A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:
1. Christmas bonus: Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse has a chance to make some nice bonus money over the final two games -- a holiday stocking stuffer, so to speak. He needs only 41 receiving yards to reach 750, which would trigger a $250,000 bonus. The way his incentive package is structured, he gets $375,000 for 875 yards and $500,000 for 1,000 yards.
In terms of catches, Kearse reached the first threshold last week with his 55th reception, resulting in a $100,000 bonus. He’ll get $200,000 if he gets to 60 catches, $300,000 if he gets to 65, $400,000 if he gets to 70 and $500,000 if he reaches 75 catches.
If Kearse finishes with a couple of decent games, he'll make an extra $450,000. He already has set career highs for catches and yards, but you get the impression he feels under-utilized.
"I was able to do what I can with the opportunities I got," he said. "That's all I can do."
2. Latest on Mo: The pregame story on Sunday will be the status of Muhammad Wilkerson, who landed in Todd Bowles' dog house because of repeated team violations (late to meetings). Bowles said Wilkerson "served his sentence" (benched last week), but don't be surprised if the coach adds some "probation."
In other words, Wilkerson probably will be inactive again. He didn't get many practice reps, a source said, an indication he won't be a factor even if he does dress. Remember, there's a financial risk if he plays because his 2018 salary ($16.8 million) is guaranteed for injury.
Truth is, Bowles wanted to slash Wilkerson's playing time in his previous benching (Dec. 3), a source said, but he was forced to use him after a quarter because Xavier Cooper got hurt. Cooper impressed the coaches last week in New Orleans and he probably will get the start over Wilkerson, whose days are numbered.
With the 16th pick in the 2012 draft, the Jets had a choice between two top edge rushers, Ingram and Chandler Jones. They passed on Ingram because they felt his short arms (31.5 inches) would hurt him as a pass-rusher. Jones was convinced he'd be picked by the Jets, but he was seen as a 'tweener and not an ideal scheme fit.
So the Jets picked defensive lineman Quinton Coples, who had a reputation as a lazy underachiever. He lasted only four seasons in the league, and now he's looking for a second career at the age of 27. It was a huge blunder by the Jets and then-coach Rex Ryan, whose eye for defensive talent failed him.
Ingram (picked 18th) and Jones (21st) have 34.5 and 62 career sacks, respectively. It wouldn't be a shock if Ingram wraps his short arms around Bryce Petty once or twice. Meanwhile, the Jets' perpetual search for an edge rusher continues.
4. Cold hard facts: Some perspective on the current state of the franchise:
The Jets' seven-year playoff drought is the third-longest in franchise history and the longest of the free-agency era (1993 to present), which is alarming. Free agency allows teams to improve quickly, but the Jets seem trapped in a bad place called mediocrity. The longest playoff slumps were eight years (1960-1967) and 11 years (1970-1980).
During the skid, the Jets are 46-64 -- a .418 winning percentage (24th in NFL) and a mind-blowing 40 games behind the New England Patriots.
This is the Jets' second straight losing season. The last time that happened was 1995 and 1996, when they finished 3-13 and 1-15 under Rich Kotite.
5. Light amid the darkness: The aforementioned facts notwithstanding, I spoke to executives from three different teams this week and they described the Jets as a team moving in the right direction. Each one said he'd be surprised if Bowles is fired. I'm in the same boat. Barring something wacky, ownership is expected to retain him.
6. Old friends: Bowles and Chargers coach Anthony Lynn coached together on Bill Parcells' staff in Dallas and have remained close friends. When the Chargers were 0-4, Lynn received an encouraging phone call from Bowles, whom he described as "that voice of reason for me. (He's) a guy that I can call and run things by, and he'll tell me the truth. That's one thing about Todd: He's not a bulls---ter. He'll tell you the truth. He's been a good friend to me. I look forward to playing against him."
Asked about his phone call to Lynn, Bowles said, "It's always good to have someone that's been there to reach out every now and then. It was done to me by a few people, so I was returning the favor and passing it on. He's done an outstanding job."
7. Impressive pool: In addition to Bowles, the Jets interviewed five candidates for their head-coaching position in 2015, three of whom have gone on to be successful head coaches -- Lynn, Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons). Yes, the Jets were talking to the right people.
8. So which is it? Early in the season, some players were critical of the media for creating the tanking narrative and making dire predictions for the season. Now some of those same players, trying to find positives in the 5-9 record, are using our old forecasts to illustrate how the team has exceeded expectations. I find that amusing.
9. A lot of popcorn: Offensive coordinator John Morton is a serious film junkie. One of his pet projects in the offseason is to study every touchdown pass in the league. That will be another ambitious undertaking, considering the NFL is up to 671 touchdown passes.
Morton pays particular attention to scoring passes in the red zone, and his top takeaway is that many happen when the quarterback is scrambling. Those don't happen by accident. There are specific rules for receivers once the quarterback leaves the pocket. It's organized chaos. Quarterback Bryce Petty struggled last week in the red zone, so Morton made it a point of emphasis in practice.
10. Did you know? A dozen defensive linemen have interceptions across the NFL, including five with Jets ties -- current Jets Kony Ealy, Wilkerson and Leonard Williams, who recorded his first last week. Ex-Jets Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson also have picks. Maybe it's a Jets thing.