By Matt Barbato
The New York Jets have set themselves up nicely for a shot at the postseason. The Jets currently hold the sixth seed in the AFC at 8-5 and have the same record as the fifth-seeded Kansas City Chiefs and the seventh-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 8-5 record has already exceeded expectations for a team that went 4-12 a year ago, but the Jets still have plenty of work ahead of them to make the playoffs. Now that the Jets are officially in the thick of the playoff race, it’s time to play around with some scenarios. Using ESPN’s Playoff Machine, I took a look at how the playoff race could shake out given a variety of scenarios.
Before looking ahead at projecting the next three weeks, let’s take a look at the current standings along with each team’s remaining schedule:
5. Kansas City Chiefs 8-5 (7-2 vs. AFC), at Baltimore, vs. Cleveland, vs. Oakland.
6. New York Jets 8-5 (6-4 vs. AFC), at Dallas, vs. New England, at Buffalo.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers 8-5 (5-4 vs. AFC), vs. Denver, at Baltimore, at Cleveland.
8. Oakland Raiders 6-7 (6-4 vs. AFC), vs. Green Bay, vs. San Diego, at Kansas City.
9. Buffalo Bills 6-7 (6-5 vs. AFC), at Washington, vs. Dallas, vs. New York Jets.
10. Houston Texans 6-7 (4-5 vs. AFC) at Indianapolis, at Tennessee, vs. Jacksonville.
All games involving AFC teams were simulated as there are still plenty of divisional races that are unresolved. Time to get the playoff machine churning.
Matt Barbato’s Expected Playoff Scenario
This scenario displays how I see the playoff race shaking out.
In this scenario, I have the Jets winning two of its final three games, with the loss coming at home against New England. I also expect Pittsburgh and Kansas City to win out. This one is simple, the Steelers and Chiefs get in by winning out and finishing 11-5.
Jets, Steelers and Chiefs win out
The Jets may hold the sixth seed now, but they could miss the playoffs with an 11-5 record.
In this scenario, the Jets, Steelers and Chiefs each finish 11-5, but New York is the odd team out. The tiebreakers go against the Jets in this scenario.
First, Kansas City gets in because of what would be a 10-2 record within the AFC. After head-to-head, the second tiebreaker is record within the conference.
The Jets and Steelers would both finish the season with an 8-4 record against the AFC, which means a third tiebreaker would come into play: win percentage against common opponents. The Jets and Steelers played five games against common opponents: New England (Jets will play them twice), Cleveland (Steelers will play them twice), Oakland, and Indianapolis. New York’s 34-20 loss to the Raiders would spoil New York’s playoff chances in this scenario. The Steelers beat the Raiders 38-35 in November.
Jets, Steelers and Chiefs finish 2-1 but Jets win remaining games vs. AFC opponents
Here’s what will happen if the Jets lose to Dallas this weekend, but knock off the Patriots and Bills in the final two games of the season. In this scenario, I had the Chiefs losing to Baltimore and the Steelers losing to Denver in this weekend’s slate of games.
The Jets can go 2-1 down the stretch and make the postseason. The Jets would finish 8-4 against the conference, while the Steelers would finish 7-5. The Chiefs would still secure the fifth seed because of their 9-3 record against AFC opponents.
A 9-7 fiasco
This would be a disastrous cluster scenario, but it is still possible. The Chiefs, Jets, Steelers, Raiders, Bills, Texans and Dolphins can still finish 9-7. Yes, I made it happen somehow. This may make your brain explode, but the NFL is called a league of parity for a reason.
The Texans get in because they would win the AFC South. So how do the Chiefs and Raiders qualify? Well, I’m going to let the Playoff Machine handle this one.
Steelers win AFC North, Bengals finish 1-2, Jets win out
I projected a very possible scenario in which the Cincinnati Bengals, Steelers, Jets and Chiefs finish the season 11-5. The Steelers would win the AFC North, but the Jets would be left out of the postseason.
In this scenario, the Bengals would edge the Jets out for the sixth seed because of their win percentage against common opponents. The Bengals went 4-1 against common opponents, while the Jets would go 2-3 in this scenario.
However, the Jets would get the sixth seed if the Bengals lost out and the Jets won out.
The final scenario simulates what would happen if the Bengals, Broncos, Chiefs, Jets and Steelers all finished at 11-5.
The Bengals held onto the AFC North because of a better record against the AFC and earn a first-round bye because of a victory over Kansas City. The Chiefs would win the AFC West because of a better record in divisional games over Denver. The Steelers edge the Jets and Broncos out with a stronger win percentage against conference opponents.
Finally, the Jets earn a playoff berth because of a stronger record against the AFC.