With eight weeks left in the NFL regular season, there aren’t very many certainties so far in the AFC.
This season, even the teams at the top of the conference have looked vulnerable at times, and only six of the AFC’s 16 teams have winning records through Week 9.
Of course, only six teams in each conference make it to the playoffs, so perhaps the cream is rising to the top.
However, a lot can change over the final two months of the season, as we all know. It would be naïve to think that the six teams who are in playoff position after Week 9 will be the six teams playing postseason football come January.
If the season ended today, the 5-3 Indianapolis Colts would be the #5 seed in the AFC, and they would face the Denver Broncos in the first round of the playoffs, with Peyton Manning facing his former team.
While that game would be a great story, it’s far too early to call the Colts a legitimate playoff team, even with some impressive wins on their resumé. They’ve got a pretty tough second-half schedule, and plenty to prove.
Meanwhile, the New York Jets come off their bye week with a 3-5 record, currently sitting in 9th place in the AFC with a tiebreaker over three other 3-5 teams. Not exactly where they want to be, but not dead yet.
The question is, in a year where a 9-7 record might be enough to clinch a playoff berth, can head coach Rex Ryan (above right ) and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano (above left ) get the Jets back into the playoff hunt?
The Jets have been maddeningly inconsistent this season, and perhaps that’s fitting, as they are led by a maddeningly inconsistent field general in 25-year-old quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Sparano was brought in to help Sanchez reach new heights, but so far, the Jets’ would-be franchise quarterback is in a tailspin. The Jets have a versatile weapon in backup quarterback Tim Tebow, but he’s been a non-factor to date.
The Jets would conceivably need to win six of their final eight games to have a shot at the postseason, which is no small feat. Can Ryan and Sparano fix the offense in time to give the Jets a chance?
Only time will tell. After Week 11, the Jets schedule does seem to get a little bit easier to manage. But if they’re 3-7 by then, it’ll be all for naught. Can the Jets rally from 3-5 to finish 9-7? Mathematically, yes. Realistically, we’ll see.
If they fail to make the playoffs, wholesale changes could be coming to the organization. Mark Sanchez could be playing for his NFL future. The Jets as a whole could be playing for general manager Mike Tannenbaum‘s job.
The Jets’ playoff hopes may be slim right now, but slim is better than none. Stranger things have happened, after all.