By ANDREA ADELSON
AP Sports Writer





HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -- The New York Jets started 5-0, something no other team in franchise history has done.

And still, they may not make the playoffs. The Jets must win at St. Louis on Sunday to assure themselves of a wild-card berth in the AFC. If they lose, they need help to make it in the postseason.

The Jets (10-5) have failed to clinch thanks to poor performances in big games, including a 23-7 loss to New England in which they could not muster much of anything. Now they find themselves in a familiar spot.

In 2001 and 2002, when the Jets made the playoffs under coach Herman Edwards, they needed victories in their regular-season finales to advance to the postseason.

"It seems like our team likes these situations," Chad Pennington said. "We like drama. We have definitely created a bunch of it."

The Jets had a chance to clinch a spot with a victory over New England, but the game spun out of control quickly. After controlling the ball for most of the first quarter, the Jets had no points to show for it. But the Patriots did not make the same mistakes.

New England led 13-0 at halftime, and the Jets were all but out of it. They had to rely on the pass in the second half, which led to a season-low in yards rushing with 46. They also tied for second-lowest total plays with 57, and had a paltry 279 yards of total offense.

To avoid the embarrassment of failing to reach the postseason after such a strong start, all the Jets need to do is win. But if they lose, there might be trouble. They can still make it with a loss, coupled with a loss by either Buffalo or Denver.

But if Buffalo beats Pittsburgh, Denver beats Indianapolis and the Jets lose, New York would miss the playoffs because the Bills hold the edge over their division rival based on common opponents.

"We have the upper hand. All we have to do is win a game," Edwards said. "That should be your mind-set. I'm not going to rant and rave and do a pep rally and do a cheerleading drill. These guys are professionals. They know where they are at in this season."

Some of them also know how it is to go into the final game of the season needing a victory. In 2001, the Jets needed to win at Oakland, a place that caused them problems.

And they did. John Hall kicked a 52-yard field goal and the Jets made it to the first round, where they promptly lost to the Raiders. In 2002, the Jets overcame a 1-4 start and needed some help plus a win over Green Bay in the final to make the postseason.

The help worked out. New England beat Miami, and the Jets trounced Green Bay 41-0 to give them the AFC East.

"If you look at the last couple of times we've gotten to the playoffs, it's always down to the last game of the season," running back LaMont Jordan said after the game. "Maybe we like to do things the hard way and leave people on the edge of their seats. We started off with a very promising season and we're right back to where everybody expected us to be - fighting for our lives."

That is partly to do their performances in games against upper echelon teams. All five losses have come to teams with winning records, including three to New England and Pittsburgh.

"It just seems like the winning teams not only have our number, but we are not coming out as fired up and swinging the first punch like we would against other teams," receiver Justin McCareins said.

Though Edwards disagreed with the sentiment, he believes his Jets can win a big game. They will need to should they make the postseason, where tough teams await.

"The more you're put in these situations, eventually you're going to win one," Edwards said. "It's like when you're a young kid and your father takes the wheels off the side of your bike and makes you ride and you fall down. You keep falling down, eventually you get tired of bruising your knees. You learn how to ride that bike."