After their post-Thanksgiving mini-bye weekend, the Jets returned to work this morning and began preparations for next Monday’s “Marquee Game of the Year” against the Patriots in Foxboro. We will hit December on Wednesday and that means the playoff race is about to heat up.
While a team with championship aspirations isn’t going to celebrate just securing a spot in the postseason, the Jets look poised to punch their dance ticket soon. They’ve already equaled their win total from last year and five games remain before the regular season concludes on Jan. 2. Rex Ryan wanted the Green & White to lead the NFL in wins and he might get his wish.
There is nothing better than January football, so let’s take a quick look at the Jets, the conference standings and what remains the next five weeks.
1. JETS (9-2)
Critics aren’t impressed that the Jets own just two victories over teams that currently have winning records — New England and Miami. But the Green & White’s next four opponents are all above .500 and they’ve combined to record a 31-13 mark to date.
If the Jets can knock off the Pats, they’ll be the clear favorites to take the division by virtue of a season sweep and 4-0 mark in the AFCE. The Jets are 5-0 away from home and their toughest games, on paper, all appear to be on the road.
Schedule — @New England (Mon., Dec. 6), vs. MIAMI (Dec. 12), @Pittsburgh (Dec. 19), @Chicago (Dec. 26), vs. BUFFALO (Jan. 2).
2. BALTIMORE (8-3)
If the Ravens hold serve in their huge divisional clash Sunday night against the Steelers, they’ll grab a stranglehold over the AFC North. The Birds beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh back in October and they are up one game in the standings. Baltimore, which holds a tiebreaker edge over the Jets because of that 10-9 Week 1 win, is 5-0 at home this year and would like to stay in Maryland throughout the postseason.
The next three games will all be difficult, but the Ravens figure to have a manageable closing two weeks.
Schedule — vs. PITTSBURGH (Dec. 5), @Houston (Mon., Dec. 13), vs. NEW ORLEANS (Dec. 19), @Cleveland (Dec. 26), vs. CINCINNATI (Jan. 2).
3. KANSAS CITY (7-4)
You would never have guessed it before the season, but the Chiefs enter Week 13 as the NFL’s top rushing offense (174.3 yards per game) and the fourth-highest scoring club (25.9 ppg). The Chiefs have been quite the story thus far, but everyone is wondering if they can hold off the hard-charging Chargers.
Schedule — vs. DENVER (Dec. 5), @San Diego (Dec. 12), @St. Louis (Dec. 19), vs. TENNESSEE (Dec. 26), vs. OAKLAND (Jan. 2).
4. JACKSONVILLE (6-5)
Left for dead after back-to-back 25-point losses to the Chargers and Eagles in Weeks 2 and 3, the Jags have legitimate division title hopes. And they’ll win it or lose it on the road because they play all three of their division rivals away from home.
Schedule — @Tennessee (Dec. 5), vs. OAKLAND (Dec. 12), @Indianapolis (Dec. 19), vs. WASHINGTON (Dec. 26), @Houston (Jan. 2).
5. NEW ENGLAND (9-2)
Hard to believe that either the Pats or the Jets will be a wild-card entry, but only one team can win the division and that means one of the powers will have to make a run on the road if they have Super Bowl plans. The Jets and Patriots play the same opponents down the stretch after their meeting, except for the Jets’ visit to Pittsburgh and the Packers’ trip to New England.
Schedule — vs. JETS (Mon., Dec. 6), @Chicago (Dec. 12), vs. GREEN BAY (Dec. 19), @Buffalo (Dec. 26), vs. MIAMI (Jan. 2).
6. PITTSBURGH (8-3)
Huge game for the Steelers Sunday in Baltimore. A win creates a deadlock in the North, but a loss would all but end their division title hopes because it would create a two-game deficit and the Ravens will have swept their rivals. The Steelers’ 22nd-ranked pass defense had better get ready for No. 10’s return in Week 15 because something tells us Santonio Holmes might turn in a special outing.
Mike Tomlin’s club figures to catch a huge break late because it’ll host the Panthers on a Thursday night and then have a nice rest before visiting the Browns to wrap up the regular season.
Schedule — @Baltimore (Dec. 5), vs. CINCINNATI (Dec. 12), vs. JETS (Dec. 19), vs. CAROLINA (Thurs., Dec. 23), @Cleveland (Jan. 2).
7. SAN DIEGO (6-5)
The Chargers dismantled the Colts in Indianapolis on Sunday night and they have the looks of a real contender. San Diego ranks No. 1 overall in offense and defense and will probably be favored in all its remaining contests. Once 2-5, it’s not hard to think the Chargers will finish 11-5. Think there are any nervous folks in Kansas City right now?
Schedule — vs. OAKLAND (Dec. 5), vs. KANSAS CITY (Dec. 12), vs. SAN FRANCISCO (Thurs., Dec. 16), @Cincinnati (Dec. 26), @Denver (Jan. 2).
8. INDIANAPOLIS (6-5)
Maybe it’s the rash of injuries. Maybe the Colts have a bit of Super Bowl hangover. Maybe the offensive line struggles and lack of a rush attack have finally grounded Peyton Manning. Perhaps it’s a combination, but this team looked like anything but a contender against the ‘Bolts. Manning, who threw two pick-sixes and has back-to-back three-plus interception games for the first time since his rookie season, needs some magic just to get this team back into the postseason. But the Colts get the Jags at home and nobody in the South has been able to jump all over this opportunity as of yet.
Schedule — vs. DALLAS (Dec. 5), @Tennessee (Thurs., Dec. 9), vs. JACKSONVILLE (Dec. 19), @Oakland (Dec. 26), vs. TENNESSEE (Jan. 2).
9. MIAMI (6-5)
It’s going to be an uphill climb for the Dolphins because they faltered at home early against both the Jets and Patriots. Ten wins might not be enough this season, so Miami might need a clean sweep to get onto the postseason grid.
Schedule — vs. CLEVELAND (Dec. 5), @JETS (Dec. 12), vs. BUFFALO (Dec. 19), vs. DETROIT (Dec. 26), @New England (Jan. 2).
STILL IN THE CONVERSATION
10. HOUSTON (5-6)
11. TENNESSEE (5-6)
12. OAKLAND (5-6)
Tags: AFC, Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, New Engalnd Patriots, New York Jets, PIttsburgh Steelers
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