By Jason Keidel
Week 10 is a stark and startling barometer in the NFL.
Since 1990, teams that go 6-4 have made the playoffs more than 60 percent of the time.
Teams that open 5-5?
Just 29 percent.
That’s what the Jets did Sunday. They cut their postseason chances in half and sent their typically mixed, mediocre message to the league and their fans. The difference between 6-4 and 5-5 is more than statistical. If the season ends in a sprawling tiebraking algorithm, leaving Gang Green one variable short of January, they need look no farther than Orchard Park, N.Y. for the answer.
Simply, they blew it in Buffalo.
There are games that define a team, a time, and a season. This was the Jets’ best — and likely only — chance to put a choke-hold on the last wild card spot. Two games above .500 would have given them a certain latitude and confidence that they not only belong, but are also better than the sagging pack pining for the final playoff spot.
But that would be too much to expect for a team so schizophrenic that they’ve actually become predictable. No matter who they play the pathology has been perfect so far this year. They are the corporeal cliche: expect the unexpected.
The Jets are the only team in NFL history to win and and then lose each of their first 10 contests. Leave it to Gang Green to make such a dubious mark, a microcosm of the last 40 years — equal parts hope, hype, part horror. And in a league that promotes and protects the quarterback, the Jets will find all their answers, or no answers, in their young signal-caller.
Who is Geno Smith? The promising rookie who played beyond his years? The one who showed great maturity by apologizing to his team for a poor showing? Or the one with the microscopic QBR? The bewildered rookie on Sunday who made Bubby Brister look like Joe Montana?
No matter how stout their defense looks, how hard Chris Ivory runs, or how helpful the returning, receiving pillars Santonio Holmes and Kellen Winslow may be, none of it will matter if Smith keeps coughing up the football with Sanchezian frequency.
Throwing eight touchdowns and 16 interceptions is not sustainable. The wisdom among the wiseguys is that you don’t often win a game alone, but you can easily lose it. Smith needs to hitch his wagon to that ancient axiom.
So many fans didn’t understand why Buffalo was slightly favored Sunday, despite the disparity in records. Don’t ever question Las Vegas. Just study the spreads around the league. New Orleans was favored by three points and won by a field goal. The Broncos were favored by nine and won by 10. The Bears were favored by two and won by three.
Bill Parcells famously said you are what your record says you are. Even in the stone-cold calculus of pro football, where wins are the final say on all matters, the Jets still matter despite their disappearance Sunday, where it was unusually warm and they were unusually cold.
The Jets just never handle success with any aplomb. Once they beat the Saints and inherited that sickening “Sons of Anarchy” moniker, you had a feeling they were about to step into a beehive. Rex even took them to a Dave & Busters the night before the game, for reasons only he understands.
Who are the Jets? The team that beat New England and New Orleans? Or are they the team that got their doors blown off by Buffalo, following ghastly losses to Tennessee and Cincinnati?
Are they the team that rallies behind their formerly corpulent coach or the one that looks like they’ve never played professional football? Are they the team that drafted the gem Sheldon Richardson or the one that bombed with Dee Millner?
Are they the team that looks so good at home or the one that couldn’t beat Alabama on Sunday?
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
You May Also Be Interested In These Stories