FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Rex Ryan welcomed his players back to work after the bye-week break, and immediately sensed something different around the New York Jets' facility.
There was overwhelming enthusiasm throughout the halls and meeting rooms. And that had been missing in previous years when the team returned to work.
"I don't know if I really felt that coming back in, that energy or as Brian Billick would say, that synergy," Ryan said Monday. "Just that kind of, 'Wow. We're excited to be back here.'"
At 5-4, Ryan's Jets have been one of the NFL's biggest first-half surprises, shaking off outside projections for a dismal season. They're still holding a playoff spot in the AFC, but know they have plenty of work to do to stay there.
For one, they have alternated wins and losses all season, tying an NFL record through nine games, and are looking for their first winning streak. But Ryan insisted his team is looking only at trying to beat the Bills (3-7) at Buffalo on Sunday.
"Nobody's thinking about, 'Hey, let's run seven in a row off,'" Ryan said. "Yeah, I'll sign up for it. The only way to get there is to handle your business, and that's what we have to do."
Ryan even visited his brother Rob, the Saints' defensive coordinator, in New Orleans to catch up and "get some intel on Buffalo" since the Saints beat the Bills two weeks ago.
New York faces just one opponent with a winning record the rest of the way: Carolina (6-3) in Week 15. Buffalo, Baltimore (4-5), Miami (4-5), Oakland (3-6) and Cleveland (4-5) are all sub-.500.
"To place ourselves for the playoffs, (we have to) take it one game at a time, but that's our goal, make the playoffs and go from there," tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. said. "I don't see why we can't win them all, though."
That's the confidence that a promising start has bred for the Jets, a team some said would be lucky to win four games all season.
"Winning definitely helps," rookie quarterback Geno Smith said. "I think we have a great opportunity in front of us and that's where the excitement lies because we know that as a team, our best football is ahead of us."
But in order to reach that point, the Jets have a handful of things to take care of in order to keep those playoff hopes well into late-December:
— Good Geno. Just as the team has gone, Smith has been up and down from game to game with eight touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. That inconsistency needs to change, but the Jets are doing all they can to not put too much pressure on the rookie.