Fitzpatrick, Jets in playoff position as they visit Cowboys
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Ryan Fitzpatrick has the New York Jets in position to make the playoffs even though they didn't expect him to be their starting quarterback this season.
The Dallas Cowboys have had no such luck with their backups to Tony Romo, and the defending NFC East champions could be eliminated from the postseason by the end of Week 15.
It may be hard for the Jets (8-5) to remember that Fitzpatrick wasn't their guy when they went to training camp - before Geno Smith's jaw was broken by a punch from then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali at camp.
Now New York makes its first visit to the $1.2 billion home of the Cowboys on Saturday night with Fitzpatrick closing in on his first trip to the playoffs in the former Ivy Leaguer's 11th NFL season.
During a three-game winning streak that gives the Jets one of the AFC wild-card spots at the moment, Fitzpatrick has 930 yards with nine touchdowns, no interceptions and a 111.5 passer rating.
''I think as a fan of football and someone who's been around football my whole life, I have an affinity for him,'' said Dallas coach Jason Garrett, who was a quarterback at Princeton about 15 years before Fitzpatrick was at Harvard. ''He's a smart guy. He's a tough guy. He plays the game the right way.''
Matt Cassel once won 10 games filling in for Tom Brady in New England. But he's 1-5 as the second replacement for Romo this season, after Brandon Weeden went 0-3. The Cowboys have scored more than one touchdown just twice in his six starts.
''They still have a great offensive line; they've got a slew of running backs,'' said New York coach Todd Bowles, who missed Romo last year as well when he was defensive coordinator in a win for Arizona. ''We expect to get the Cowboys that won a division, the Cowboys that play hard and do everything they've been doing. We expect a tough game.''
Things to consider with the Jets going for their first four-game winning streak since 2010:
BRACKET? WHAT BRACKET? The Jets currently have one of two playoff spots among a trio of 8-5 teams with Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Not that Fitzpatrick is looking. ''It's too early for me to even think about that,'' he said. ''We're trying to win every single game, but this is the next one.''
WALKING CONTRADICTIONS: New York is among the best offenses inside the 20, converting 68 percent into touchdowns and 96 percent overall (42 of 44). Dallas is among the worst at getting into the end zone (44 percent). ''That was one of the things we said to start the season, that was a big goal of ours, to be very good in that area,'' said Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who coached the Cowboys in 1998-99.
The Jets are one of seven teams with at least 24 takeaways, and the Cowboys are the only team in single digits with eight. It's probably not good news for Dallas that New York has just one turnover during its winning streak.
DYNAMIC DUO: Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are having one of the best seasons ever for a pair of Jets receivers. Marshall has 89 catches, five shy of breaking Al Toon's franchise record. He has 1,187 yards and 11 touchdowns. Decker has 66 receptions for 875 yards and nine TDs, including eight in the red zone - second in the NFL to Jacksonville's Allen Robinson (11) among WRs.
The duo's 20 combined TD catches tie the franchise mark, also held by Art Powell and Don Maynard (1960) and Toon and Wesley Walker (1986). Marshall and Decker have also each caught a TD pass in seven games this season, tying the NFL record set in 1998 by Minnesota's Randy Moss and Cris Carter.
DEZ AND CONFUSED: All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant has 13 straight games for Dallas with at least one touchdown against AFC opponents, the longest interconference streak since 1970. But he has just two TDs this season after missing five games with a broken foot. It's likely the end of a three-year run with at least 10 TDs each season. ''Certainly for Dez this year it's been challenging for a lot of different reasons,'' Garrett said. ''Dez understands that and you just have to work through it.''
CHASING 1,000: New York running back Chris Ivory needs 86 yards for his first 1,000-yard season in his sixth year. He already has career highs with 914 yards and seven touchdowns. Dallas' Darren McFadden (798 yards) has a little further to go for the second 1,000-yard season for the fourth overall pick in the 2008 draft by Oakland.
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