The New York Jets may be 1-4, but the NFL Playoffs remain an acceptable and legitimate goal this season.
However, a win over the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday was a huge spark for this team. It gave them life and could have saved their season.
Prior to the start of the season, I predicted the Jets would go 9-7 following a 2-5 start. That 2-5 start is still well within reach after beating the Cowboys.
The Jets will likely lose to the Patriots on Monday and fall to 1-5. After that, though, the team has the easiest schedule in football.
They play the Jaguars, Dolphins, Giants and Redskins the next four weeks. Those teams are a combined 5-18. The Jets, with a healthy Darnold, should win all four of those games.
They follow that up with the Oakland Raiders, who are surprisingly 3-2 to start the season. However, they are doing so in an unsustainable manner. The Raiders are putting up just 20.6 points per game while giving up 24.6. They rank 26th in pass-defense DVOA and that doesn’t seem likely to change.
If the Jets roll into that game on a four-game win streak at 5-5, they’ll likely be considered the favorites. That’s a home game, meaning the Raiders would be traveling cross country for the game, which always makes preparing for a playing a game that much harder.
The Jets then face the Dolphins and Bengals the two weeks after the Raiders. It’s entirely possible that even if the Jets lose to the Patriots on Monday they head into the final three weeks of the season at 8-5.
Things get trickier there with the Ravens, Steelers and Bills. However, the Steelers are awful and will be without Ben Roethlisberger. That gets the Jets to nine wins. They do that simply by beating bad teams.
The Jets schedule is as easy as they come after this game on Monday. This isn’t the time to write them off. Just last year, the NFL saw a team go from 1-5 to the playoffs.
The Colts fell to 1-5 after they lost to the Jets last season. After that game, Andrew Luck became one of the best quarterbacks in football and along with a good defense willed the Colts to the playoffs.
There’s no reason to believe that Sam Darnold and this Jets defense can’t do the same.
The Jets offense really isn’t as bad as it looks on paper. The stats say the Jets have the second-worst offense in the NFL. It’s true they have had an awful offense so far this year, but that’s been without Darnold.
A quick look at Darnold’s last six games shows how dangerous this team can be. Over Darnold’s last six games, he’s thrown for 1,444 yards on 66.2% completion with nine TD and only two INT. Over a 16 game season that would be 3,851 yards 24 TDs and 5 INTs.
Those may not be MVP numbers, but those are fantastic stats for a QB in his final four games of his rookie year and the first two of his second year. Half of the defenses he went up against in that stretch were top 10 in defensive DVOA, two were top five.
Darnold has been a revelation and is only getting better. On top of Darnold, the Jets have a very good defense. Gregg Williams’s squad is allowing only 21 points a game this season.
Three of the Jets games this year have come up against offenses ranked second, sixth and eighth in DVOA. The work Gregg Williams’s defense has done despite awful CB and little pass rush play is awe-inspiring.
On top of all of that, the Jets are without one of their best defensive players in C.J. Mosley. This defense still has upside and could be one of the 10 best defenses in football this year.
Lastly, the Jets are still getting healthy. For the length of their losing streak to open the season the Jets have dealt with injuries to key players. Jordan Jenkins, C.J. Mosley, Chris Herndon, Demaryius Thomas, Nate Hairston, Quinnen Williams and Henry Anderson have all missed time during that losing streak along with Sam Darnold.
The Jets are expected to have all of those guys back by the time they take on the Jaguars. A full-strength Jets team should scare the rest of the league. Darnold and this defense have shown how good they can be already.
They have scary potential when the whole team is healthy. None of this is to say the Jets are super bowl contenders. However, it would be foolish to count this team out right now.
There is plenty of reason to believe that this team is about to go on a run and shock the world by squeaking into the playoffs.
For these Jets, the season is only just getting started.