The New England Patriots’ loss to the Carolina Panthers last night has left them at 7-3, still holding a two game lead in the AFC East over the 5-5 New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. The Jets suffered an embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, getting blown out 37-14. Despite that, the Jets still maintain their control over the final AFC Wild Card spot.
The Jets have a favorable schedule down the stretch, with the Panthers being the only opponent left on their schedule that currently has a winning record. If the Jets can find any sort of consistency (a huge if, obviously), they could put together a win streak that brings them to the playoffs. However, could such a streak take the Jets even farther, perhaps to an AFC East title?
In order for the Jets to have any shot at winning the division, they must get some help from the Patriots. The Pats play the Denver Broncos on Sunday, and after that they don’t have any teams with winning records left on their schedule. Still, they have challenging road games against the Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens, and they could be tripped up.
However, even if the Patriots lose all those games, their realistic worst case scenario for this season is 10-6. That leaves the Jets with a very challenging task to have any chance at the division. The Jets will in all likelihood lose to the Panthers, meaning they must win all five of their other games, all of which are against fellow AFC Wild Card contenders. Each of these teams will be as desperate as the Jets, and all of these games will carry huge playoff implications.
Even if the Jets were to somehow win all those contests, they would also be 10-6 and the tiebreaker with the Patriots would come down to strength of victory or strength of schedule. Much more likely, however, is that the Patriots finish better than 10-6 and the Jets finish worse than that, making this a moot point.
The Jets want to shock the world and make the playoffs this season, and they would love nothing more to than to steal the division title from the Pats in the process. However, that is a very unlikely scenario, and the Jets would be much better served to keep their focus on earning the final Wild Card spot.