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5-5 Is No Time to Tear Up the Dance Card

Jets Won't Look Ahead, but There's Precedent for .500 Teams After 10 Games Reaching the Playoffs


A great friend who is also a great fan of the Green & White was unhappy with the way the Jets' symmetrical first 10 games have unfolded: two wins, a loss and two wins followed by two losses, a win and two losses.

"Really stinks to just play out the 6 games left," he texted.

Well, it would stink if anything is etched in stone at this point. But it's not. The Jets are one of four AFC teams at 5-5, all tied for the sixth and final playoff berth. True, the Green & White have put themselves behind the tiebreaker eightball with the losses to Buffalo and Houston.

But the Bills tiebreaker would evaporate with a Jets win on the road in Week 17. And should the Texans pass the Colts in the AFC South standings, the Jets would then gain a tiebreaker over the South's second-place team from their Week 2 win at Indy. (All of which is why it's so silly to start playoff analysis with the phrase "If the season ended today..." It's not ending today or any time soon.)

So what's the prognosis for 5-5 teams to reach the postseason grid? I'm glad you asked.

Since 2002, the start of the current playoff setup, not a lot of .500 teams after 10 games have squeezed into the dance, but there are enough — 17 of 58 teams that started 5-5 qualified for the playoffs.

Since New England is well ahead in the AFC East, we'll narrow our focus to 5-5 teams that made it as wild cards. There have been seven in the past 13 seasons:

2002 — Cleveland (9-7), sixth seed

2004 — St. Louis (8-8), fifth seed

2005 — Washington (10-6), sixth seed

2006 — JETS (10-6), fifth seed

2007 — Washington (10-6), sixth seed

2009 — Baltimore (9-7), sixth seed

2012 — Cincinnati (10-6), sixth seed

Something that was a fairly annual NFL occurrence through 2009 has happened only once in the past five postseasons, so by my reckoning the time is right for a 5-5 team to break through again. And with the Jets' current schedule strength of 34-36 in their last six games (including the 10-0 Patriots at home), why not the Green & White?

All that being said, going 5-1 or 4-2 down the stretch will be no easy deal, which is why head coach Todd Bowles and the Jets players will be asked over and over the next six weeks about their chances. We expect them to remain positive and talk in terms of Bowles' 16-round-prizefight analogy.

"I think the confidence level is high," tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said. "There's a lot of teams in our situation right now. We just have to realize the situation we're in. We definitely know these games coming up mean that much more if we're going to separate ourselves from the pack. We need to start putting together some wins."

And not worrying about what anyone else is doing. Our favorite Bowles answer to a question from the past few weeks: Does he ever do any scoreboard watching?

"Only to see if we're winning," he said.

Never give up, baby, never give up. And now it's on to the one-game season that is the Miami Dolphins at home on Sunday.

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