By now we all know the truth for the Jets. The last hint of playoffs Monday morning was pie in the sky by midnight. The eight-team parlay that we needed to sneak into the AFC postseason grid was done after one game, Baltimore's 18-16 win at Detroit.
A Lions win was one of eight outcomes we would have needed over the final two-plus weeks of the season to keep Green hope alive. But the Ravens' win means the worst they can finish is 8-8. And the first tiebreaker if we would have been able to get past the Dolphins at 8-8 in the division tiebreaker is head-to-head, which of course we lost at Baltimore, 19-3, three weeks earlier.
But there are any number of reasons that a team is not in the hunt for a playoff berth with two weeks left in the regular season. Here are three general reasons the Jets are out of the chase now.
1. The Passing Game — This sounds like a criticism of Geno Smith. But Geno after all is a rookie who has done some great things along with some not as great all season.
While he was the leader of this offense from opening day, this reason is about more than No. 7. The pass protection has to improve. Some of the sacks are on the line, some are on the QB not picking up the blindside DB blitzes, some on the receivers not getting the separation to give the QB a quick, clear receiving option.
The result, wherever the fault lies, is that after 15 weeks the Jets' pass protection is 32nd and last in the NFL in sack rate. Sacks lead to 3-and-outs (Geno was the NFL leader in most 3-and-outs through 14 weeks) and to turnovers (more on that in a bit). Difficulty in point production comes after that.
2. The Pass Defense — We've all heard the pro football aphorism "Stop the run, then get after the pass." That didn't work as usual with the 2013 Jets.
Our run defense has been among the best in the league all year. We spent six straight weeks as No. 1 in rush yards allowed/game, and even though we've slipped to No. 3 this week, we're still No. 1 with 3.2 yards allowed/carry.
Yet the pass rush off of that, while much improved over last season, has had its ups and downs. And the pass coverage off of that has suffered. It may have been the over-the-top longballs of Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, or the shorter YAC variety of Miami and most recently Carolina.
But the upshot is that we've allowed 48 pass plays of 20 yards this season. If that rate of 3.4 big pass plays per game holds up the rest of the way, it would be the highest rate by a Jets defense since the 3.9 big pass plays per game allowed by the 1989 defense.
3. The Turnovers — This goes without saying. Smith has to cut back on interceptions, which will then reduce the pick-sixes.
But the defense also has to do more. Our eight interceptions tote out to 31st in the league in INT rate. And our two opponents' fumble recoveries are almost off the charts. Since 1960, the fewest fumble recoveries in a season is three, registered by four different teams.
The combination puts us at minus-19 in turnover margin for the season, last in the league with two weeks to go. We've been at minus-20 only two other weeks in franchise history, after 14 games in 1976 and after 16 games in '96.
The Goal with Two to Go
The fact that we've won six games, including the triumphs over playoff-caliber teams New England and New Orleans, speaks well of the youthful talent on this team that will form a foundation for better things down the road. More will arrive soon via free agency and the draft.
And guard Willie Colon on Monday declared the goal for these remaining two games that will take us into the offseason: "We've got to grow. This is a young team, we're learning. Now all we do is keep fighting our tails off and finish strong."