2006_10_jetsfan.jpgThe Jets appeared ahead of schedule during the first three weeks of this season. They jumped out to an early lead and hung on to win, rallied valiantly to make a perennial contender sweat and answered early blows only to rally and win. In their fourth game, a 31-28 loss to the Colts on Sunday, they made the game's best quarterback look vulnerable and unsettled but still came up short in a house-money game.

If not for a third-quarter interception on a fourth-and-goal thrown by Chad Pennington, this game might have turned out differently. Head coach Eric Mangini elected to go for a touchdown rather than the field goal -- he likely figured the Jets needed seven points to have a shot. The temptation is to look at the final score -- a three-point loss -- and say, "Oh, well that field goal would have made things different." But no one knows how the game would have played out, and Mangini's decision wasn't foolhardy.

The Colts looked like they had the game all sewn up when they scored a touchdown with 2:34 remaining in the fourth quarter, but 14 seconds later, Justin Miller returned the kickoff 103 yards to give the Jets the lead. It would take a 61-yard drive capped off by a Peyton Manning touchdown run for the Colts to retake the lead. Luckily for the Colts, that was the end of the scoring despite one final effort from the Jets. The desperation play started with a Pennington pass and finally ended on the 32 yard line, but it was a fun play to watch - several laterals, a couple of fumbles and a few exciting runs, and no penalty flags but no touchdown for the Jets.

By taking the a top-three NFL team to the brink, the Jets have raised expectations that were already rising. A win might have been too much for their fans to handle, but with the dreadful Dolphins in the AFC East, is it that unreasonable for the Jets to hope for a second-place finish and a wild card? Not if they keep playing this well.

Photograph by Jason DeCrow/AP