The sports talk circuit has been buzzing lately with disgruntled football fans talking about how the Jets don't deserve to be in the playoffs. How the Jets got lucky. How the Jets didn't earn their playoff spot and it was given to them. Tell me this: if the Jets didn't earn their way in, then what did Miami, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, Houston or Denver do in the last few weeks in order to earn a spot in the NFL postseason tournament? They all stumbled down the stretch and couldve avoided being on the bubble come January.
The Pittsburgh Steelers had their chance to "unleash hell" in December. Instead they tripped over themselves with losses to the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns. Prior to that, they lost to the Chiefs, and the Ravens to finish up at 3-4 in their last seven games. Three teams that a high school football team could probably give a run for its money.
The Miami Dolphins also stumbled at the end of their season losing three straight to the Titans, Texans and Steelers. If they beat at least two of those teams, they could've bettered their wild card chances, especially since they beat New York twice in the regular season. Instead they went 3-4 down the stretch, putting themselves in a situation where they needed to win and get help in order to get in the playoffs.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, the poster boys of inconsistent football this season, fell flat on their faces, losing their final four games. They hung close with the Colts during their Thursday night meeting but eventually lost. Losses to 49ers, Dolphins, and Browns, and a 35-7 thrashing by the Patriots did them in. The Jaguars went 2-5 to finish up their season.
After coming out of the gate with a 6-0 record, the Denver Broncos choked away their season and finished 2-5 in their last seven games. They became the third team in the NFL since 1970 to miss the playoffs after starting out 6-0. Bad losses to Oakland and Philadelphia in weeks 15 and 16, respectively, put them in their predicament. A win against the lowly Chiefs in their final game of the season would have helped them out a little, but instead they allowed Jamaal Charles to rush for 259 yards and two touchdowns as the Chiefs crushed them 44-24.
The Houston Texans, probably the most deserving of a playoff spot among the group, finished 4-3 in their last seven games and came from behind to beat New England in Week 17. Going into last Sunday nights game, they were in the playoffs, pending the outcome of the Jets-Bengals game. However, their week 1 loss to the Jets proved to be their downfall as that gave the Jets the head-to-head tiebreaker. This could have been avoided had the Texans beaten the Titans and Jaguars in Weeks 11 and 13.
And now on to the Jets.
The Jets finished 5-2 in their last seven games, with a loss to New England in Foxborough and a heartbreaking loss to the Falcons at the Meadowlands. In winning five of their last six games, the Jets defense allowed neither a 100-yard rusher nor a 100-yard receiver in according to the January 11, 2009 edition of Sports Illustrated. Of course, the Jets had many games this season that they should have won too. Had they beaten Miami (twice), Buffalo, Jacksonville and Atlanta and they would've been contending with the Patriots for the division title instead of sweating out the end of their season. Their late season surge, however, earned them the right to control their own destiny in Week 17.
There is no question that the Jets schedule worked out in their favor at the end of this season. But teams need to take advantage of the breaks they've been given. The fact that the Colts decided not to chase history and go undefeated (which is another debate for another time) isn't the Jets' fault. Hey, the Steelers had a cupcake games against the Raiders and the Browns and choked on them. Even though Cincinatti had nothing to play for in Week 17, I'm sure they didn't plan on being embarrassed the way they were. After all, they started most of their starters.
Once the dust settled on all the parity and inconsistent play among these AFC bubble teams, it was the Jets and Ravens left holding the keys to their own destiny. The Jets, grabbed the bull by the horns and got the job done.
Once you're in the playoffs, anything can happen.