Four plays into the 2023 season and it was supposed to be all over for the New York Jets. Losing star quarterback Aaron Rodgers on his first drive in Gotham green was supposed to signal the death knell for one of the most fancied AFC teams heading into the new campaign.

If it was all over after Rodgers tore his achilles, no one told head coach Robert Saleh and his talented, tough and determined team. As they get some well-earned rest with their bye week this weekend, the Jets can hold their heads high and take that quick break in the knowledge that they are very much alive in the AFC playoff race.

Four of New York’s first six opponents were against high-quality playoff teams from a year ago, including both Super Bowl participants. Despite having to face Buffalo, Dallas, Kansas City and Philadelphia out of the gate, the Jets are well positioned at 3-3 – a record that points to a collective effort driven by great locker room spirit.

It also helps when you have one of the NFL’s best defences! I’ve always been quite a bit of a stats guy but the numbers lie when you look at the 2023 New York Jets on the defensive side of the ball. That unit ranks 22nd in the league in yards allowed per game (351.8) and 13th in points per game (19.8).

The eyeball test – coupled with making key plays in big spots – suggests those numbers are a total fallacy. Those key plays in big spots have driven recent wins against Denver in Week 5 (Bryce Hall scoring on a fourth quarter fumble return) and against Philadelphia in Week 6 (Tony Adams key interception on third down to set up Breece Hall’s game-winning touchdown run late in the fourth).

And it doesn’t get much bigger than facing the quarterback trio of Josh Allen (Buffalo), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City) and Jalen Hurts (Philadelphia). The Jets beat Allen and Hurts and were a couple of plays away from taking down the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football.

The combined numbers for that quarterback trio against the Jets D? They went 75 of 116 (64.6%) for 719 yards, three touchdowns and eight interceptions. That’s a combined rating of 61.7 – a mark that would be the lowest in the NFL this season if it were applied to a single player.

There are plenty of stars on defence. The secondary – led by All-Pro cornerback Sauce Gardner – continues to make life very difficult for opposing passing games and Jermaine Johnson already has two sacks in his second NFL season after recording two and a half sacks in all of 2022.

But the star of the defensive show has to be linebacker Quincy Williams, who demands our attention each and every week as he flies from sideline to sideline making key plays like knocking the ball out of Russell Wilson’s hand for a game-clinching scoop and score against Denver. In six games, Quincy has recorded 60 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He is a true team leader and as reliable as they come.

Offensively, the Jets have steadied the ship following the shock of losing Rodgers. Zach Wilson has thrown just one interception in his last four starts and has grown in confidence with more playing time, Garrett Wilson is on pace for a second straight 1,000-yard season at receiver and Breece Hall looks back to his explosive best a year on from his torn ACL.

Hall has been a driving force on the offensive side of the ball, carrying 66 times for 426 yards and two touchdowns. He is averaging 6.5 yards per rush and has already ripped off an 83-yard run against the Bills and a 72-yard scoring sprint against the Broncos. He is a true home run threat who can change games.

It’s been an absolute gauntlet of a schedule for the Jets – one in which even the great Aaron Rodgers would have been challenged – and they’re still standing! With back-to-back wins over Denver and Philadelphia in the books, the Jets now have the chance to build some momentum coming out of the bye.

They have winnable games coming up at the New York Giants, home to the Los Angeles Chargers and at the Las Vegas Raiders and it’s a key period that needs to be successful. Then come some tougher tests at Buffalo and home to the Miami Dolphins on Black Friday, but who knows what this team will look like by late November?

You saw who was throwing on the field before the win over the Eagles, didn’t you?