Typically by week 10 of the NFL season, we can identify the good and the bad teams. The Broncos, Chiefs, Seahawks, and 49ers are the cream of the crop. While the Jaguars, Vikings, Buccaneers, and Rams are the bottom of the barrel. Then, there are teams just below the upper echelon that we often consider "contenders."
If the playoffs started this past weekend, the Jets would be the final wild card team in the AFC. Even writing it, that is difficult to comprehend. The only thing I am certain about regarding the New York Jets: they are the biggest enigma in the NFL.
Since a week one victory, the Jets have followed every win with a loss. A stunning overtime win against the Patriots was followed by an embarrassing forty point loss to the Bengals, and then another thrilling victory this past Sunday against the Saints. It's been a roller coaster season that understandably has fans unable to figure out what their team is. Are they playoff contenders? Or are they a mediocre team catching a few breaks?
Three weeks ago I wrote that the Jets "were not a legitimate playoff team." I probably need to swallow those words, but not because I think the Jets are better than three weeks ago. It has more to do with how an average AFC has unfolded.
Teams such as the Ravens, Steelers, and Texans have struggled more than most predicted. The Patriots could be the most pedestrian 7-2 team in recent NFL memory. There are five teams in the AFC with records of 5-4, 4-4, or 4-5. The Jets are one bad break way from being 10th in the AFC playoff standings.
The remainder of the Jets schedule isn't very top heavy. The Carolina Panthers in week 15 are the only team remaining on Gang Green's schedule with a record above .500. But, before putting in those playoff ticket requests, the Jets also don't have any lay ups on the schedule. The Bills, Ravens, Dolphins twice, Raiders, and Browns all consider themselves in the playoff hunt.
The Jets do have a problem with the rest of their schedule. There are no sexy matchups for coach Rex Ryan to get his guys overly emotional to play in. Rex is a master motivator. He proved that during the Jets' two runs to the AFC title game in 2009 and 2010, and with wins this season over the Falcons, Patriots and Saints. He is able to will his guys to victory, often times using the underdog card.
When it works, it works brilliantly. But, each of those impressive wins previously mentioned was followed by losses. The Jets are unlikely to be heavy underdogs in any of their remaining games. Ryan will have a tougher time the rest of the way using the "disrespect" factor that worked so well in the first half of the season.
On the field, Geno Smith remains consistently inconsistent. Smith was just 8 for 19 for 115 yards against the Saints. But, Smith committed zero turnovers. He is learning that with a good defense and running game, he is better off throwing a ball away, or taking a sack, than trying to force a throw into double or triple coverage.
Chris Ivory ran for 139 yards against his former team. If Ivory can stay healthy the rest of the season, the Jets will have a very strong one-two punch with Ivory and Bilal Powell. Muhammad Wilkerson anchors a defensive line that is arguably the best in the NFL.
While I still believe the Jets are a couple offensive playmakers away from threatening the class of the AFC, the second half of the season will bring a lot of excitement. Well, at least more excitement than their MetLife Stadium counterparts.
Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He's currently a Sports Anchor at WCBS 880 and WFAN radio in NYC. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.