The Jets are chasing the Patriots inside the division, but the Pats could pave the way for a Jets Wild Card
The New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins won't play until Christmas evening, meaning Monday's late contest on December 25 will be the final game of the upcoming football weekend. The 8-6 Jets are right in the middle of the AFC playoff picture and one particular outcome could have a great impact on the club's possible postseason future. Despite all the playoff talk, Jets head coach Eric Mangini has not wavered in his one-game-at-a-time approach.
"It's not going to change for us Monday night," Mangini said. "Whether someone wins or loses, our approach is going to be the same. I don't think the team's intensity level or the amount of work that they do throughout the week or any of that is going to be affected by the games that take place Sunday."
Although Mangini won't discuss the "p-word", fans are abuzz with speculation and prognostication. The Jets are one of four AFC teams who own an 8-6 record and are contenders for the conference's two wild cards. That quartet also includes Jacksonville, Cincinnati and Denver. Barring a tie, either the Bengals or Broncos will definitely lose Sunday because they meet in a late game at Invesco Field. So come kickoff in South Florida, the Jets will have already vaulted someone in the standings.
Then there is that Jacksonville club who will host New England, Mangini's former employer, Sunday at Alltel Stadium. Ironically, a Patriots win would allow the Jets to control their own destiny. But if the Jags fall at home, the Jets would make the playoffs by defeating the Dolphins on the road and then downing the Raiders at the Meadowlands come New Year's Eve.
But if the Jaguars pick up their ninth win of the season Sunday, the Jets will gain on the Patriots in the hunt for an improbable AFC East championship. Tiebreakers favor the Green & White over the Pats if the two squads finish 10-6. New England closes its city December 31 at a suddenly hot Tennessee team.
If the Jets split their last two games and finish 9-7, they would require a lot of help in order to obtain a wild card berth. What would they need? Just three of these possible four scenarios: the Bills lose one of their two final contests (vs. Tennessee, @ Baltimore), the Bengals drop their final two (@ Denver, vs. Pittsburgh), the Jags lose their two remaining games (vs. New England @ Kansas City), and the Broncos go 1-1 (vs. Cincinnati, vs. San Francisco) in combination with the Chiefs winning out (@ Oakland, vs. Jacksonville).
After Sunday's games, we'll take a look at the changed Jets' landscape before their festive meeting with Dolphins. But if you are a fan of the Green & White, the game you want to see Sunday is New England @ Jacksonville. A Patriots win places everything in the Jets' hands while a Jags victory means Mangini's club still has a chance at catching New England for the AFC East title.
The Jets are back playing meaningful football in December. They remain concentrated on Miami despite all the playoff hype on the periphery.
"We're all excited about playing in these games," Mangini said. "This is a great opportunity. The hard work that we've put in throughout the season, the progress that we've made throughout the season, this is what you want, to be playing meaningful games late in the season."