The Jets are in so much better shape than what many expected before the season, with a playoff berth still possible as they prepare for Sunday’s game in Denver.
A lot must happen for the Jets to qualify. As coach Todd Bowles pointed out last week, they must win their remaining four regular-season games and get help. The Jets were the 11th seed entering Monday night and would have to pass five teams to get the final wild-card spot.
It could happen, but three losses in which the Jets blew fourth-quarter leads are coming back to bite them.
“Right now, we’re not in a good position because we’ve allowed some games to slip,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said during a Monday morning conference call. “But if we do what we do and win and play hard and execute on third down and run the ball efficiently, we have a chance to put our name in that playoff hat. If not, we put our best foot forward.”
That was something the Jets did in their 38-31 victory over the Chiefs at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. They rushed for 157 yards, converted a season-high 65 percent of their third downs and controlled the time of possession, holding the ball for 42 minutes, 49 seconds. The Jets produced scoring drives lasting 9:31 and 6:58.
Bowles said the secondary didn’t play its best game against the speedy Chiefs wide receivers, resulting in 79- and 40-yard touchdown receptions. Although the Jets shut him down in the second half, blown coverages led to tight end Travis Kelce’s touchdown receptions of 22 and 36 yards that gave the Chiefs an early 14-0 lead.
But the Jets (5-7) overcame their deficiencies to end a two-game losing streak and make sure the playoffs still are a possibility.
“I check the scores, I watch the highlights, because I enjoy watching football,” said quarterback Josh McCown, who was 26-for-36 for 331 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions and also ran for two touchdowns Sunday. “But we kind of realize right now what we have to do. Truly, no matter what the situation is, if we’re going to have 10 wins, if we’re going to have three wins, the idea would be that you go and play the next [game] as hard as you can and go win the game.”
With a young team, a first-year coordinator (John Morton) and a journeyman quarterback, the Jets were supposed to be inept offensively, but they have scored at least 27 points in three of their last four games.
The defense was supposed to be the strength, but the team’s two best pass rushers, Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson, struggled at the start of the season. In the last few weeks, the defense, especially Williams, has played better.
So it seems everything is falling into place as the Jets gear up for a December run with the playoffs still in sight — much to the surprise of prognosticators, if not the players.
“It’s all noise, it’s he-say, she-say,” defensive tackle Steve McLendon said of the low expectations. “At the end of the day, we’re the ones playing, not the ones saying we’re going to go 0-16 or whatever.
“We were saying it’s not about [critics]. It’s completely about everyone in this locker room that’s putting on that uniform each and every week to go out there and compete for a win. That’s how I look at it. I hope everyone in this locker room looks at it the same way.”