Sunday afternoon—when the New York Jets hit the road to face the Seattle Seahawks in their home stadium—is crucial for the Jets. This is more than your average regular season game.
The season is on the line.
If the Jets win, they remain in the AFC wild-card race. If they lose, they are done. Here is why.
A Loss Ends the Season
If the Jets lose a third straight game and fall to 3-6, they are out of the playoff race for all intents and purposes. Under the current NFL playoff format, no 3-6 team has ever reached the playoffs.
The Indianapolis Colts are already 6-3, while the Pittsburgh Steelers will more than likely progress to 6-3 Monday with a win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The AFC Wild Card race is getting tough. An 8-8 record will not be enough. Even 9-7 could possibly fall short. If the Jets fall to 3-6, they will potentially have to win out the rest of the year, which is an unrealistic expectation.
A Win Keeps Them Alive
Let us assume that 9-7 is the target for the Jets to reach the playoffs (a reasonable but not guaranteed prediction). They have the head-to-head tiebreak over the Colts, which makes 9-7 a likely mark.
If the Jets win and progress to 4-5, they are alive because of their second-half schedule. Of the seven games left after this week, the Jets face only two quality opponents—the New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers. The Patriots are the only opponent above .500.
With one of the easiest schedules in the NFL over that period, the Jets are likely to be favored in four or five of those games. Thus, 9-7 would be a reasonable goal.
As the season gets deeper, Jets fans should hope to see more of their core players back on the field and get an additional boost. Dustin Keller, Sione Pouha, Kenrick Ellis, Bart Scott, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight are all key players who will hopefully return to full health before the end of the season.
A Must-Win Game
As far as midseason games go, this game is as much of a must-win as a team can have. The difference between a win and a loss is the difference between a legitimate playoff shot and virtually no hope at all.
The Seahawks are 4-0 at home thus far in 2012. Pulling out the win will be tough, but the Jets have no other options. If the Jets are the playoff contenders they intend to be, they will leave Seattle with a victory notched in their belts.