Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

12 Nov 2013

ESPN: Jets Now a Playoff Favorite

The Jets are the odds-on favorite for the sixth playoff spot in the AFC. They're built on the same formula every Rex Ryan Jets team has been: defensive and special teams excellence, offensive inadequacy, and inconsistency.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 12 Nov 2013

24 comments, Last at 14 Nov 2013, 8:35am by Jerry Garcia


by RickD :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 2:44pm

I was thinking about that, in light of the collapse of the Dolphins and the Bills' ongoing struggles. They have five wins and 3 games left against those two teams (and none against the Pats). They've also got home games against the Raiders and Browns with road games at Baltimore and Carolina. Could finish anywhere from 9 to 11 wins.

What are the other contenders for the 6 spot? After NE, KC, Den, Cin, and Indy, I mean. The Chargers don't look like they have it, nor the Titans or Texans. Maybe the Ravens or perhaps the Browns? But they all already have at least one more loss.

by Ian Chapman (not verified) :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 2:50pm

The Chiefs are a mortal lock for the AFC #5 spot. Count on it.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 3:08pm

You're basically saying that it's a lock that the Broncos will sweep them. That's certainly possible, but far from a lock, esp. if Peyton's leg injury is serious.

by Ian Chapman (not verified) :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 3:21pm

Not at all. Point in fact I expect KC and Denver to split (KC is a good match against Denver). However, to this point KC only has had one divisional game, and hasn't faced other tough conference opponents yet (like Indy).

We know that Denver can beat these teams (although Peyton's health is definately a concern here). We don't know that about KC and KC's DVOA is not a good sign.

More to the point (for this topic), if KC takes the Division, the you can substitute Denver for KC mutatis mutatis as a Mortal Lock for the #5 seed.

The point is that the AFC #5 seed is not available. It's going to go to whichever team (KC/DEN) that doesn't win the AFC West. I would have said that until a week ago about the NFC as well, but the Panthers decided to have a say about that....

by RickD :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 4:16pm

Oh, I agree that KC/Den will almost certainly divide the #1 and #5 seeds between them. But the Broncos not only have two games against the Chiefs, they also have a game in Foxboro against the Pats. And it's been quite a while since they've beaten the Pats. Both teams have at least one game against the Chargers (the Chiefs have two) but I don't take the Chargers that seriously.

I could buy an argument that the Broncos should be favored for the 1 seed, even up to 67-75%. But not quite a lock.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 4:23pm

KC has both games left against SD, Denver only has one (a home game on TNF). Both have their @OAK game left. Obviously, they play each other twice.

The Chiefs have vs.IND and @WAS as their other two games, to the Broncos @NE, vs.TEN, @HOU.

Honestly, if they split, the Chiefs have a really good shot at the #1 seed. What could end their chances would be losing one of two to the Chargers, as that could be a crucial division loss that would swing tiebreakers Denver's way.

I find it hard to see Denver going through these next three games undefeated, but they might have to. We could see a crazy 14-2 wild card team, and if that is the case, I'm sure we'll hear a whole round of why division winners getting guaranteed home games is BS.

by Insancipitory :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 5:01pm

The idea of an NFC East Champ at 6 - 10 hosting a 13 - 3 9ers is the most hilarious thing ever.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 5:37pm

I think we're beyond the point where the NFC East winner is going to be sub-.500, but yes, that's about as good. We've seen in recent years three teams in the Wild Card round host opponents that won four more games, the '08 Chargers (8-8, hosting 12-4 IND), the '10 Seahawks (7-9, hosting 11-5 NO), and the '11 Broncos (8-8, hosting 12-4 PIT). Of course, all the three home teams won, but I remember in each situation having many columns claiming teams shouldn't get automatic home games.

I just think if there is a 14-2 Wild Card, it becomes a different situation. I doubt it happens, but it would be so hilarious if it did.

by Jeff M. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 6:16pm

There's also potentially a weird perverse incentive between the 1 and 2 seeds in the divisional round. With the best four NFC teams in two divisions, we probably end up with SEA/NO getting the byes and SF/CAR as wild cards (or some permutation of these teams). But if one of the wild cards pulls the "upset" (let's assume both are actually road favorites) and the other doesn't, the #1 seed has to host the better team (one of SF/CAR) while the #2 seed gets the weaker NFC-E/N winner.

The same is likely in the AFC, with one of DEN/KC being #1 and the other dropping to #5. If that one beats a #4 (probably AFC-N) while, say, the #3 Colts hold on against the #6 Jets, #1 again would have a more difficult divisional round matchup than #2.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 7:02pm

Those 7-9 Seahawks not only hosted the 11-5 Saints, they beat them.

The Titans went to the Super Bowl as a 13-3 Wild Card in 1999. The Jaguars had a 12-win Wild Card team in 2005. I don't think we've had a 14-win Wild Card.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 7:23pm

All three of the controversial division winners since realignment ('08 Chargers, '10 Seahawks, '11 Broncos) won their opening playoff game. All three then lost, rather easily, in the divisional round.

