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Thursday, October 13, 2011
Playoffs!? Jets have rocky road ahead

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

In 2010, the New York Jets didn't lose their third game until Dec. 6 -- the 45-3 Boston Massacre to the New England Patriots.

At 2-3, the current Jets are two months behind last year's schedule, which means they're in serious catch-up mode. The math says they're a long shot to make the playoffs. Since 1990, when the current playoff format began, 21 percent of the teams that started 2-3 have reached the postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Hope is fading and the upcoming schedule is difficult. Six of their remaining 11 games are against teams with winning records, and five of those contests are before Week 14.

Here's a road map to the playoffs. To get to 10 wins, usually the magic number, the Jets need to go 8-3.


THE PRE-BYE BATTLES

The Jets have back-to-back home games before their bye, starting with the winless Miami Dolphins (0-4) on Monday night.

On many levels, this is a must-win. A fourth straight loss would be a crippling blow to their chances, not to mention the impact it would have on the team's psyche. If the offense emerges from its funk, it'll help their chances the following week against the explosive San Diego Chargers (4-1), who have been beating up on bad teams.

The Jets can turn around the season if they're 4-3 at the bye. If the record is 3-4, they're on life support.


NOVEMBER: AFC EAST MONTH

This month will decide the Jets' fate. You're talking about four conference games and three divisional games, including a home-and-home with the surprising Buffalo Bills (4-1) and a home game with the Patriots (4-1). Sandwiched in between is a Thursday night affair at the Denver Broncos (1-4), who are trying to return to respectability under Tim Tebow.

Before the season, most everybody thought the Bills games would be gimme wins, but they have something special going. The Jets travel to Buffalo on Nov. 6, coming out of the bye -- their biggest road game remaining on the schedule. If the Jets want to take a stand, and if they want to keep the title of "Best Team in the Division Not Named the Patriots," they need to beat the Bills. Period.

Next, the Patriots come to town. The Jets have won two straight at home against Bill Belichick, and if they don't make it three, they can kiss the division goodbye.

The Jets are a better team than the Broncos, no question, but are they a better team on only three days' rest, after a long flight, playing in the altitude of the Mile High City? It could be a tricky game. The month ends at home with the Bills, another huge game.

Bottom line: The Jets must get to December with at least a 6-5 record to give themselves a chance for a late push.


DECEMBER: NFC EAST MONTH

The complexion here could change dramatically by December. Are the Washington Redskins (3-1) for real? Are the Philadelphia Eagles (1-4) really this bad? Will the New York Giants (3-2) avoid their usual late-season collapse?

Chances are, the Jets will need to win at least four of five games, which means you're playing with very little margin for error. That's always dangerous, especially when three out of five are on the road -- at Washington, at Philadelphia and at Miami on New Year's Day.

They also face the Kansas City Chiefs (2-3), at home, and the Chiefs are starting to right their ship after a brutal start.

The Jets have depth issues at several positions, and age is becoming a factor in certain spots. They could be out of gas by December.

Let's face it, the Jets have a tough road. Can they win eight out of 11? Sure. A year ago, they started 9-2. But as we've seen over the past couple of weeks, there's no resemblance to last season's team.