You hate to admit it, but . . .

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You hate to admit it, but . . .

By Michael Felger

A Felger three-fer two football, one Bruins -- to get Jets Week started.

Before we get started, please know that I fully expect the Patriots to beat the Jets this weekend. I believe the Pats are a better team with better coaching, better quarterbacking play and a better track record against quality opponents. I'd be stunned if Bill Belichick allowed that team, of all teams, to come into Foxboro and win on Sunday.

But here's something I think people around here arent recognizing.

The Jets don't suck.

They aren't nearly the mess you want to believe they are.

Two years ago they lost the last three games of the season with Brett Favre at quarterback and Eric Mangini as the coach. That's a mess.

Now they've made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the Joe Namath era. You said they were frauds for backing into the postseason last year, but they followed that up with 11 wins, another playoff victory, and a trip back to the divisional round. Sounds like something approaching validation to me.

You think the Jets are pathetic, but if they're pathetic then that doesn't speak very well of you. The Pats are just 2-2 against the New Yorkers since Ryan got there. The Jets have won three of their last four playoff games after Saturday's win in Indianapolis. The Pats? They've lost two straight.

The Jets may have been plagued by inconsistent quarterback play, but Mark Sanchez is just 24. He's probably going to get better. Their best defensive player, and for my money still the best corner in football, Darrelle Revis, is just 25. The core of their offensive line is young and under contract. Ownership has proven it will spend what it takes and the drafting by the scouting department has been pretty good.

Again, none of that will mean a heck of a lot on Sunday. The Pats should win. It could very well be another blowout. And maybe the Jets will never catch you as long as Tom Brady is here.

But if you think the Jets aren't legit or aren't headed in the proverbial "right direction," then you're simply blinded by your hatred for them. And I'd hate to be you if the unthinkable happens on Sunday.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, Peyton Manning suffered the seventh one-and-done playoff defeat of his playoff career on Saturday. Its not that he played poorly or, as has been the case in the past, gave the ball away in the fourth quarter. Its just that he lost again. His Colts are now 9-10 in his postseason lifetime. And, again, seven of those nine defeats came in their first playoff game. Ouch.

Then again, watching the Colts under Jim Caldwell only backs up a part of what Ryan had to say about Brady last week. Namely, that Brady benefits more from his coaches than Manning does from his. Folks around here took it as a major blast and it was certainly a dumb thing for Ryan to say, on many levels but it has more than a grain of truth to it.

I would have been more outraged over the Bruins collapse in Montreal on Saturday night had it not been so familiar. I mean, really. Aren't you conditioned to it by now? And at what point will you finally realize the sad truth?

This is what you're going to get from this group of players and this coaching staff.

This is who they are.

The most depressing part of the story is that the general manager of this soft, underachieving group, Peter Chiarelli, keeps giving out big contract extensions to the core of it.

Zdeno Chara, the captain who was on the ice for all three Montreal goals in the third period and overtime, who didn't get angry until the game was over and who then slinked out of the locker room without doing his job and speaking for the team, is signed for another 7 12 years. He's 33. He's been in the league 12 years and has been to just one conference finals and has never been to the Stanley Cup finals (the Senators went the year after he left).

Goalie Tim Thomas, who has been very good this year but was nevertheless brutal down the stretch in Montreal and has now blown third-period leads in each of his last two games, is signed for 2 12 more years at a cap-killing 5 million per season. He's 36. He's won one NHL playoff round in his life.

Marc Savard, who has been dreadful since returning to the lineup in November and looks like a shadow of his pre-concussion self, is signed for 6 12 more years. He's 33. He's never been out of the second round.

Coach Claude Julien, who is in his eighth NHL season and has never been out of the second round with three teams, is in the first year of his contract extension.

I could go on, but you get the point. Even if president Cam Neely wanted to clean house behind the bench (a big "if" given the fact Jeremy Jacobs just got through paying off Dave Lewis' deal), he's stuck with much of the roster. And as we've seen, it's a roster that has no idea how to win beyond a first-round level.

So as disheartening as Saturday's loss was, it's even worse to consider what's ahead unless a major shakeup occurs.

Purgatory.
E-mail Felger HERE and read the mailbag on Thursday. Listen to him on the radio weekdays, 2-6 p.m., on 98.5 the Sports Hub.

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock quarterbacked a marathon conference call with reporters from around the country on Monday in order to shed some light on the prospects who will compete at the combine later this week. One thing that stood out? He's not ready to crown anyone in this year's crop of draftable signal-callers.

As a result of the dearth of pro-ready talent at quarterback, Mayock recognized Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo as perhaps the top target for any quarterback-needy team. Garoppolo might interest the Cleveland Browns in particular, Mayock noted, because of the number of picks they have near the top of the draft.

"In my opinion," Mayock said, "if I'm the Cleveland Browns and I've got No. 1 and No. 12, if I came away with either [defensive end Myles] Garrett or [defensive tackle] Jonathan Allen at No. 1, and gave up the 12th pick in the draft to get Garoppolo? I would be stoked.

"I would feel like I had a difference-maker on defense and we had a quarterback on offense. Now let's get to work. We got five in the first 65 picks. Let's get to work. From my perspective, especially looking at the quarterbacks this year, if they gave up No. 12 and could get Garoppolo, I'd be all over that."

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Haggerty's Morning Skate: NHL teams aren't just making trades for themselves ahead of deadline

Here are all the hockey links from around the world, and what I’m reading while feeling like Warren Beatty took the sneaky way out by handing that wrong Academy Award card to Faye Dunaway last night. Clearly he knew something was amiss and he let her step into it. Kind of a weasel move if you asked me.

-- An interesting letter from FOH (Friend of Haggs) James Mirtle about the pay wall involving The Athletic sports website in Toronto.

-- Dean Lombardi and the Los Angeles Kings dealing for Ben Bishop is about more than just an insurance policy for Jonathan Quick.

-- FOH Mike Halford has the Minnesota Wild going for it with their trade for Martin Hanzal, but also keeping him from the other teams in the West.

-- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the Penguins are in great shape after winning the Cup last spring, and it’s clear they’re in good hands after Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle opted not to sell the franchise.

-- Kyle Quincey is being held out of the lineup in New Jersey because of pending trades, and the wonder is who else in New Jersey might be getting dealt.

-- Gabriel Landeskog and his Colorado Avalanche teammates know the trade deadline is coming. It would certainly be weird if they didn’t.

-- The San Jose Sharks feel fortunate for the timing of their bye week as it was clear that they needed a break.

-- For something completely different: Gronk was busy doing Gronk things at the Daytona 500 over the weekend.