The New York Jets have established themselves as one of the league’s most dangerous playoff teams in recent years, but getting Gang Green into the postseason has actually proven to be a surprisingly difficult task.
They’ve been the AFC’s No. 6 seed both of the last two seasons, and in both cases, a single victory could’ve been the difference between playing football in January and drinking cocktails on the beach. Last season, they lost three of their last five regular season games but still slipped in, and in 2009, they secured their berth with just a 9-7 record.
It doesn’t really matter because once they got in, they set the conference on fire both years by appearing in consecutive AFC Championship Games and defeating Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers in the process, but if their regular season performance had mirrored their postseason success both those years, we’d probably be talking about the Jets as one of the most elite teams in the league at this point instead of wondering whether or not the next post-season will even include them.
Maybe they prefer it that way, but with a 4-3 record, a third-place ranking in their division and legitimate concerns at several key positions in their lineup, it’s definitely a question worth asking.
The answer lies in the schedule ahead, and based on what the Jets have in store for them, New York just might drag this thing all the way out to Week 17 one more time, with the entire playoff landscape hanging in the balance once again.
Would you expect anything less?
In Week 9 of 2008, the last time these two played each other with mutual winning records, the Bills were 5-2, the Jets were 4-3, and the Jets walked away with a decisive 26-17 victory in which the Buffalo offense scored just one touchdown.
Even though the setting for this Week 9 matchup is eerily similar, however, there are still plenty of reasons to expect a different result in this outing.
Simply put, this is a game that will be fought and won in the trenches, and the Jets have struggled against elite rushing teams far too often this season to expect them to win this game.
The four Jets victories this year came against teams that collectively average 116 rushing yards per game, and even though the Jets allowed 122 rushing yards on average in those wins, that figure is skewed by the fact New York had two of those games well in hand very early on (they beat Jacksonville 32-3 and Miami 24-6).
In the three Jets losses, to compare, New York was facing teams that together average 126 rushing yards per game, and in those contests, they gave up over 160 yards on average. Granted, that figure too is skewed by an embarrassing performance in Week 3 in which the Raiders trampled them for 234 yards on the ground, but you get the idea.
Buffalo is the fifth-best rushing team in the league right now. They’re averaging 140 yards per game, and they’ve had over 130 yards in five of their seven games.
Buffalo brings it straight to New York in this one and sends the Jets home with a loss.
Always a tough call and even more so considering how uncharacteristic New England has played in recent weeks, this routine toss up appears to favor the Patriots right now, and their earlier meeting this season is a perfect example of why.
It’s not simply that the Patriots won at Gillette Stadium in Week 5, it’s how they did it.
Tom Brady had a pretty pedestrian stat line in that game by his standards (321 yards, one touchdown, one interception), and every team in the league knows step one in defeating the Patriots is making someone other than Tom Terrific step up and beat you.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez had a pretty mistake-free day that afternoon too (two touchdowns and no interceptions), another lofty goal you know the Jets just had to be counting on while laying out their blueprint for victory, and running back Shonn Green had what was his best game of the season at the time, rushing for 83 yards and a touchdown.
What Week 5 proved to everyone, then, is that even in the most ideal circumstances (the Pats scored 30 points without producing a single turnover that game), even with the game plan seemingly executing the way it was drawn up, the Pats are simply the better team this year (or they were three weeks ago, at least), and they’ll find a way to win this matchup no matter what the Jets throw at them.
New England sweeps the season series as New York, suddenly below .500 again for the second time this year, hangs its head in shame.
Will Tim Tebow still be the man in Denver three games from now?
Will Willis McGahee be back to 100 percent following surgery on his right hand last week?
Will it even matter?
The answers are maybe, probably, and definitely not, because the Broncos are headed for a freefall right now, and it definitely won’t be ending any time soon, especially not against a team as talented as the Jets.
Denver is just five points away from being completely winless this season; it’s starting a quarterback other teams just point and laugh at, and two weeks ago, it traded away its No. 1 wide receiver for the second time in two years.
The Broncos have a long way to go before anyone expects them to win, and this fall faceoff with New York is definitely no exception.
The Jets’ second losing streak this season stops at just two.
Buffalo brought the pain against the Jets in Week 9 (or at least we’re assuming they did for our purposes here), but odds are they’ll get their comeuppance in this post-Thanksgiving rematch in the Meadowlands.
Between the first meeting of these teams and the second, Rex Ryan will have had just enough time to make the necessary adjustments to his game plan but not enough to allow the sting of the earlier loss to completely dissipate from his memory.
