Chris Pedota | northjersey.com

To be clear: We are not there yet. Nowhere near there, in fact. And the odds we ever get there are slim.

That said, Robert Saleh’s infamous receipts rant is starting to feel a lot more like when Jim Fassel pushed his chips into the middle of the table. And a lot less like when Joe Judge told us about all the phone calls he was fielding from impending free agents.

The Jets are the talk of the NFL after stunning the Bills on Sunday at MetLife Stadium.   They are not only in the thick of the playoff race, but they now have a chance to contend for the AFC East title. And they have taken off ever since Saleh — we thought at the time – went off the deep end. But there was a method to his madness, he says. From NFL reporter Peter King’s NBC Sports column:

You know, until you’re here, you don’t realize it. But there was so much negativity, so much raining down on a young football team. We’re so young. I just felt like it was important to kind of deflect the attention off the players and bring it on me. You know that it was gonna come down on me. Any time you challenge the media, they’re gonna come out guns blazing.

We have such a young group. They’re so talented. I believed in them, and I just wanted them to have a chance. That statement was more about allowing them to go play freely, and shouldering the criticism myself. In the world of social media, these kids are impressionable. They have feelings too. It’s like, shoot, if they just play football, just play, feel free, play the game they’ve loved since they were kids, hey, they’re gonna be pretty good.

A few things. Classifying Saleh’s comments as Judge-esque delusions at the time was perfectly rational. The Jets were outclassed by the Ravens in the season opener and Saleh came off as a man detached from reality. But to Saleh’s growing credit, the gambit has worked. The Jets responded in Week 2 with their miraculous comeback win in Cleveland. And they have bounced back from adversity with consistency.

The Jets are not all the way there yet. They have a tough stretch awaiting them on the other end of this week’s open date — at the Patriots, home for the Bears, at the Vikings, at the Bills. They still have time to stumble, especially if Zach Wilson does not maintain the efficient level of play he demonstrated in the upset win over Buffalo. But this is a young team that is ready to win. And in hindsight, Saleh likely gave it room to grow up by making himself the lightning rod. So we will give him a hand here and show our own receipts.

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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]

James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.