wounded animal in the corner that your mother warned you not to poke at.

Then, there is star receiver, Dez Bryant. While Bryant has been injured for a good portion of the season (I should know because he’s on my fantasy team) and doesn’t have a quarterback to get him the ball, he remains a major threat to the Jets’ secondary. Coach Bowles echoed those sentiments when discussing Bryant.

“Dez Bryant being slow is like LeBron being slow,” said Bowles to Daniel Popper of the New York Daily News. “You’re going to get something out of him. He’s a great player. He never slows down, he just finds different ways to beat people. So we expect the best Dez Bryant.”

For the 2015 New York Jets, stopping Bryant likely means that the Jets will win the game, and thus increase their chances of making the playoffs. If they don’t, and with the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers both battling for the two wildcard spots, it will mean another in the long line of disappointments.

Trap game, indeed.

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Israel Gonzalez was born in the greatest borough that New York has to offer, The Bronx. Originally a Mixed Martial Arts writer, Israel started covering NY sports less than a year ago, which is only fitting given his ties to New York. Israel’s favorite NY teams, in no particular order, are the New York Yankees, New York City FC, the New York Jets, and the New York Knicks. He is looking forward to the next step in what has been an eventful journey.