To quote Heath Ledger’s iconic turn as The Joker, “and….here….we…go.” That dreaded “P” word has started to crop up around Florham Park. Yes, the New York Jets stand in control of their playoff destiny entering the bye week. They sport a 5-4 record featuring signature wins against the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, and Atlanta Falcons. If the regular season ended today, the New York Jets would travel to Indianapolis to take on the AFC North leading Colts. The Jets also have a realistic chance at the AFC East title as they only trail New England by 2 games and face the easier schedule. We at TOJ felt that, with seven weeks left in the season, Jets fans would appreciate updated playoff scenarios on a weekly basis. Let’s get right to it.
NOTE: “WInnable Games” – I don’t think any game is winnable in this league full of parity but I am going with the assumption that, more often than not, the better team will win.
Current AFC Seeding
1. Kansas City Chiefs, 9-0
Remaining Schedule: @ Broncos, vs Chargers, vs Broncos, @ Redskins, @ Raiders, vs Colts, @ Chargers
Analysis: The Chiefs have the third most difficult remaining schedule out of the AFC’s top six, with an opponent’s winning percentage of .620. The Chiefs have two games against both the Broncos and Chargers (a combined 11-5) and they play the 6-2 Colts in Week 16. San Diego has been surprising this year as Phillip Rivers has rediscovered his Pro Bowl skill set. The Cheifs’ 9-0 start gives them a cushion the rest of the way.
Glass Half Full: The Chiefs ride their vaunted defense and a mistake free Alex Smith into the playoffs. The Chiefs finish 15-1 with their only loss to Denver in Mile High.
Glass Half Empty: Alex Smith and Jamaal Charles can’t generate enough points to beat Denver, San Diego, or Indianapolis. The Chiefs go 2-5 the rest of the way and finish 11-5.
2. New England Patriots, 7-2
Remaining Schedule: @ Panthers, vs Broncos, @ Texans, vs Browns, @ Dolphins, @ Ravens, vs Bills
Analysis: The Patriots have the seventh toughest schedule remaining. Games that stand out are: a road game against the surprising Carolina Panthers, a match up with Peyton Manning and his fantasy football offense, and another road game against the defending Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens. Their match ups against the Dolphins and Bills should be wins for the Patriots, as should their game against a surprising Cleveland team.
Glass Half Full: The Patriots don’t lose another game, finish 14-2, and wrap up the AFC East by Week 15.
Glass Half Empty: Cam Newton puts on a show, Denver carves up New England’s injury riddled defense, the Pats run into the buzz-saw that is Case Keenum, and Baltimore shows some grit in defending their home field (despite being at the tail end of what seems like a lost season). These four losses drop the Pats to 10-6 and they end the season as the fifth seed in the AFC. Belicheck and Brady get to watch the New York jets claim their first division title under Rex Ryan.
3. Indianapolis Colts, 6-2
Remaining Schedule: vs Rams, @ Titans, @ Cardinals, vs Titans, @ Bengals, vs Texans, @ Chiefs, vs Jaguars
Analysis: The Colts entered the season with the eleventh easiest schedule in the entire league and their remaining schedule isn’t exactly “Murderer’s Row.” They play two teams with winning records, the division leading Bengals and Chiefs, but they get to impose their will on the Jaguars, Rams, Cardinals, and Texans. Losing Reggie Wayne for the year and the ineffectiveness of Trent Richardson may make those games more difficult, but the Colts do have a little Luck on their side.
Glass Half Full: The Colts end the season by winning eight in a row, finish 14-2, and take the first seed in the AFC by way of their victory over Kansas City in Week 15.
Glass Half Empty: The Colts regret trading a first round pick for Trent “You’re not Eddie Lacy” Richardson, who is unable to kick start their running game. The loss of Reggie Wayne, and subsequent dependency on Darrius Heyward-Bey, is too much to overcome and the Colts lose to the Titans, Bengals, Texans, and Chiefs. They finish 10-6 and drop to the fourth seed in the AFC.
4. Cincinnati Bengals, 6-3
Remaining Schedule: @ Ravens, vs Browns, @ Chargers, vs Colts, @ Steelers, vs Vikings, vs Ravens
Analysis: The Bengals have the easiest remaining schedule out of the six teams in the AFC playoff picture. Their remaining opponents have a winning percentage of .400. The Bengals are coming off an unexpected loss to Miami. Their remaining schedule is bookended by games against the Baltimore Ravens. The showdown with the Colts in Week 14 is the toughest game they have left. However, injuries to their two best defensive players puts their playoff viability in question.
Glass Half Full: The Ravens give up on the season and the Bengals sweep them. They are able to handle Andrew Luck at home but lose at San Diego. This puts them at an AFC North winning 12-4.
Glass Half Empty: The injuries are too much to overcome, they continue to rely stubbornly on the Law Firm (instead of Gio Bernard), and Andy Dalton regresses. They go 1-6 the rest of the way, finish 7-9, and miss the playoffs.
Remaining Schedule: @ Chargers, vs Chiefs, @ Patriots, @ Chiefs, vs Titans, vs Chargers, @ Texans, @ Raiders
Analysis: The Broncos have the second most difficult schedule over the last eight weeks (.620) out of the current AFC playoff contenders. Two match ups against the undefeated Chiefs and road games against the Patriots, Chargers, and Texans is no walk in the park. John Fox will miss some time due to an emergency procedure (best wishes John!), so interim coach jack Del Rio will lead the Broncos for the foreseeable future. The injuries on the offensive line are concerning, as they face five sack leaders during the final eight games.
Glass Half Full: The Broncos will put up points against everybody, Von Miller and Rodgers-Cromartie will lead the defense, and Del Rio will replicate the job Bruce Arians did last year with the Colts. The Broncos sweep their last eight games, go 15-1, and win the West. They finish with the first seed in the AFC.
Glass Half Empty: Chandler Jones breaks Peyton’s collarbone and he’s out 4-6 weeks….Ok, let’s not go that far. Because they cannot consistently protect Peyton, the Broncos split with Kansas City and San Diego and lose to Houston, Tennessee, and the Patriots. They finish the second half of the season 3-5 and wind up 10-6 after a 7-1 start.
6. New York Jets, 5-4
Remaining Schedule: @ Bills, @ Ravens, vs Dolphins, vs Raiders, @ Panthers, vs Browns, @ Dolphins
Analysis: The Jets are one of the surprises of this NFL season after nine weeks. Led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Muhammed Wilkerson, Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate Sheldon Richardson, Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Geno Smith, and NFL Coach of the Year candidate Rex Ryan; the Jets have had roller coaster season (something we documented at TOJ earlier this week). However, they have the second easiest remaining schedule, their opponents having a combined .460 winning percentage. Their toughest match ups remaining are against Carolina and Baltimore.
Glass Half Full: The Jets are able to sweep their remaining AFC East games en route to a 7-0 finish. This puts them at 12-4 and, due to New England’s stumbles, win the division and the second seed in the AFC.
Glass Half Empty: The Jets choke away the remainder of the season by going 0-7, finish the season 5-11, and Rex is fired on the Monday before the playoffs start. What was once a promising season goes up in flames.
Position entering week 10: 6th Seed
Projected Position after Week 10: 6th Seed