It is that one question that is mentioned in every conversation of every fan of every team in every sport.
Can they make the playoffs?
The team and sport fluctuates based on the fan's preferences, but this is one of the essential questions of nearly all fans. The answers are always interesting.
Especially when the topic is the New York Jets.
At week 12 of last season, it is safe to say that all Jet fans would have guaranteed a playoff berth, at least. Some probably talked about the wild card, some going as far as winning the division. And there were probably those wise fans that said something like, these are the Jets, never get your hopes up too far. And that wise fan is correct.
From 8-3 at week 12, the Jets tumbled in all directions, going just 1-4 in their last five games to finish the season 9-7, short of a playoff berth.
But 2009 is a brand new season, and the Jets have already taken advantage.
Their second order of business was to get a new quarterback. To all Jets fans surprise, they traded up to the fifth spot of 2009 NFL Draft to select USC quarterback Mark Sanchez.
With a new coach and a new quarterback, the team seems to be heading in a different direction. But is it a better direction?
Yes seems to be the answer. Sanchez is almost twice as young as last season's quarterback, Brett Favre. Ryan, unlike former Jets coach Eric Mangini, is more hands on and much more friendly to the media, which always helps.
But that still doesn't answer the question. Can they make the playoffs?
Of course, any team can make the playoffs. But do the Jets have a good chance at it, that is the real question?
The answer is yes, but it won't be easy. In a division that features the Patriots and the Dolphins, the Jets are overshadowed, that's for sure. But making the playoffs is not necessarily out of the question.
Their schedule is tough, but it's not impossible. Any team that has to play the Dolphins and Patriots four times a year is going to have some issues. But with an improving defense and improving offensive line, the Jets should be able to win two of those four games.
The Jets do have a tough schedule. It goes: @ Houston, New England, Tennessee, @ New Orleans, @ Miami, Buffalo, @ Oakland, Miami, Bye, Jacksonville, @ New England, Carolina, @ Buffalo, @ Tampa Bay, Atlanta, @ Indianapolis, Cincinnati.
Their schedule, after taking a good look at, isn't so bad. They get all of their tough conference games out of the way by week 11, which is their last game against the Patriots.
There are some easier teams in here, like Cincinnati and Oakland that the Jets need to beat if they want to contend this year.
There are those middle of the road teams, like Houston and New Orleans. The Jets really should win both of those games, as that would give them a ton of momentum for that playoff push.
The only extremely tough part of the schedule is weeks 15 and 16, in which they go back to back against Atlanta and Indianapolis. Winning one of those games would be enough, if they could win both, it would be huge.
There is a huge difference between asking can the Jets make the playoffs and will the Jets make the playoffs.
Can they? Yes, if they beat the right teams, which they are perfectly capable of doing, they will.
Realistically, will they? Probably not. In a division with the Patriots and Dolphins, the Jets will play competitive football, but in a season where they are adapting to a new head coach, and with the development of a rookie quarterback on their minds, they probably won't make the playoffs.
But I'm not counting them out. If guys like Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey step up as receivers and make it easier for Mark Sanchez, this team could make the playoffs. On the defensive side, if guys like David Harris and Vernon Gholston step up, the Jets will be in a much better position to make the playoffs.
And when you consider the return of guys like Calvin Pace (though he will miss the first four games), Kerry Rhodes, Darrelle Revis, Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Furgeson, this team is very, very good.
So here's the verdict. There's a 25 percent chance the Jets make the playoffs. With New England and Miami being so good this season, it's hard not to see both of those teams in the playoffs. But if the Jets play their hearts out and beat who they need to beat, they will make the playoffs. They probably need to be 11-5 if they want the wild card.
So there it is. The Jets are a good team. They have the players, and they have the coaching. But they are stuck in a really good division, and it is a "transition" season for the Jets. Playoff hopes look a little dim, but that light could shine bright at any moment.
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