The Jets need to win out. Simple as that.
If Gang Green can shake off this current three-game losing skid with three consecutive victories to end the regular season — home against the Jaguars, followed by road games at the Seahawks and Dolphins — they should be able to grab the final AFC wild card spot with a smidge of help elsewhere.
But if they stumble just once, the NFL’s longest drought will almost assuredly grow to 12 years and counting.
Here is a closer look at where things stand:
AFC playoff picture entering Week 16:
Like in the NFC, the top-5 teams are all but in. The Ravens have to be careful with a tricky remaining schedule (home against the Falcons and Steelers, at the Bengals). But as long as they can get Lamar Jackson back, they should be OK.
That leaves two wild card spots for four teams. The Jaguars (6-8) are lurking, but it’s hard to see them (or the Titans, for that matter) being in the wild card picture at 9-8. Their path to the postseason is AFC South title or bust.
The Chargers have a very favorable remaining schedule — at the Colts, home against the Rams, at the Broncos. If they take care of business, they should roll into the tournament. And they might even be able to jump the Ravens for the top wild card. They also have a head-to-head win over Miami in hand, which could prove valuable.
The Dolphins have a tougher path forward. But not necessarily a daunting one. They host the Packers on Christmas — never an easy thing — followed by a road game at the Patriots and a home game with the Jets to close out the regular season. They did just fine in the cold of Buffalo and New England is a mess. They do need to get their win back over the Jets if things get tight. Miami has a head-to-head win over the Ravens, which could help with seeding. But they have lost the tiebreaker to the Chargers as mentioned above.
The Patriots feel cooked. They’re home against the Bengals, home against the Dolphins and on the road at the Bills. Even if they go 2-1, it’s tough to imagine they will get in at 9-8. Even with the tiebreaker over the Jets.
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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]