NY Jets general manager Joe Douglas told the football world this summer that he expected his team to play meaningful games at the end of the 2022 season. That mission is accomplished thanks to a 7-4 record after 11 games.
The Jets' 7-4 mark is their best record entering the month of December since the 2015 season, where a then 6-5 squad rode a five-game win streak before falling one step short of the playoffs at 10-6.
2015 was the last time the Jets, a team with the longest current playoff drought in the NFL, came close to sniffing the postseason. It's been over a decade since the Jets were in the playoffs (2010).
The Cool Games
Long-time suffering Jets fans have much to be thankful for in 2022. The Jets simply being in the playoff picture this late in a season is a pleasant departure from the dregs of years past, where this time of the year has been annually reserved for draft order talk.
Even Jets head coach Robert Saleh told the media how great it is that his team will play meaningful games in the last six weeks of the regular season.
"The biggest thing we acknowledge is that we can play some cool games."- Robert Saleh
The "cool games" the Jets are scheduled to play represent the fifth most difficult schedule of all NFL teams, and it's the primary reason outlets are projecting the Jets with slightly better than fifty percent odds of making the playoffs. New York is far from a lock to make the playoffs.
If the season ended today, the Jets would be in the playoffs as the final seed in the AFC. So on the positive side, technically, the Jets control their destiny.
However, despite having a formidable 7-4 record, New York will need to go no worse than 3-3 in their final six games and finish with a 10-7 record to make the playoffs.
A significant reason why the Jets need to get to ten wins is that tie-breakers will not play in their favor with head-to-head losses to the Ravens, Bengals, and the dreaded Patriots.
9-8 won't cut it in an ultra-competitive AFC. A familiar theme from a year ago, a 9-8 record left wildcard-hopeful teams like the Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, and Miami Dolphins at home. The Pittsburgh Steelers squeaked their way into the postseason thanks to a 9-7-1 record.
The Jets have some built-in equity thanks to their current record, with five conference wins, and two victories head-to-head over Buffalo and Miami. However, their margin for error is small.
The NY Jets' meaningful games in December and January
The Jets will need to win 10 games to make the postseason — and it won't be easy. At the same time, they have gone 4-1 on the road thus far in 2022. The Jets have four road tilts in their last six games, all of which are against teams in postseason contention.
The Jets have back-to-back road games upcoming against two legitimate playoff contenders in the NFC North, starting with the 9-2 Minnesota Vikings this Sunday, followed by a trip to Buffalo to face the 8-3 Bills.
How the Jets fare in their next two games will help shape their playoff path.
Losses to the Vikings and Bills in successive weeks won't completely kill the team's chances, but it would undoubtedly take the Jets out of any AFC East division title race, limiting their focus to only a wildcard spot and narrowing the margin for error in their final four weeks.
The Jets will return home in Weeks 14 and 15 to play the 4-7 Detroit Lions and 4-7 Jacksonville Jaguars in five days — must-win games for New York if they want to have a chance to make the postseason.
However, both of those young teams, despite their records, are no pushovers. The Lions came into MetLife Stadium a few weeks back and trampled the Giants, and the Jags are coming off an impressive victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
Can the Jets get to the final week of the season in what is still a to-be-determined time on Sunday, January 8th, with something to play for? Maybe the Jets finally get their elusive primetime Sunday night game with everything at stake.
"We expected to have a competitive football team. At the same time, we haven't accomplished anything. We have six games left, the first one at Minnesota. I always say only one team will be happy at the end of the year. We have to focus on the moment. It's awesome to be where we are. It's fun; it gives you a purpose to play for more than a paycheck. At the same time, we have to focus on the moment."- Robert Saleh
Quite frankly, people are expecting the cute little story of the 2022 Jets to fade away now when the "real games" of consequence arrive.
For the moment, the Jets and their fan base can be grateful that they are in this position. But for the 2022 Jets season to mean more, they need to put themselves in a position to punch their ticket into the postseason.
No matter how it turns out, hope has finally returned to the New York Jets franchise, and it's been long overdue. Winter is coming, and it arrives with the Jets staring at the possibility of a playoff berth.