Sunday, December 20, 2009

Jets Choke to Atlanta 10-7, But Playoff Hopes Still Alive?

Just when you thought they couldn't find another way to lose...

3 missed field goals. A 4th down conversion. Numerous stupid penalties. The Jets did everything they could to shoot themselves in the foot, and it ended up costing them the game. The Jets took a shot to the gut, losing another heartbreaker, this time 10-7 to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Jets held the Falcons offense down the entire game, stuffing Atlanta's running game throughout and holding Matt Ryan to a putrid completion percentage.

Until the final drive, that is, where Ryan converted two third downs and a fourth down. The Jets were one play away from all but sealing victory, but they could not stop Tony Gonzalez on a quick curl. Rex Ryan was livid at his defense, as he said they had practiced for that play, and they did not execute. He did not name names.

The focal point of the loss is the defensive lapse, but overall, they played very well. The big plays; interceptions, fumbles, even sacks weren't there, but 10 points allowed is more than good enough for an offense to win.

The Jets' only points came on a 65-yard touchdown bomb to Braylon Edwards. It was a well-thrown ball and Edwards gained separation (and actually made the catch), but that was it. The running game struggled all game, as again the Jets went the conservative route. Brian Schottenheimer played not to lose, which isn't the worst thing with a rookie quarterback.

Mark Sanchez did not have one of his better days. 18-32 for 226 yards and a touchdown is fine, but three interceptions are not. His first and last drives ended in picks, and he was very up and down, with more downs than ups. Braylon Edwards helped him out a lot, and Jerricho Cotchery was an effective possession receiver, but Sanchez's decision making must continue to improve if the Jets have any hope the next two weeks. The Colts and Bengals will feast on his mistakes.

Still, you could even argue that he put the Jets in position to win. While 7 is an ugly total, he set the offense up for three makeable field goals, all of which were blown by the James Dearth-Kellen Clemens-Jay Feely troika. If they make one, the game is probably in overtime, and if they make two, they probably win. Instead, the Jets are again saying woulda-coulda-shoulda, which seems to be the story of the season so far.

But once you get past the loss, and you look at the standings, it's not as unrealistic as you might think to make the playoffs.

Here's the simplest form of what must happen for the Jets to get into the playoffs.

Must happen
Jets win out.
Miami loses once (HOU, PIT)

2 of these 3 scenarios must happen
Denver loses once (at PHI, KC)
Baltimore loses once (at PIT, at OAK)
Jacksonville loses once (at NE, at CLE)

The Jets have the tiebreakers over Houston, Tennessee, and Pittsburgh, so those teams are irrelevant as far as the Jets are concerned. I'd say the most unlikely event of all those scenarios happening is the Jets winning out, so if they do take care of business, everything else could actually fall into place.

Sound like 2002? An ugly loss to an NFC team in week 15 seemingly eliminating all hope, followed by an improbable run to the playoffs at 9-7? It's possible, and they will have to defeat the unbeaten Colts in their home building with an extra few days of rest. They may not play their starters as much, but would you trust this defense against Peyton Manning with the game on the line? Based on what we've seen so far, the answer cannot be yes.