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Five Reasons to Keep Paying Attention to the Jets

Having nothing left to play for isn't the same as having no reason to pay attention

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Wilkerson's the rare Jet worth watching without detached irony.

    If there's a silver lining to the Jets being eliminated from playoff contention after Monday night's loss to the Titans, it's that Jets fans can now derive the same amusement from the team that the rest of the league has enjoyed this year. 

    With nothing left to play for, there's no reason to sit up nights worrying about how the Jets are going to make use of Tim Tebow or whether or not this is finally the week when everything clicks for Mark Sanchez. You can now happily fire up the YouTube of Sanchez' buttfumble without caring that the Jets lost that game by 30 points and enjoy the team's verbal diarreha about Tebow as the absurdist theater that it really is. 

    For example, Thursday saw Rex Ryan praise Tebow's work on the punt team and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano argue vehemently that people were wrong to say that Tebow's addition to the offense "didn't work." Baghdad Bob was more straightforward and honest when he spoke to the press than anyone associated with the Jets has been when it comes to Tebow, something that's no longer painful now that there's nothing left to play for in 2012. 

    Enjoy the freedom of having nothing left to lose over these next two weeks. The die's already been cast, so there's point in getting upset about things all over again. 

    The offseason will bring plenty of time for that and next season might even be worse, but this little holiday respite gives a chance to actually chuckle about the Jets instead of shedding tears about how hideously off track they've gone in the last 24 months. Even while you hope for better days ahead, take a moment to acknowledge the humor of what's gone down this.

    If that's not for you, there are a few other reasons to keep paying attention to the Jets over the next couple of weeks that don't have to do with how miserably the Jets have handled things this year. They start with the guy who has jumped Sanchez and Tebow on the depth chart.

    Greg McElroy: There's absolutely no way that anything McElroy does in the next two weeks should win him any kind of job next season, but his performance will give you some idea about whether or not he even deserves a chance to compete for one. Expectations are low, so McElroy can impress just by not turning the ball over and showing the consistent accuracy that has always eluded Sanchez. 

    Muhammad Wilkerson: The 2011 first-round pick has been the best player on the defense this season and, according to Pro Football Focus, he's the second-best 3-4 defensive end in the league after MVP candidate J.J. Watt of the Texans. That's a terrific building block for a team that doesn't have many of them. 

    Quinton Coples: This year's first rounder hasn't blossomed like Wilkerson, but recent performances have shown clear improvement. Ryan cobbled together decent defensive line play with guys like Mike DeVito and Sione Pouha this season so you're free to imagine something better than decent as long as Wilkerson and Coples continue to improve. 

    Mike Westhoff: The longtime special teams coach is retiring after this season, so the next two weeks are a chance to say goodbye to a guy who always seemed to turn up big plays in the kicking game. This year's been light on them and there have been too many breakdowns by the Jets, but Westhoff's body of work deserves respect and attention as he closes out his final year on the job. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.