Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Playoffs, 2022, Odds
Zach Wilson, New York Jets, Getty Images

Here’s how the New York Jets can put a stop to their playoff drought in 2022

In the Super Bowl era, the New York Jets have 12 playoff victories, good for 20th in the NFL. Considering that a number of the teams below them are expansion teams (Panthers, Jaguars, Texans), that number is lower on a per-year basis, but still not as low as one might think.

The team’s current streak of 11 years since its last playoff appearance is the longest in the NFL – by five full years. When talking about heartbreak and snakebitten franchises, the Jets are among those at the top.

Every year, Jets fans look for answers. Almost every season, something else goes wrong.

So what can make this year different? Not too many people expect the Jets to make the playoffs, but the offseason is a time for hope. What needs to happen for the New York Jets to beat the odds and play postseason football?

It all starts with the quarterback

We don’t need to remind Jets fans of Zach Wilson‘s historically poor rookie season statistically. Regardless, there’s still optimism and faith among fans that Zach can make the leap.

Wilson does not need to become Joe Burrow overnight for this team to succeed, but he must, at the bare minimum, be better than Jimmy Garoppolo has – probably somewhere in the 2020 Ryan Tannehill neighborhood.

Though Wilson’s upside is far higher than that, we want to see him grow as a strong game manager with more big-play potential than either of the above QBs. Make the easy throws. Complete 65% of your passes. Throw close to 25 TDs. Get near 4,000 yards passing. Cut down on the sacks and picks. Stay healthy.

Be near average at stopping the run and above average at stopping the pass

The Jets’ defense was bad in all areas last year. With the personnel they currently have, it’s likely that the run defense will struggle.

The pass defense was well reinforced, though. Ending up somewhere in the 16-19 range league-wide against the run and top 10 against the pass can propel the Jets forward.

Rush the passer and get there

The return of Carl Lawson and the drafting of Jermaine Johnson are the key pieces here. John Franklin-Myers sliding back inside also increases the potency of the Jets’ attack. As Robert Saleh has said, the heat will force a QB into mistakes. The Jets need to get into the QB’s head.

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Pound the rock

In the era of high-powered passing attacks, Jonathan Taylor and Derrick Henry have shown what the value of a running back can still be.

Luckily, the Jets have two supremely talented ball carriers and a veteran insurance option. Mike LaFleur has committed to the 49ers’ wide-zone running system. Witnessing the success of relatively unknown players in that system gives confidence that Breece Hall and Michael Carter will thrive.

A top-five running game would take tremendous pressure off of Zach Wilson and the defense, shortening the game and allowing Wilson to manage the game and take shots when warranted.

Win the easy games

The Jets have to go 4-0 against the Bears, Jaguars, Lions, and Seahawks. Not optional.

Split within the division, at minimum

This means beating either New England or Miami twice or upsetting the Bills once. The Jets are 0-12 against the division in the past two seasons. That must change.

Split within the AFC North, at minimum

I personally believe the Jets have a chance to go 3-1 against the AFC North. Still, they need to come out with at least two wins in those four games to have a shot at postseason contention.

Of the remaining games, win AT LEAST one of Minnesota, Denver, and Green Bay

It’s debatable whether 10 wins will be enough to get into the playoffs in the competitive AFC, but bear in mind that many of the top teams will play each other multiple times throughout the season. Chances are that the North and West divisions will have a lot of jostling for position, leading to lower win totals than might be expected.

If 10 wins are enough, this category is simple: beat Minnesota. If not, they’ll have to do better in their division, beat an extra team in the AFC North, or, most dauntingly, beat either Green Bay or Denver. I do not believe the third is going to happen despite Green Bay’s potential jet lag.

When you break down the Jets’ schedule this way, it doesn’t seem so impossible. There are actually a few paths forward to the playoffs. Still, the collective hearts of Jets fans have been broken too many times to have such expectations until the Jets prove that they’re not just a team of potential.

Joe Douglas said that he wants to be playing meaningful games in December. Let’s see if the Jets can extend that to January.

