After years of postseason-less football, the Jets are as close to the playoffs as they’ve been in 12 seasons.
At the halfway point of the season, Gang Green is 6-3 and a half-game out of first place in the AFC East. Following a 1-2 start, the Jets have won five of their last six games.
The Jets currently have the longest playoff drought in the NFL (2010).
“We’ve got a good opportunity, obviously, over the next eight games to do something,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “I don’t think [Sunday’s] games matter much because we’re still in position where we have to take care of our own business, and there’s a lot of football to be played before we even think about scenarios.
“We all still have to play one another. We all still have to play a lot of really good football teams, and obviously, this game coming up is the most important game. There’s so much football to play before we even think about what’s at stake.”
This Sunday, the Jets will try to avenge the one loss they’ve had during the last two months as they will travel to Foxborough to take on the Patriots. New England defeated New York 22-17 at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 30.
If the Jets defeat the Patriots, they would be in first place in the AFC East and in position to host a playoff game for the first time since 2002, when the last time they won the division. With eight games to play, it is never too early to look at the current standings.
If the season ended today, the Jets would be the fifth seed in the AFC due to the Dolphins playing one extra game. That means Gang Green would open the playoffs in Baltimore against the Ravens. Baltimore is leading the AFC North with a 6-3 record, as they defeated the Jets in Week 1 24-9.
After the Jets’ game against the Patriots Sunday, they will host the Bears in one of their final three home games of the season on Nov. 27. The Bears are 3-7 and in last place in the NFC North.
We will learn a lot about the Green and White as the calendar flips to December. The Jets will have back-to-back challenge road games against the Vikings (Dec. 4) and the Bills (Dec. 11). The Vikings have the second-best record in the NFC at 8-1.
The Bills will be looking for revenge as they dropped they fell to the Jets 20-17 on Nov. 6. That began a two-game losing streak for Buffalo as it also lost to Minnesota 33-30 last Sunday.
The Jets will then have two winnable games at home against the Lions (Dec. 17) and Jaguars (Dec. 22) before ending their season on the road against the Seahawks (Jan. 1) and the Dolphins (Jan. 8), which could determine not only AFC seeding but whether the Jets get into the playoffs.
The player who could make or break their season during the last eight games is quarterback Zach Wilson. His defenders will say Wilson is 5-1 since returning from the meniscus injury he suffered during the preseason opener against the Eagles.
However, Wilson’s play has been inconsistent in his six games. During that span, Wilson has thrown for 1,202 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. He also has a total quarterback rating of 49.1, which is 18th in the league.
If you’re only as good as your last game, then Wilson’s play is trending up. In the upset victory against the Bills, Wilson completed 18 of 25 passes for 154 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. He also completed 72 percent of his passes, which was a career-high.
During his good and bad moments, the Jets players and coaches have continued to back Wilson as they believe he is good enough to help lead the team to the playoffs. In the loss against the Patriots, Wilson completed 20 of 41 passes for 355 yards and two touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions.
As long as the team can run the ball effectively, continue to have an outstanding defense and Wilson takes care of the football, the Jets will have an opportunity to win all remaining eight games on their schedule. But at some point, the Jets will likely need Wilson to win a game or two for them.
I think we’ve got confidence in him,” Saleh said. “We’re kind of holding him hostage to four, five plays that he had against New England, in my opinion, at least externally.
“Internally, I think everybody’s got a lot of faith in Zach to be able to run this offense and get the ball where it needs to get to and do it in an efficient manner and I do think that if we do need to put it on his back and put it on our receivers backs and put it on the o-line to protect, I think we’re capable of doing that.
“When you start slinging it around and you ask the quarterback to play 60 plays a game, they’re going to make mistakes, it’s hard to play quarterback, I don’t care how good you are, it’s just hard to play quarterback in this league and it’s our job as coaches to make sure that he’s not being asked to do that constantly.”