Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Olivia Landis and Randy Lange will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: Will the Jets benefit from the NFL's Playoff Expansion?
EA: On the post-draft installment of One Jets Drive, GM Joe Douglas said, "If you're not trying to win a Super Bowl every year, you shouldn't be in this business." That goal will never change and the only way to challenge for the title is to either win the AFC East or gain postseason entry via a wild card. With playoff expansion, 7 of 16 teams in each conference will go dancing. That means nearly 44 percent will participate in the playoffs, but you're still going to need a winning record to get there and 10 would cement it. According to NFL.com, since 1990, when the playoffs expanded from 10 to 12 teams, 44 of the 66 clubs that would have claimed the seventh seeds had winning records, including 10 different 10-win teams. Jets fans felt that 10-win anguish in 2015, but let's look ahead. I don't see anybody running away with the Tom Brady-less AFC East and it's conceivable a division winner finishes 9-7. If the Jets get better health in 2020, they certainly could challenge the Patriots and the Bills and it's not improbable that Sam Darnold gets hot, Le'Veon Bell finds more room, C.J. Mosley is the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year and Jamal Adams is Jamal Adams and the Jets take the AFCE. I expect a number of quality AFC teams will fight it out for those last wild cards. The Jets will need at least a 2-game improvement from last year to get in the tournament.
EG: The short answer is yes. Each season is different, but the Titans clinched the No. 6 seed last year with a 9-7 record compared to the Jets' 7-9 mark. With the playoff expansion, I think it gives the Jets a better chance for a postseason berth and allows more margin for error. With that being said, I think the AFC East is wide open. Even though the Jets have a difficult schedule, the Bills, the Dolphins and the Patriots also play the NFC West and AFC West, which, in theory, evens the playing field. Division games will hold a lot of weight for the Green & White if they want to be competing in November and December for a playoff bid and Weeks 7-12 may be the most crucial stretch in the schedule. The Jets will play four division opponents in five games (Week 11 BYE). They need to improve their 2-6 road record from 2019 (5-3 at home), which will be difficult with long trips and difficult opponents like the Super Bowl Champion Chiefs, the Chargers, the Seahawks and the Rams. At the end of the day, the Jets will be better team than last season and could very well be in the hunt for a Wild Card spot, if not the division.
RL: If the question is CAN the Jets benefit from the NFL's playoffs expansion for 2020, the answer is obviously yes. Add another team to each conference's postseason field and everyone in a tough division benefits because then third place is no longer the third rail of playoff contention. In fact, if the upcoming PO expansion had been in effect in 2015, the Jets wouldn't have been tortured by Fitz's picks in Buffalo because at 10-6 they would have gone into the playoffs as the AFC's 7th seed. (Pittsburgh has even more reason to like the new rule — the Steelers would've been the 7th seed in 2019, 2018, 2013 due to a head-to-head win ... over the Jets ... and 2000 due to a head-to-head win ... over the Jets.) But to go from CAN to WILL is a big leap. The Jets have a tough road sked ahead and everybody's had a rough offseason. But adding a 7th playoff team to the grid is going to help one team. Why not the G&W?
OL: I think it's fair to say that most teams will benefit from the NFL's new playoff expansion and the Jets will have equal opportunity to take advantage of this format. With the league expanding the postseason field to 7 out of 16 teams in each conference, the Green & White still have to make headway within the AFC East and they face divisional opponents four times from Week 7-Week 12. Along with AFC East matchups, the Jets, the Dolphins, the Patriots and the Bills will all face stiff competition from both the AFC West and NFC West, including for the Jets a date with the 2019 SB Champs, the Kansas City Chiefs. The Jets' 7-9 record last season was their best mark since 2015 when the team finished 10-6 and second in the AFC East. There's no doubt that GM Joe Douglas has improved the roster on paper, and for now it looks as though the Green & White can make a run for a playoff spot in 2020.