It’s gut check time.

If the Jets are truly the surprise team of the league this season, it’s time to prove it. Through five games, they’ve passed their junior varsity portion of their schedule. Sure, they were smacked around by the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders. But, it’s been smooth sailing since Marshawn Lynch decided to audition for ABC’s Dancing with the Stars on the Oakland sideline three weeks ago.

They’ve had dominant performances against the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars. They also survived – barely – against the Cleveland Browns for their third consecutive win. Did that Oakland embarrassment spark the Jets? We shall see.

The Jets are a different team from year’s past. They may not match up with you toe-to-toe but the talent is certainly there. It’s a young and spunky group that is easy to root for. Much to the dismay of the pro-tank crowd, they’ll steal a few more games, especially with a rejuvenated work ethic and team-first attitude. It should remind New Yorkers of this year’s Yankees squad – no expectations, just play with house money. From that point, it is all gravy.

Now comes the true test. This sense of euphoria can be wiped away in one game. Flashback to Wk. 10 of the 2011 season. The Jets (5-3), (3-0 at home) hosted the Patriots (5-3), (losers of two straight) on Sunday Night Football. It was New York’s best chance in years to stamp their mark on the Patriots and claim control over the AFC East. The Patriots – like this year’s team – were vulnerable. That game finished in ugly fashion – a disappointing 37-16 defeat that derailed any hope for the 2011 season.

The Jets can learn a thing or two from the 2011 team.

First, despite looking beatable through five weeks, Tom Brady will continue to be Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will continue to be Bill Belichick. If the Browns had their way with New York’s offense on Sunday, imagine what a Belichick coached team could do. With that said, this New England defense isn’t like previous years. They are ranked 32nd in the league in total defense. The unit has given up more yards per game than any other team in the NFL (447.2) and have allowed the second-most points in the league (28.4), second to the Indianapolis Colts.

It’s unusual to see a Belichick-Matt Patricia led defense stoop this low. It doesn’t make sense. Which means it can and likely will change in a blink of an eye.

There’s no question the Jets will be amped up and ready to go on Sunday. They knew what was coming. In the locker room after the game, linebacker Demario Davis told his team in the huddle: “We got a big one coming up at home. Ya’ll know how we do in front of our home crowd.”

This team has been waiting for this moment to prove themselves since the “experts” released their 0-16 predictions. While the players insist they don’t listen to the noise outside of the locker room, the screenshots of an 0-16 prediction article is posted in nearly every locker. You’d be mistaken to believe the Jets don’t practice and play with an extra chip on their shoulder. The players don’t have to admit it. We already know.

Throw everything out. It is gut check time. This Sunday at MetLife Stadium, the Jets could change their entire season. It’s not an exaggeration. If New York can steal a win from Brady and Co. to reach 4-2, all bets are off. But remember what quarterback and coach loom in the near distance. It’s not Cutler and the Dolphins, Bortles and the Jaguars or Kizer and the Browns. It’s arguably the greatest signal caller to ever don a uniform with arguably the smartest coach in the history of the sport.

If this young and fun Jets team steal one from the grumpy ol’business-as-usual Patriots, you better believe the tank is dead. You also better believe that one running back dancing on the sideline sparked this entire wave.

When the Jets faced Miami two weeks ago, the players and coaching staff preached the word: “Unity.” That is the word of the season for this team. A unified team-effort can beat the Patriots. It’ll just take all hands on deck, a little luck and some guts.

Joe Barone is a staff writer for He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone) or via email ( 
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