The Jets that take the field on November 27 will therefore be motivated, focused and prepared, and the Buffalo Bills, distracted by the surprisingly magical season they’ll still appear to be having at the time, will be caught completely off guard by an opponent they soundly beat just a few weeks prior.
History is on the Jets’ side, too: they hold a 12-8 series lead over Buffalo over the last 10 years, and these two have split their games during six of those seasons.
Unlikely as it may have seemed at times, then, the Jets head into December with a winning record in tow.
The Redskins have done little to inspire confidence this year, and you know it’s a bad sign when you approach the midpoint of the season, and your best game was still in Week 1 (Rex Grossman threw for over 300 yards as the ‘Skins beat the Giants 28-14).
It’s been downhill for Washington pretty much ever since (they’ve already changed starting quarterbacks and lost a starting running back and wide receiver to injuries), and the more this season drags on, the worse shape Mike Shanahan’s fun little rebuilding project appears to be in (last week’s effort against Buffalo netted them a nifty 178 yards of total offense and not a single point).
Even at their worst, the Jets have always looked like a superior team to the Redskins this season, and with John Beck now behind center and replacement players all over the field, Washington simply doesn’t have the personnel it would take to steal this one, even playing at home.
The Jets cruise to victory in this one and barely break a sweat in the process.
The Chiefs are on a hot streak right now, but they’re still more confusing than they are threatening.
How is it possible these guys perform better without star running back Jamaal Charles than with him?
Granted, backup running backs step up all the time.
Career backup Jackie Battle has done just that in their last three games (all wins), but Battle is still a poor substitute for Charles (Battle is averaging 4.9 yards per carry as a starter right now; Charles averaged a ridiculous 6.4 last season and finished with the second-most rushing yards in the league, to compare). His emergence still doesn’t explain the dramatic transformation between this team in Weeks 1-3 and this team in Weeks 4-8.
Charles played all of the Chiefs’ first game against Buffalo, and the team put up seven points to the Bills’ 41. The following week, Charles only played half of a quarter, but it probably wouldn't have even mattered, as the outcome of that one was even more lopsided: Chiefs 3, Lions 48.
Two weeks ago, with Battle as the feature back, Kansas City was on the opposite end of another utter thrashing. They beat the 4-2 Oakland Raiders 28-0.
Now the Jets haven’t exactly been a beacon of consistency themselves this year (both teams have suffered a three-game losing streak so far), but their defense has all the right tools to stifle the Chiefs’ playmakers.
Their offense has been much better at hanging on to the ball than the opponents Kansas City has recently played (they’ve snagged 13 interceptions this year, second most in the league, while Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has thrown just six, fewer than Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Ryan Fitzpatrick or Ben Roethlisberger).
Is anyone convinced yet that the Chiefs offense can carry this team to victory all on their own, particularly against a proven defense?
Dream Team or not, this Eagles group is finally starting to gel, and from what we’ve seen so far, that looks like bad news for the Jets.
Offensively, the Eagles can overwhelm any opponent they face, and between the season LeSean McCoy is having so far (107 yards per game and eight touchdowns) and the way Darren McFadden pounded this defense in Week 3, right now, this looks to be one of those occasions.
Defensively, the Eagles should have no trouble making this a very long day for Mark Sanchez (they’ve held four opposing quarterbacks under 200 yards this season), and they should, at the very least, be able to prevent New York from outpacing their own team’s high-powered offense in this game.
The Jets’ midseason win streak ends at four, as playoff hopes unexpectedly diminish.
Four of Manning’s five interceptions this season have come in the Giants’ only two losses, and the two lowest completion percentages Manning has posted this year also took place during those games.
Get to Manning and you’re probably going to walk away a winner, and getting to Manning happens to be something the Jets seem to know how to do (his completion percentage in two career games against New York is 52 percent, and he’s averaged less than 200 yards per game in those meetings).
The Jets were specifically designed to beat teams designed specifically like the Giants, and in this case, logic prevails.
Yes, it’s a division game in a division in which all the teams seems to surprise each other every time they play. Point taken.
But come on. Miami only wins this one on a fluke, and nobody in their right mind could look at this matchup and expect the 0-7 Dolphins to put up much of a fight. This one was a freebie for New York the moment it was scheduled.
The only real question about this game, actually, is whether it’s a valuable confidence boost for the Jets before launching a third consecutive playoff run or just some meaningless consolation prize to close a disappointing season.
Time will only tell, but if it ends up being the former, you can rest assured the rest of AFC will definitely be taking notice; you know what they say about those third times, don’t you?
Postseason Appearance: Probable