Disclaimer: I’m a Jets fan. A big one. I had high hopes for this team heading into the season, and, well, they haven’t lived up to them so far. It’s not entirely their fault, with quarterback Sam Darnold missing three games due to mononucleosis and C.J. Mosley missing all but the first half and change of Week 1. Still, at 0-4 and with a game against Zeke Elliott and the Cowboys on the horizon, it was easy to say that their season was already over.
But surprise! The Jets have a pulse! Sam Darnold has returned, and doing so led the J-E-T-S to a 24-22 huge upset victory over Dallas, and all of a sudden there is reason to believe again.
They’re still just 1-4, how do you expect them to make the playoffs? Well for one, crazier things have happened. All you need to do is look back to just last season when the Colts started 1-5 and then went 9-1 through their last 10 games to make the playoffs. Teams can go on runs, and with the schedule the Jets have moving forward, it’s not at all out of the question.
Remember that stretch the Patriots just had where they really didn’t play a single competitive team? Well, that’s what the Jets have next, but somehow, it’s even easier. Take a look.
Week 7: Patriots – Chance to win: 1/5 – Prediction: L
While I do believe that the Jets have a chance to win this game, coming off a big momentum gainer against the Cowboys, it would kill any credibility I have left (which probably isn’t much at this point) if I took them to win. My prediction is the Jets lose a close, defense-oriented game as the offense still works through some growing pains in Darnold’s second week back.
Week 8: Jaguars – Chance to win: 3/5 – Prediction: W
While the Jaguars started off surprisingly well after Foles went down, I’m calling that Minshew Mania is over. Their last two weeks have been brutal, cumulating in a 13-6 loss to the New Orleans Saints where Minshew threw for just 163 yards and a pick on 14 of 29 passing. The Jets defense will stifle the Jags offense, and New York will put up enough points to get the job done.
Week 9: Dolphins – Chance to win: 6/5 – Prediction: W
It’s the Dolphins. That’s it.
Week 10: Giants – Chance to win: 3.5/5 – Prediction: W
The MetLife bowl might be the game I am most looking forward to this season, seeing as both teams are on the come up and it’ll give one the chance to take the mantle of the top team in New York (well, New Jersey, and no Bills, you don’t count). While the Giants do have two wins at the moment, they have come against the pitiful Redskins and wildly erratic Buccaneers. Danny Dimes is going to struggle against the Jets D, and Darnold will pick apart Janoris Jenkins and the Giants secondary.
Week 11: Redskins – Chance to win: 5/5 – Prediction: W
Speaking of the Redskins, Washington just lost, and yes I mean lost, the tank bowl, and with the Bengals now overtaking them for pick No. 2, they have some ground to make up. The Jets will handle this one with ease.
Week 12: Raiders – Chance to win: 3/5 – Prediction: W
I think this will be the first close game since Week 8, with the Raiders surprising everyone so far this season at 3-2. Even so, I’m not buying that they are legit. Yes, they beat the Bears, but that offense might be the worst in the league that’s not based in Miami, Washington or Cincinnati.
The best team they beat was the Colts, but Indy played one of their worst games of the season, turning the ball over multiple times, including one pick-six. Their other win was one over the now 2-4 Broncos by just eight points. As for the Jets, by this time they’ll have hit their stride, winning four in a row, and no one, not even Jon Gruden, is going to stand in their way.
Week 13: Bengals – Chance to win: 5/5 – Prediction: W
Le’Veon Bell is going to have a field day Week 13, going up against the defense that thus far has allowed the most yards per rush at 5.3. It will be this game that he crosses the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season en route to a great 1,600 yards from scrimmage season, and the Jets as a whole will blow out the sorry Bengals. Bonus prediction: It will be Ryan Finley’s first start, as they will finally decide to bench Andy Dalton.
Week 14: Dolphins – Chance to win: 6/5 – Prediction: W
Week 15: Ravens – Chance to win: 2/5 – Prediction: L
All great streaks have to come to an end at some point, and the Jets will fall just two games short of tying their franchise record nine-game winning streak. The Ravens are a good – not great – team, but the Jets are bound to stumble at some point, and this will be the game. Lamar Jackson and Hollywood Brown will have their way with the Jets cornerbacks, and while Darnold and the offense will do their best to keep up, it simply won’t be enough. However, at this point, the Jets are 8-6, and in the thick of a Wild Card race.
Week 16: Steelers – Chance to win: 3/5 – Prediction: W
Big Ben is out for the season, and neither Mason Rudolph (if he plays) or Devlin Hodges (if Rudolph is out) should pose much threat to the Jets. This will be a rather easy win that will give them their momentum back heading into the final game of the season.
Week 17: Bills – Chance to win: 2.5/5 – Prediction: W
This is it, where the Jets will punch their ticket to the playoffs. It’s time for a revenge game. Jamal Adams and the gang will come out with a chip on their shoulders after letting their Week 1 matchup slip away and force Josh Allen (who is NOT a good quarterback) into plenty of mistakes. This time, the offense will do their job, and not put up just eight points as they did in the first game of the season, having 15 games in between to fix their mistakes.
There you have it, the path to 10-6 and a Wild Card berth.
But wait, is 10-6 good enough to earn the Wild Card? This year, yes it is. The AFC is crazy this year, and there is a lot of parity. Aside from the Patriots (and the Bills, but that won’t last), there is no team who has under two losses, and no one besides New England has looked really dominant. Even so, New England hasn’t played anyone really threatening, so who knows if they are actually legit. I could go more into that, but I’ll just redirect you to a column by my colleague Sean Janos: “Hey Seanny J: What’s going to happen when the Patriots play good teams?” Despite the bad (like really, really bad) column name, it’s actually a great article.
There’s really not a single frontrunner for either AFC Wild Card, and due to the parity a lot of teams could end up around the 9-10 win mark this season. It probably won’t take an 11-5 or 12-4 season to snag a wild card this year, and in fact, for the last five-plus years, 10-6 has been good enough for at least Wild Card No. 2.
This team is talented. They have a young stud quarterback in Darnold who is looking, at the very least, like the second-best of the five first-round quarterbacks from the 2018 draft (Lamar is fantastic), one of the greatest all-around running backs to touch the turf in Le’Veon Bell and a defense that has at times played like one of the top units in the league even without Mosley and Avery Williamson, headlined by the best safety duo in the NFL, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye.
Then once the playoffs hit, well, anything can happen. Call it blind optimism (which it is), but the Jets are still alive, and it’s not crazy to think a playoff run could be in their future.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at Jorge.email@example.com. He tweets @jorge_eckardt31