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Rivka Boord has followed the Jets since the age of five. She is known locally for her in-depth knowledge of football. She hopes to empower young women to follow their dreams and join the sports conversation. Boord's background in analytics infuses her articles with unique insights into the state of the Jets' franchise and the NFL as a whole.
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Edward Kirby
Edward Kirby
3 months ago

To me, the big question as far as the AFC playoffs this year is: how many teams from the West are going to the post-season? I don’t think all four can make it. It’s just mathematically difficult, if not impossible for that to happen in a 17-game/32 team/14 playoff slot NFL season. [Hypothetically, even if all four teams split their intradivisional games 3-3, and then all four go 8-3 on the others, for a four-way tie, that still leaves the “last place team” at 11-6. Some other second-place team in one of the other three divisions is likely to have a better record. And any other scenario leaves the last place team with a worse record.] But three playoff teams from the West is possible this year. I’m going to say it’s even likely.

Because of that, I don’t think IND (or any other team from the South) will make it as a WC. [The West plays the South in intraconference games this year. OTOH, they also play the NFC East, so…] But let’s say (for the sake of discussion) that TEN wins that division, and IND sits out the post-season with (at best) a 10-7 record. [Not a prediction.]

Which means the East and the North will battle it out to see which one team snags the remaining WC slot. If we pencil in BUF as the champ in the East (not exactly a longshot bet there), then we see two playoff slots split among BAL (perennial contender), PIT (perennial contender), NE (perennial contender), defending AFC champ CIN, CLE (with their shiny new QB), MIA (with their shiny new WR) and the plucky NYJ. And one of those two slots goes to the North divisional winner. [To add to the fun, those two divisions play each other this year in intraconference games.]

Thus, we have six of those seven teams fighting for the remaining slot. [If you’re a fan of the ponies, add IND and make it seven of eight.]

Are the NYJ the best team among those six or seven teams?

As you can see, the issue is not “are the NYJ are a playoff team?”, but rather “how insanely good is the AFC (especially the West) this year?”

Edward Kirby
Edward Kirby
3 months ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

Yes. Plus that under-reported-on bugaboo for all NFL teams, the injuries, which will doom a few of those 11 teams (along with the Chargers and the Bills; shall I assume they are on your short list to make it to the AFC championship game?) before the season even begins.

But my point is that whole host of things need to go wrong with *half* of those 13 teams while nothing goes wrong with the NYJ. On top of that, none of these teams will experience the opposite of bad breaks, which are lucky bounces. In a normal, bell curve-like probability distribution, the odds on that happening are not something I’d bet my pension on.

I certainly hope I’m wrong here. But my definition of a successful season this year is getting to somewhere in the neighborhood of .500; seven or eight wins will do. My expectations for success go something like what Dallas achieved in the ’90s. Their first year under new coach Jimmy Johnson (1989) they went 1-15. The next year was a .500 year; 7-9. The year after that they made the playoffs and even won a game before being eliminated. The next year, finally, they won it all. Four years from basement to the penthouse. I’m OK with that. Three years from now, maybe the AFC won’t be so muscle-bound; who knows?

So, this year I’m only looking forward to watching the NYJ make some of the above-referenced teams with playoff hopes miserable in November and December. When I was watching the Super Bowl a few months back, I kept saying to myself that the NYJ beat CIN last year and the LAR the year before. [Similar sentiments in the CIN-TEN playoff game.] “Any given Sunday,” eh?

Edward Kirby
Edward Kirby
3 months ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

So… just out of curiosity: how many teams do you see coming out of the AFC West this post-season?

Edward Kirby
Edward Kirby
3 months ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

I’d go with Vegas as well.

BTW, I was just thinking: if the NYJ *do* go the way of the 90’s Cowboys, then Jamal Adams would be our Herschel Walker. 🙂

ncjetsfan
ncjetsfan
3 months ago

Great article, Rivka! Thanks!

gpapanj
gpapanj
3 months ago

Great article, Rivka. Thanks! Excellent breakdown of the pathway. I think they will split with Miami and NE.

Ray Lizzi
Ray Lizzi
3 months ago

I enjoy reading your articles,I look forward to following them throughout the season,along with robbies

Jimjets
Jimjets
3 months ago

Brilliant. I concur on all points. And I believe you laid out the path I see to 10-7.

Jimjets
Jimjets
3 months ago
Reply to  Rivka Boord

We can only hope, but your points about the Central, our division and opponents we should beat were spot on. We have to stay healthy, the kid has to keep improving and we prolly need a ball or two to bounce our way, but hey…we’re due. And the roster is so vastly improved. Can’t wait.

Robert725
Robert725
3 months ago

Yes, they will do better this year, vastly improved in most areas. Just keep the pressure on the other Q.B. and control the time of possession! Can’t wait! Just extend THIS season!