How NY Jets can still make playoffs despite Lions loss

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By: Michael Nania

Don’t quit yet, New York Jets fans: Your team still has a very real shot at the playoffs

According to the New York Times playoff odds simulator, the New York Jets‘ odds of making the 2022-23 NFL playoffs have dropped to 27% after losing to the Detroit Lions. Their odds were north of 40% prior to the defeat.

Many Jets fans have given up on the team, but I’d implore you not to. New York is still very much alive in an AFC wild card race that is jumbled up. The other wild card competitors have not been able to separate themselves far enough from the Jets to completely bury New York’s hopes.

Let’s map out the Jets’ road to the playoffs as they sit here at 7-7 with upcoming games against the Jaguars, Seahawks, and Dolphins.

What happened elsewhere in Week 15?

First off, let’s go over some of the results around the league that affected New York.

Miami lost to Buffalo on Saturday night, which is enormous for the Jets. Because of this loss, the Jets still do not need much help from the Dolphins to ensure that the Week 18 matchup in Miami determines who places higher between these two rivals. As long as the Jets match or outperform Miami over the next two weeks, the winner of that Week 18 game will finish as the higher-placed squad.

If Miami won, the Jets would need to outplay the Dolphins by one game over the next two weeks to reclaim that chance to leapfrog them in the final game.

The Chargers defeated Tennessee. That one hurts for the Jets. If L.A. lost, the Jets would take control of the tiebreaker over the Chargers. Los Angeles’ conference record would drop to 5-5, matching the Jets’, so the tiebreaker would move to common games, which the Jets would win. This means the Jets would be able to win out and not have to worry about whether they’d defeat the Chargers in a tiebreaker.

Instead, with the Chargers’ win, the Jets now need the Chargers to lose another conference game to beat them in a tiebreaker. Considering the Chargers’ remaining AFC opponents are the Colts and Broncos, that feels unlikely. If the Jets win out, they will only pass the Chargers if they lose one of those two conference games.

New York’s biggest gift of the weekend was the Patriots’ mind-boggling collapse against the Raiders, dropping them to an equal 7-7. New England’s loss is enormous for the Jets. If the Patriots won, the Jets would need to outplay them by two games over the next three weeks to pass them – for instance, if the Jets went 3-0, the Patriots would have to go 1-2.

Now, the Jets just need the Patriots to lose one game over the next three weeks to ensure that a 3-0 finish is enough to pass them. Even if the Jets go 2-1, they will pass the Patriots if they go 1-2.

The Patriots’ next three games are extremely tough: Bengals, Dolphins, Bills. So, the Jets can count on New England losing another game.

Is a 3-0 finish enough?

The New York Times simulator gives the Jets a 98% chance of making the playoffs if they run the table with a 3-0 finish. So, they do not control their own destiny, but it would take a small miracle for a 3-0 finish to not get the Jets into the dance.

That 2% scenario includes the Jets, Chargers, and Patriots all winning out. If the Jets go 3-0, they will not make the playoffs if the Chargers and Patriots also win out. I’ll also mention that this scenario requires the Ravens to not go 0-3 (as the Ravens going 0-3 would allow the Jets to get in at 3-0 even if the Chargers and Patriots also win out), but that feels like a given anyway – although you never know.

Basically, if the Jets go 3-0, they just need one of these three things to happen, and they’ll be in:

  • Patriots lose at least one game
  • Chargers lose at least one AFC game (IND/DEN)
  • Ravens lose out

You’re primarily looking at the Patriots here. As long as they lose one game within their gauntlet of Cincinnati, Miami, and Buffalo, the Jets’ 3-0 finish will be enough. The Chargers and Ravens provide secondary avenues in case the Patriots somehow win out.

It’s simple, Jets fans: If your team wins out, it is a near-lock they will make the playoffs. The Jets still have their fate in the palm of their hands.

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Is a 2-1 finish enough?

There are realistic ways for the Jets to get in if they finish 2-1 to close at 9-8, but it largely depends on who that one loss comes against.

Losing to Seattle is the most preferable route considering it’s a non-conference game and will not affect tiebreakers. Jacksonville is a conference game, so if the Jets lose that, their hopes of taking the tiebreaker over Los Angeles shrink to near zero. If they lose to Miami, it would require a massive amount of help to make the playoffs.

