The New York Jets are in a state of flux. After a shocking 17-13 loss to the Denver Broncos last Thursday, Gang Green is being harassed by the press, and are criticized at every corner.
Rex Ryan is no longer the fantastic defensive mind and terrific locker room leader that he once was, and Mark Sanchez continues to establish himself as a liability, and a bust in the Big Apple.
The defense is no longer the vaunted unit it used to be, as decent opponents seemingly move the ball at will against them. Tom Brady made them look foolish on Sunday Night Football a few weeks ago, and a 95-yard game-winning drive by Tim Tebow only made things worse.
New York now sits at a mediocre mark of 5-5, and is currently 9th in the AFC. With the Patriots seemingly having wrapped up the division, the Jets will once again attempt to capture a wild-card berth for the third straight season.
With the AFC North powerhouses Baltimore Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers looming large, Rex Ryan and company will likely have to settle for the sixth and final seed in the postseason. Among the main competitors for the final spot are the 6-4 Bengals, the 5-5 Broncos, the 5-5 Bills, the 5-5 Titans. All these teams have obvious flaws, and are capable of self-destructing at any time.
The Bengals have a talented team, but have benefited significantly from an easy schedule. Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and his young teammates will have some growing pains late in the season, and it should cost them a playoff spot. Marvin Lewis and company still face matchups with the Steelers, Ravens and Texans this year, and will likely finish at a mark of 8-8 or 9-7 after a tough finish.
The Broncos have had a great start with Tim Tebow under center, but will quickly fall out of the postseason picture due to a lack of consistency on defense, and the absence of any sort of passing game. Denver's final record will be around 7-9.
The Bills are self-imploding right in front of our eyes, as Ryan Fitzpatrick and crew have been blown out in three consecutive weeks. Gaping holes on the defensive side of the ball are finally catching up with an inexperience Buffalo squad. Expect the Bills to quickly become a spectator in the wild card race, as the reeling franchise should finish with a 7-9 mark.
The Titans may be the most talented team on the list, and actually may be New York's biggest competition for the final playoff spot. Tennessee has "gimme" matchups with league bottomfeeders such as the Colts and Jaguars, as well as games against reeling squads such as the Buccaneers and Bills in the next two weeks. If the Titans can pull it together, then Mike Munchak and company could easily finish at a record of 10-6. However, the inconsistency of the team will cost them at least one win, and the franchise will end the season with a 9-7 record.
The Jets are definitely the most complete and talented team competing for the final AFC playoff spot, but consistency could continue to be an issue for them. Mark Sanchez needs to prevent bad decisions in dangerous areas, and the defense needs to clamp down in crunch time. With matchups against the struggling Bills, the awful Redskins and the banged-up Chiefs in the next three weeks, an 8-5 record seems very reachable. However, it will be the final three weeks of the season that will decide Gang Green's playoff fate, as they face matchups with the talented Eagles and Giants squads, and the suddenly hot Dolphins.
New York needs a 5-1 record over the final six weeks of the regular season to clinch a playoff spot, so the team will be playing must-win football from here on out. In the end, Gang Green will pull through behind the terrific defensive unit and enter the postseason at the No. 6 seed. The Jets ability to play great defense and establish a firm running game makes them a very dangerous team in January, but a matchup with the dominant Patriots in Foxborough is destined for Gang Green if they can make a playoff run.
PREDICTED FINAL AFC STANDINGS
1. Patriots (13-3)
2. Steelers (12-4)
3. Texans (10-6)
4. Raiders (9-7)
5. Ravens (11-5)
6. Jets (10-6)
7. Titans (9-7)
8. Bengals (9-7)
9. Chargers (8-8)
10. Broncos (7-9)