We all know the playoffs aren't always decided by who the best overall team is. Match-ups play a huge part in which teams with high expectations go home earlier than anticipated, and which teams make a Cinderella run deep into the postseason.
The three teams that the New York Jets could face in the playoffs are the Kansas City Chiefs, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Interestingly enough, the Jets haven't played any of these three teams in the regular season.
It's probably bad luck to pick and choose playoff opponents, because the last thing a player wants to do is proclaim a preferred opponent, only to wind up on the wrong side of a 42-14 blowout. But for argument's sake, here are the possible opponents, and reasons the Jets should want to play (or avoid) them in the Wild Card round.
Kansas City Chiefs:
The Chiefs are the most likely opponents for Gang Green. Kansas City will be the number three seed unless the Chiefs lose to the Raiders at home (where they are undefeated) and the Colts defeat the Titans.
The Jets will be the sixth seed unless the Steelers lose to the Browns, while the Jets would still need to defeat the Bills with Mark Brunell at quarterback, to move up to the fifth seed.
Pros for Playing Kansas City:
The Chiefs are a run-first team (167.5 yards per game, 1st in NFL) and the Jets have one of the better run defenses in the NFL (ranked fifth). If the Jets can shut down the Chiefs' high-octane running offense, the Chiefs will have to resort to a pass offense that has played second fiddle all year, giving the Jets a significant advantage.
Cons for Playing Kansas City:
As much as the Jets have a chance to shut down the Chiefs' running game led by Jamaal Charles and ex-Jet Thomas Jones, the Chiefs have a chance to dominate and neutralize the Jets defense. The Jets haven't faced running backs like the ones Kansas City has all year, so it will be the biggest challenge yet. The Chiefs are also 7-0 at home, although only two of their seven home opponents have records over .500.
The Chiefs would have to lose to the Raiders, while the Colts would have to beat the Titans in order for the Jets and Colts to meet up in a 3-6 match-up (assuming the Steelers and Ravens both win).
They could also meet in a 4-5 match-up with the Browns defeating the Steelers, the Raiders defeating the Chiefs, the Jets defeating the Bills, the Ravens defeating the Bengals, the Titans defeating the Colts, and the Texans defeating the Jaguars.
Clearly, the first scenario is a lot more likely (and a hell of a lot less complicated).
Pros for Playing Indianapolis:
There's a multitude of reasons to want to play the Colts in the first round. First off, you'd assume that the Jets would have a little payback mentality when you consider it was the Colts who kept the Jets from a Super Bowl appearance. The Colts' running game (ranked 30th in NFL) would be nonexistent against New York, and the Jets' running game would probably have a field day against the Colts run defense, which is ranked 27th in the league.
Cons for Playing Indianapolis:
Outside of Tom Brady, this may be the one quarterback you do not want to mess with in a big-time game. There's no better passing offense in football than the Colts, and the Jets pass defense has been questionable at times, especially lately.
This is the least likely of opponents, but it's still possible.
The Jaguars would have to beat the Texans, the Titans would have to beat the Colts, the Ravens would have to beat the Bengals, the Jets would have to beat the Bills, and the Browns would have to beat the Steelers.
Three of the five outcomes are likely, but it's unlikely that both the Colts and Steelers will lose important games against the Titans and Browns, respectively.
Pros for Playing Jacksonville:
The Jags' defense is mediocre, on a good day. They're 26th in allowed passing yards and 17th in allowed rushing yards. Their passing game does not pose much of a threat either, as they only gain 196 yards a game, 26th in the NFL.
Cons for Playing Jacksonville:
See Kansas City.
The Jags, led by Maurice Jones-Drew (if healthy), have one of the best rushing offenses in the league (ranked fourth). While the Jets' run defense is certainly not something to mess with, they still haven't faced a potent rush offense like Jacksonville's.
It looks like the Jets will be traveling to Kansas City, barring a remarkable chain of events unfolding on Sunday, and that's not such a bad thing. Peyton Manning and the Colts are certainly nothing to wish for in a playoff game, especially on the road, and while the Jaguars wouldn't be too fearsome of an opponent either, the prospects of that happening aren't exactly the greatest.
Playoff time is what the Jets have been talking about for months. It'll be interesting to see if they can put their money where their mouth is.
Feel free to leave your comments on who you want the Jets to face in the first round.