Evaluating the Jets’ chances of making the playoffs

 

The New York Jets have been one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season. Despite the media’s predictions of doom and gloom and opposing fans’ endless joke cracking at what was perceived to be a “circus” last season, here they are at 5-4. They’ve reeled off impressive wins over Atlanta, New England and New Orleans while losing embarrassingly to Tennessee, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.

After ESPN ranked them dead last in their preseason Power Rankings, the Jets are currently in the sixth spot for the playoffs in the AFC. Yes, if the season ended today, the New York Jets would be in the playoffs. They are absolutely in a great spot to get back to the postseason.

While the AFC is weak this season, there seems to be only one wild card spot clearly available with the rousing success Kansas City and Denver have had this season in the AFC West. Unless either teams slumps (possible, with Broncos coach John Fox out), there is only one remaining spot, and as of right now four or five teams are in striking distance.

With the Jets on a bye this week, they’re scoreboard watching on Sunday. Here are some key Week 10 matchups involving AFC teams in their rearview mirror

0-8 Jacksonville @ 4-4 Tennesee (The Titans have the head-to-head tiebreaker :over the Jets)

6-3 Cincinnati @ 3-5 Baltimore (Jets play in Baltimore soon)

7-1 Denver @ 4-4 San Diego

4-4 Miami @ 0-8 Tampa Bay

Two 0-8 teams need to somehow beat the two biggest threats to the Jets, the Titans and Dolphins. Baltimore and San Diego are in serious trouble, but both have really just underachieved this year.

After their bye this week, the Jets’ schedule looks like this:

Week 11: @ Buffalo

Week 12: @ Baltimore

Week 13: vs. Miami

Week 14: vs. Oakland

Week 15: @ Carolina

Week 16: vs. Cleveland

Week 17: Miami

It’s not easy at all, but there are some huge key matchups against teams that are in the hunt with them for the wild card spot that will tip the scales. The Ravens have lost four of their last five games and have to play Cincinnati and Chicago right before their home game against the Jets.

The Dolphins had lost four in a row before winning on a safety in overtime against the Bengals. These two rivals could end up meeting in Miami in Week 17 with the playoffs on the line However, the Fins’ season is on the verge of chaos with this Richie Incognito bullying scandal.

Oakland and Cleveland are better than expected, but with questionable QB situations, the Jets should have no trouble taking care of them. Buffalo and Carolina are also beatable, but not a given on the road, especially with the Panthers currently in the thick of the playoff hunt and the only team with a winning record left on the Jets’ schedule.

The Jets could very well make the playoffs and they could just as easily fall apart to end the season Here are a few things the Jets’ need to improve:

1. Ball security: The Jets have turned the ball over 17 times in nine games, more than any team in the NFL besides the Giants. With a rookie quarterback, you may expect it. Geno Smith has to cut down on the mistakes, as he has only two games with zero interceptions. If it’s any consolation, Andrew Luck turned the ball over a lot in his rookie season too last year, throwing 12 picks in 10 games.

He’s got the arm, the legs, and the swagger, but he’ll need to cut down on mistakes to get the Jets to the postseason

There’s a lot to like in Geno Smith. He has a very strong arm can use his legs to his advantage when he needs to. If he can cut down on the mistakes pick up play in the last seven games of the year, the Jets WILL make the playoffs and he very well may be the quarterback of the future.

2. Better receiver play: Even with Geno Smith’s up and down play this year, he hasn’t been helped by a very mediocre and injury plagued receiver core. Kellen Winslow, Jr. was Geno’s #1 target before he was suspended for violating the league’s drug policy. Santonio Holmes, has been out since Week Four, having played well in just one game this year. Both look to return to the team after the bye.

They’ll need them, as now Jeremy Kerley, probably the Jets’ best receiver since last year, will be out for about a month after dislocating his elbow last month. Also, you have guys like Jeff Cumberland, Stephen Hill, and David Nelson who frankly are not good enough. The Jets need Holmes and Winslow.

3. Better secondary play: Once the strength of Rex Ryan’s team, the Jets’ secondary has been God awful. They’ve only intercepted five passes on the year and have given up over 250 passing yards per game, 21st in the league. Feels worse considering they’ve been shredded by QBs like Andy Dalton and Jake Locker. Not ones you should let have their way with you. Antonio Cromartie has underachieved this year, while rookie Dee Milliner has so far proved to be an embarrassing bust. Only bright spot has been Antonio Allen, who has done very well covering top tight ends like Rob Gronkowsi and Jimmy Graham.

I expect the New York Jets to go 4-3 or 5-2. Nine wins might be enough. 10 definitely will be in a poor conference like the AFC.

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