The New York Jets are one of the surprise teams in the NFL this season, sitting at 4-3 following a turbulent offseason in which most thought this team would struggle to win four games for the entire season. Following their 30-27 overtime win over the New England Patriots, the Jets are in second place in the AFC East and just one game back of the Pats.
The Jets are one of a glut of teams in the AFC battling for Wild Card positioning, and if the season ended today they would finish in 7th in the conference. There are seven teams in the AFC with a record of either 4-3, 3-3 or 3-4, meaning that there is still a lot of work to be done to sort out the contenders from the pretenders.
If we’re being realistic, the Jets are going to have to make the playoffs through a Wild Card spot. The Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and Patriots are all favorites to win their division, and the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs are both heavy favorites for the playoffs, though the AFC West battle will likely go right down the end.
If we follow the most likely scenario and eliminate the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, that leaves the Jets in a five way battle for the final spot with the San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans. Of those teams, only the Jets and Chargers have a winning record through the first seven weeks.
The Jets have two very difficult games before their bye in the Bengals and New Orleans Saints, but they don’t play a single team that currently has a winning record in their final seven games. Of course, they play the Dolphins twice and the Ravens once, so those games will have a massive impact on the playoff race.
The Jets are not an elite team, and even though they have a better record than most of the teams on their schedule, those games will still be very difficult. Geno Smith will have to stop turning the ball over, and the Jets desperately need to improve their pass defense. However, the Jets and Titans clearly have the two easiest schedules of the five contenders mentioned above, which is a major advantage (the Chargers’ schedule is also clearly the most difficult).
The Jets will need to go 6-3 in their final 9 games, giving them a 10-6 record for the season. Looking at the schedule, there is no reason they can’t do that. However, it is far from a guarantee that this roller coaster of a team will suddenly find consistent form. If the Jets can take better care of the ball and become more consistent offensively, they will have a great shot at the playoffs. However, if the up and down play continues, they will likely be on the outside looking in.
A lot can and will change between now and the end of the season, and the Jets still have a lot of work to do. However, the playoffs are very real possibility for this team, which would exceed every preseason prediction and expectation.