The New York Jets were officially eliminated from the AFC playoff race Sunday. With their 31-19 loss to the New Orleans Saints, they fell to 5-9, three games out of the sixth seed with two weeks to play.
New York’s official elimination from playoff contention gives us more reason to pour more time and resources into projecting where Gang Green will draft come April 2018.
As things stand before the Monday night game between Atlanta and Tampa Bay, the Jets are still slotted 10th in draft order, the same as last week, but more has changed than first meets the eye. Let’s discuss the most important developments.
First, the Jets could bump up a spot hours after you read this: The Buccaneers would move to 5-9 if they pull off an upset of the Falcons on Monday Night Football. They have one of the toughest strengths of schedule in the NFL, which dooms them in draft order tiebreakers. They’d fall down to 10th if they win Monday, past the Jets; New York would rise one spot to ninth. So if you’re looking for a team to root for in Monday’s game, take Tampa.
New York’s SOS got a little stronger: Regardless of the Monday Night Football outcome, the Jets’ strength of schedule will round down to .531. Wins by New England, Carolina and Jacksonville (as well as New Orleans’ defeat of the Jets) boosted the Jets’ SOS from .526 entering Sunday to .532 as of Monday morning. Remember: This is the first tiebreaker in draft order and therefore very important to monitor for the next two weeks.
Washington’s win might put the kibosh on a potential tie with the Jets: Washington snagged a victory out of the jaws of defeat Week 15 against Arizona, moving up to 6-8. The team was tied with the Jets in draft order entering Week 15 — both in record and SOS, which is the only draft order tiebreaker for two teams of opposite conferences. This could result in a coin flip between the two teams. Washington’s SOS is now .531, so the Jets once again will be tied with them by Tuesday morning, but for right now, it’s a moot point.
Root for Denver, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Chicago and Tampa: The Jets are tied at 5-9 with the Bengals and Broncos, two teams with much weaker SOS numbers than New York (.473 and .482, respectively). There’s no way they’ll win a tiebreaker against either team, so Jets fans interested in obtaining a higher pick need to hope Cincy and Denver finish with better records than New York. Meanwhile, the Jets will likely triumph in hypothetical SOS tiebreakers against Chicago and Tampa (both .559 as of now). San Francisco (.513) might get close, too. The Jets’ only path to a top-five pick is to lose out and hope these teams win enough games to either avoid or force tiebreakers in New York’s favor.
Highest and lowest possible picks: See the above scenario, then add Houston winning its final two games against the Steelers and Colts to finish 6-10, and the Jets would pick fourth, though it’s incredibly unlikely. (It also makes it impossible for the Colts to tie the Jets at 5-11 for the third pick, but the Jets would lose that SOS tiebreaker, anyway.) On the other end, if the Jets hypothetically win out and finish 7-9, they could pick as low as 16th, considering the number of teams already with eight wins.
Next week: The Jets play their final home game of the year Christmas Eve against the 7-7 Los Angeles Chargers, who have everything to play for as they fight for a playoff spot. The Bengals host the Lions, who are in a spot similar to the Chargers’; the Bears host the winless Browns; the Bucs visit Carolina; Denver visits Washington; the Niners host Jacksonville; and on Christmas Day, as stated earlier, the Texans host Pittsburgh.