I believe the Titans in 1999 were the only 13-win wild card team. Since realignment, there's been four wild card teams to win 12 games ('03 Titans, '05 Jaguars, '08 Colts and '11 Steelers). Note that three of those teams were from the AFC South, long believed to be an 'easy' division that the Manning-era Colts capitalized on year-after-year.

by Ian Chapman (not verified) :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 7:24pm

Your point is taken. I should have said, "The AFC West Runner-Up is a mortal lock to take the #5 seed." I still think that is most likely KC. My original point, of course, was that it was pretty much off the table for anyone other than KC/Den.

by Cythammer (not verified) :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 5:51pm

Most of the other contenders for the sixth seed failed massively this week, with both the Dolphins and Titans losing to winless teams. That's a particularly bad result for the Titans, since they hold the tiebreaker over the Jets and would've been only a game out of the lead in the South, with two games left against the Colts. They lost their starting QB for the season, to boot…
The Jets are still a bad team, though. They have two blowout losses (against the Titans and Bengals) and one loss that was close to a blowout (the Steelers). They're an unsustainable 5-1 in one score games. The closest they've had to a convincing win was a 27-20 win over the Bills. I suspect some team will catch them for the last playoff spot, though I don't know who it will be.

by are-tee :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 6:54pm

Re. the loss to the Steelers - I don't see how allowing one touchdown can be considered "close to a blowout". You also can't ignore the fact that their last two wins were over teams that are a combined 14-2 against everyone else. And the "unsustainable" argument may work well in baseball, but the NFL season is so short and the sample size so small, that you really can't use it to predict what's going to happen in the remaining seven games.

by Cythammer (not verified) :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 11:44pm

It was close to a blowout because the Steelers dominated the game and won easily. That's what I meant. The unsustainable argument simply means they aren't nearly as good as their record would indicate, and it isn't likely that any team will continue to win their close games at an 80% rate.

by Mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 9:18pm

While I am biased, I would argue that the Jets are mediocre right now, not bad. While they are 5-1 in one score games, they held a larger lead through three of those games only to hold off the other team at the end (Atlanta, Buffalo, New Orleans). The other two wins were absurd, however.
It wouldn't surprise me if they blow it; they have a turnover-prone rookie quarterback, and a weak secondary. I would think the team mostly likely to catch them would come from the AFC North. My only concern as a Jets fan is that they remain competitive and therefore keep Ryan around.

by Cythammer (not verified) :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 11:54pm

I'm a Jets fan too. I'm still hopeful, and I think we'd even have a shot at winning a playoff game if we made it, since the Broncos might be the only really good team in the AFC. The Jets could end up playing the Patriots, who a team they've been about even with over two games. However, there are so many teams lurking just behind the Jets, and most of those either already have a tiebreaker over them (the Titans) or will have opportunity to take the tiebreaker. They have such a terrible point differential that I can't help but think they're much worse than their record. Luckily there's only one genuinely good team left on the schedule, so the Jets have an opportunity to win some close games over mediocre opposition and slip in.

by Mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/13/2013 - 12:58am

The thing is, making the playoffs is just gravy. I doubt they would win a playoff game, but that would be even more incredible. It's just that they're much more likely to make a run next year, if they keep Ryan; with a potential franchise quarterback in his second year, ten draft picks and 20 to 40 million in cap room, they could end up being really tough next year. Anything above 8-8 this year is gravy.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/12/2013 - 7:12pm

Favorite, but not odd-on favorite, according to the updated odds page. Odds for the Jets making the playoffs are 47.8%. To be an odds-on favorite, and not merely a favorite, these odds would have to be greater than 50%.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Wed, 11/13/2013 - 9:40am

The Jets have have not had any injuries of a major player on defense, one of the few in the league that can say that. I don't think they have the depth to handle the losses teams like CIN or SEA have had - and I won't even bring up NE.

by j (not verified) :: Wed, 11/13/2013 - 11:57am

Fair enough (though Cromartie has been banged up all year, which has affected their secondary), but look at the situation at wide receiver and tight end. The Jets probably have less skill at WR most weeks than any team in the league.

by Jerry Garcia (not verified) :: Wed, 11/13/2013 - 5:15pm

I understand that popular opinion is that the Jets aren't any good, maybe even bad.

But did you see what the Jets did to Drew Brees?
Did anyone watch that? other than me?

Brees had a 1st & 10 at the 20- he needed a FG.
And after 4 downs- he never gained a yard.
Not 1 yard.

Of course I seem to remember reading this stuff a couple years ago when a "terrible" QB took them to the AFC championship game! Twice! Consecutively!

How quickly people forget ...

But this has all happened before... twice!!

& I think the conference is a little weaker this time around, but we shall see....

we shall see....

I can't wait to see the Jets front 7 show Peyton Manning what a stout defense can do, in the cold, outside... :)

And when the weather gets cold, and the running game, special teams, and defense become the most important things-
look out for Gang Greene -- they're getting healthy now, the defense is getting better, their kicker has been perfect- no one wants to play Rex's defense in December. Nobody.

by Mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Thu, 11/14/2013 - 5:10am

The terribleness of the Jets was hyped to death before the season, and now their threat as a playoff contender is being hyped to death. Let's wait until the 2013 version wins two games in a row before comparing them favorably to the 2009/2010 teams. Right now the running game and secondary are nowhere near as good as those teams.

by Jerry Garcia (not verified) :: Thu, 11/14/2013 - 8:35am

I kind of like chris ivory & bilal powell a little more than thomas jones & shonn greene, but that's just me.
I don't really perceive a significant drop in the running game.

Pass defense is not as good now, but good enough-- I really think it will be good enough. The Jets have to face one decent passer on their remaining schedule. (cam newton). Otherwise, until they hit the post season they're not really looking at any super QBs.
& they've already beaten Tom Brady & Drew Brees.

I can't see any powerhouse in the AFC that the Jets couldn't compete with. Manning has a bum ankle and it isn't even thanksgiving yet.

Stranger things have happened!