The New York Jets are 5-7, they’re as anemic offensively as ever and head coach Rex Ryan is on as toasty of a seat as anybody in the National Football League. However, there’s still one last bastion of hope for Ryan.
The foul-mouthed mouthpiece of the Jets took the league by storm in 2009, earning wildcard berths in his first two seasons and guiding his embattled group of misfits into the AFC Championship game each of those years. However, since then, the Jets have been a blubbering display of general buffoonery.
Yet, despite being 5-7 and well on their way to a regime change, they’re still alive in the AFC wildcard race. They’re one of six teams vying for the sixth and final playoff slot in the conference, and while their shots are long, the fact that they even have a shot at all gives you a general glance into just how jumbled the AFC wildcard is.
The Baltimore Ravens are the current owners of No. 6 seed in the AFC, sitting at 6-6 and owning the tiebreaker over the Miami Dolphins (who beat the Jets on Sunday in a painstakingly awful matchup of bad teams in playoff contention) with a head-to-head win in Week Five. And just behind the two 6-6 squads are four more 5-7 teams in contention.
In the NFC, we run the risk of seeing two fledgling teams win bad divisions (the NFC East and the NFC North), but in the AFC, it appears as if the bad football is going to be played by the final wildcard team. The Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals are all comfortable playoff-caliber teams that lead their division, while the Kansas City Chiefs sit at 9-3 and proudly own the first AFC wildcard spot.
However, that battle for the No. 6-seed has devolved into a mud-wrasslin’ contest between the entire conference’s decidedly average afterthoughts.
The Ravens have simply plodded along, moving the ball offensively like it’s a tractor tire and playing the same brand of stellar defense we’ve come to expect from the defending world champs. Meanwhile, the Dolphins have made the Jets look like a nuclear family, yet they’ve somehow managed to post a 6-6 record without anyone taking notice.
The media hijacked the Dolphins season because we deemed Joe Philbin an unfit father and decided we’d rather raise the Miami Dolphins on our own, but Joe came kicking down doors and leaving a path of playoff destruction in his wake. It all wreaks of another greenlit Taken sequel to me.
The idea that the Ravens, Dolphins and Jets are all in playoff contention should draw you a refrigerator-worthy picture, but then when you factor in Tennessee, Pittsburgh and San Diego things get even more masochistically delightful.
The San Diego Chargers are sitting at 5-7 in arguably the NFL’s toughest division and they’ve been powered by as aw-shucksy of a daggum season as Philip “Laserface” Rivers has ever been able to muster. He’s not-so-quietly leading the league in completion percentage, and even though the Chargers schedule to finish the season isn’t really conducive to them making the playoffs, San Diego is still very much a factor in the AFC wildcard.
When it comes the Pittsburgh Steelers, they blew an amazing opportunity on Thanksgiving to reassert themselves as a playoff contender. However, they are still only a game off the pace at 5-7 and they host the Dolphins on Sunday in a game that will either allow them to remain in the AFC wildcard hunt or ultimately push them off the pace.
Then there’s Tennessee, who are the proud owners of head-to-head wins over all three of the other 5-7 teams in the race, making them the most likely of all to steal a playoff berth from the Dolphins and Ravens. They’ve got an incredibly difficult matchup on Sunday on the road in Denver, but if they can steal a win they could be favored in their last three games with a chance to get to 9-7.
Based on who we’ve got slugging it out for the final AFC wildcard race and their current records, 9-7 almost certainly gets it done.
In totality, the AFC wildcard picture is a nightmare. It’s a bunch of mediocre to downright bad football teams vying for a playoff spot that, in all likelihood, will wind up getting beaten up in Indianapolis or Cincinnati in the first round. However, it’s gonna add some drama to the final four weeks of the season, and should ultimately make for a pretty entertaining stretch run.