COMMENTARY | Say what you will about the way the New York Jets won Sunday's rematch with the New England Patriots, but say this, as well: With their win, the New York Jets - and their season - just got serious.
Or, if you would like to be as bold as New York Post columnist Steve Serby: "There is Joy in Jetville today, because a playoff contender lives there."
Yes, these New York Jets - a team many, including myself predicted to an afterthought heading into the 2013 NFL season - have thrust themselves into the AFC playoff picture.
At 4-3 overall and 2-1 against AFC East teams, the Jets sit only a game behind the Patriots in the division standings and are a tiebreaker away from holding the final playoff spot in the AFC.
The second half of the season shapes up well for the Jets, with games against the Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns sandwiching their two divisional matchups against the Miami Dolphins. But getting to the second half unscathed is another story - the Jets face the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals and NFC South leaders New Orleans Saints before the bye week.
If the Jets can split those games (no easy task), then a 10-6 record is a very real possibility. That, by recent standards, is good enough for a playoff berth; only twice since the 2006 season did a team that finished 10-6 NOT reach the playoffs (2008, 2010). Even a 9-7 gives the Jets a glimmer of hope; that record was good enough to earn a wildcard spot two of the last four years.
Which teams are contending for that final AFC playoff spot with the Jets? Here's the rundown:
San Diego Chargers (4-3 record, currently sixth seed). Like the Jets, the Chargers are a surprise team. With wins over the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts (how'd that happen?), they beat the Jets in the Strength of Victory tiebreaker.
But the Chargers still face the heart of their schedule in the second half, with four games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos, a combined 13-1 after Week 7. Even one win against those teams is asking a lot.
Miami Dolphins (3-3 record, currently eighth position). Their two matchups against the Jets will go a long way in determining which AFC East team will contend for a playoff spot. Miami has played only one game in the division (Sunday's loss to the Buffalo Bills), while the Jets are 2-1 with a split against perennial division favorite New England.
Tennessee Titans (3-4 record, currently ninth position). One of the teams the Jets hope to be better than when it comes to overall record when the season ends, since the Titans won their regular season matchup. Plus, the Titans have the luxury of facing the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars twice in the second half of the season.
They do, however, have to face Indianapolis and Denver three times over the remainder of the season.
Buffalo Bills (3-4 record, currently tenth position). Buffalo's got a mixed bag in their remaining games: tough matchups (New Orleans, Kansas City), divisional games (one against each opponent remains), and seemingly easy wins (Jacksonville, Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Plus they're dealing with more injuries than most, most notably a quarterbacking carousel that sees them starting a third-string practice squad player from that football factory of Duke University.
Baltimore Ravens (3-4 record, currently 11th position). This might be the team to watch more than any other on this list. The defending Super Bowl champs have lost heartbreakers to the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers in recent weeks. They will face off against the Jets on national television on Thanksgiving night, which will likely go a long way in determining tiebreakers and seedings late in the season.
There are other teams that can't necessarily be counted out - the Cleveland Browns also sit at 3-4, while the Steelers, after a horrible 0-4 start, have reeled off two straight wins against the Ravens and Jets. Both, though, face a tougher climb than those ahead of them on this list.
Granted, it's week seven and there's plenty of football to be played. But based on the current playoff picture, the teams in contention and the remaining schedules, the Jets are sitting pretty.
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