AP Sports Writer

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- The New York Jets could have wrapped up a playoff berth last week with a victory.

Ah, but these are the Jets, who seem to enjoy doing things the hard way. Now they face their toughest game of the season: They must win at St. Louis, in front of a hostile crowd, against another team playing for a postseason berth.

A daunting task, indeed. Unless you ask coach Herman Edwards.

"It's good for you," Edwards said Wednesday. "The harder, the better. Come on. The bigger the bully, the better. Come on. Because life is about a fight. You can't go run in your house and close the door. You're not in your neighborhood, so you'd better go fight. If we do that, we'll be OK."

There was not much fight in the Jets (10-5) last week in a 23-7 loss to New England. They returned to practice eager to make up for all the mistakes they made against the Patriots - and knowing a victory is the only thing that matters.

Whether or not this is a good situation come Sunday remains to be seen.

"I don't know why but we always play our best when our backs are completely against the wall," veteran receiver Wayne Chrebet said. "We could have had it locked up and go looking forward to the playoffs this week instead of sweating it out, but ... I think we'll see a different team out there last week."

It better be. But that will not be easy.

The Rams have won 13 straight regular-season home games in December and January dating to 1998. The Rams last lost late in the season at home on Dec. 14, 1997, when they fell 13-10 to Chicago.

St. Louis (7-8) also is alive for a shot at the NFC West title or an NFC wild card with a victory, thanks to a 20-7 victory over Philadelphia on Monday night.

"It's great," Edwards said. "It will be loud; it's a playoff atmosphere. It's everything you can ask for as a coach and as a player. I love it, that's why you do this. You want these moments for your football team."

He has gone through these moments before, in 2001 and 2002, when the Jets needed to win their final game for a playoff berth. They did just that both times, beating Oakland on the road in '01 and Green Bay at home in '02.

Perhaps that is why Edwards and his team are not panicking.

"Maybe we are a drama-filled team," running back LaMont Jordan said. "Maybe we like those exciting finishes. I am quite sure it gives some fans some heart attacks, and I am pretty sure there have been a couple of TVs in New York City thrown out some windows. But everything that has happened from Week 1 to Week 16 would be forgotten if we make the playoffs."

That means getting a better game from Chad Pennington, who struggled against the Patriots. He threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and was sacked three times as he continues to play with a strained right rotator cuff.

Playing in a dome should help his shoulder, and so should playing against a defense not nearly as good as the Patriots'. The game also is important for offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, who has come under increased scrutiny.

The Jets have been inconsistent the entire season. Two weeks ago against Seattle, they scored 37 points. Last week, their total dropped by 30.

"We feel like we need to set the tempo," Pennington said. "We face an explosive offense and the best way to defend them is to keep them off the field. But at the same time, what good teams do, is if it doesn't go well in the beginning, they don't just fall out and go to the wayside. They find ways to get back into the game and finish strong. That is what we have to be able to do if things don't go our way right off the bat."

If the Jets lose, they'll make the playoffs if Denver or Buffalo loses. Though his team's entire season rides on one game, Edwards would rather be in this situation than last season's, when the Jets finished 6-10 and played a meaningless game to close out a dismal year.

"I promised myself when I left this stage last year, I wasn't getting in that situation again," Edwards said. "Not this year. I wasn't doing that to the players, and I wasn't doing that to the coaches. We're in a pretty good situation. All we've got to do is win a game."