NFL Playoff Predictions: Why the AFC Is the Jets for the Taking

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IDecember 21, 2011

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17:  Head coach Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets talk on the field prior to playing against the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 17, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The New York Jets have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league this season. Many are already proclaiming this year a disappointment in the Big Apple. These people are overreacting, as the Jets are still just two wins away from making the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

The defending Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers, sat at 8-6 at this point in the season last year. New York is no way out of it, and they have proved before that they are no easy out in January. Mark Sanchez and company have four road playoff wins over the last two seasons, an NFL high.

Gang Green has a huge matchup with their inner-city rivals, the Giants, this Saturday. The Jets are the more complete team, and if they can attack a depleted Big Blue secondary, as well as put constant pressure on Eli Manning, then they should pick up the victory.

The Jets have another difficult contest in Week 17, as they play the always competitive Dolphins in Miami. Despite the Dolphins' recent hot play, New York is the better team in almost all areas. Matt Moore should struggle to solve a stifling New York secondary, and the Jets should again pick up a much needed win.

With the way the AFC is playing out, the Jets could drop one of their two remaining games and still make the playoffs.

The Bengals still have to play the Cardinals and Ravens, two very solid teams. Cincinnati should at least drop one of those games. The Raiders still have to meet the Chiefs and Chargers, two formidable divisional opponents who are also attempting to clinch postseason berths. The inconsistent Titans have to close out the season in Houston against a Texans squad who crushed them earlier in the year.

If New York reaches the postseason, then they would most likely meet the Houston Texans in the first round. The Texans have a very solid team, but the loss of Matt Schaub is costly. With poor quarterback play, Houston will be unable to expose Gang Green's biggest defensive weakness, the lack of quality safeties. Yates will also be unable to rely on his most potent offensive weapon, Andre Johnson, due to Darrelle Revis' shutdown ability.

Eric Smith and Brodney Pool need to pick up the slack left by Jim Leonhard after his season-ending injury
Eric Smith and Brodney Pool need to pick up the slack left by Jim Leonhard after his season-ending injuryJeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Arian Foster and Ben Tate will give the Jets defense some fits, but the lack of balance on offense will kill Houston. A trip to Texas in the wild card round is a very favorable matchup for Rex Ryan and company, and they should be able to come out on top.

Being the lowest seed, the Jets would then almost certainly travel to New England to meet the Patriots in the divisional round for the second straight season. Although Tom Brady and the potent Pats offense will be able to attack the middle of the Jets secondary with their talented pair of tight ends, the New England defense could once again cost them in January. 

New York will be massive underdogs in this contest, but they will be given a chance by the lack of a balance on offense for the Patriots, as well as an awful secondary. If Mark Sanchez and the Gang Green offense can control the clock, then they could walk out of Foxborough with another postseason road win over their arch nemesis. 

If New York makes it to the AFC Championship, then they would most likely meet the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Baltimore Ravens. Both these teams are extremely talented, but they also have weaknesses. The Ravens lack balance on offense and are often doomed by poor play by their quarterback, Joe Flacco.

The Steelers are hardly the dominant team they were last year, as they have played close games with poor teams all season long. Pittsburgh's defense can be burnt on big plays, and Ben Roethlisberger can be careless with the ball. New York has its weaknesses, but if Mark Sanchez can avoid mistakes, then the Jets could easily beat either of these two AFC North powerhouses.

New York will have to play mistake free football for the rest of the year. Mark Sanchez needs to avoid critical mistakes in key times, and tackle Wayne Hunter needs to pick up his play to keep Sanchez protected. On defense, the Jets need the rejuvenated Aaron Maybin to lead a struggling pass rush, and they need Eric Smith and Brodney Pool to pick up their play at safety. 

Even if the Jets fail in one of these aspects, they still have the talent and swagger to do real damage in the postseason. All of the AFC playoff teams have massive weaknesses that the Jets can easily expose. The conference is wide open, and New York could easily end up shocking the football landscape by making an appearance in this year's Super Bowl.