Here are the Jets’ odds of making the playoffs according to the New York Times simulator based on each specific 2-1 finish:

  • Finish 2-1 with the one loss to SEA: 55%
  • Finish 2-1 with the one loss to JAX: 46%
  • Finish 2-1 with the one loss to MIA: 11%

First off, let’s just focus on that Miami game. Realistically, the Jets have to win it. If they win the next two and then lose in Miami, they would technically still have a small chance of getting in, but they need a ton of specific things to go their way for that path to work. They would need all three of these things to happen: the Chargers losing both of their conference games (to the Colts and Broncos), the Patriots losing at least two games, and the Raiders losing at least one game. (The Raiders come into play since if they win out and tie the Jets at 9-8, they’d win the tiebreaker over New York.)

Losing in Miami would be so costly because it ensures that the Dolphins finish ahead of the Jets, meaning the Jets would have to stay ahead of all the other wild card competitors with a measly 9-8 record. That will take a lot of help. Let’s just call the Miami game a must-win for all intents and purposes. Win that game, and the Jets ensure they are ahead of at least one team in the wild card race, meaning they just need help from one other team. Lose it, and it would be a miracle for the Jets to get in.

If the Jets go 2-1 with the loss to Jacksonville, the path is tricky but far more plausible. Firstly, the Jets would need the Dolphins to lose one of their next two games (Packers or Patriots), as if the Dolphins win both games and the Jets split their two, the Jets would still be one game behind the Dolphins even if they beat Miami. Next, they would need at least one Raiders loss and for the Patriots to lose at least two games. That would get the job done. But if the Dolphins won their next two games, the Jets would need the Chargers to lose two conference games in addition to the Patriots’ two losses and the Raiders’ loss.

If the Jets go 2-1 with the loss to Seattle, they would get in with the same requirements from the Jacksonville scenario. However, since this scenario involves the Jets losing out-of-conference and going 2-0 within the conference, it does open up some new possibilities with tiebreakers.

Specifically, it creates a new window if the Dolphins win each of their next two games. In that scenario, the Dolphins would be 10-7, sitting ahead of the Jets at 9-8, but the Jets could now defeat the Chargers in a tiebreaker, meaning the Jets would be in if the Raiders lost one game while the Patriots and Chargers each lost at least two games; regardless of whether the Chargers’ losses are in conference or out of conference. This is contrary to the Jacksonville scenario, where if the Dolphins won both games, the Jets could only beat the Chargers in a tiebreaker if their two losses specifically came against the Colts and Broncos. (The Chargers’ other game is against the Rams.)

If we’re being honest, losing to Seattle instead of Jacksonville doesn’t improve the Jets’ odds all that much (only 9% boost, per NYT) now that the Chargers defeated Tennessee. Had the Chargers lost to the Titans, the conference tiebreaker aspect would be much more crucial, but the Chargers seized control in a big way with their victory this week.

As things stand now, realistically speaking, Jets fans need to focus their attention on the Dolphins and Patriots. If the Jets can find a way to leapfrog both of those two teams, they will make the playoffs barring the Raiders winning out against a schedule that includes the 49ers and Chiefs.

To pass New England, the Jets need to have a better record outright. This means the Jets must go 3-0 while the Patriots lose at least one game, or the Jets go 2-1 while the Patriots lose at least two games.

To pass Miami, the Jets just need to stay within one game of the Dolphins heading into Miami and then win that game. This means the Jets need to match or beat the Dolphins’ record over the next two games.

It goes without saying that none of this matters if the Jets don’t handle their own business and actually start winning some football games. On a three-game losing streak, it’s hard to feel confident about the Jets doing what needs to be done for a playoff push.

But it has been done before. Thirteen years ago, the Jets were sitting at 7-7 after losing at home by three points to a 7-7 NFC team. Five weeks later, that Jets team was in Indianapolis playing for a trip to the Super Bowl.

The Jets are still alive. Don’t lose hope, Jets fans.

Next Article: The Detroit Lions gut-punch the New York Jets’ playoff hopes (Highlights) 

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