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AFC Mediocrity Is Jets' Best Friend Right Now

Lack of top dogs means Jets are still in the hunt

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Seriously, guys, we're not out of this thing.

    There's an old NFL saying attributed to former Jets coach Bill Parcells that your team is only as good as its record.

    Since the Jets are 5-5, that would mean that they are a mediocre team that has failed to distinguish itself in any meaningful way so far this season. That's rarely considered to be a good thing, especially when the season held such hope just two weeks ago, but it isn't the death knell it might be in other seasons.

    Mediocrity is the new black in the AFC, you see, which means that the Jets aren't nearly as close to seeing their torch go out as they probably should be after the way they played the last two weeks. With the exception of the Colts, every team in the conference has a record between 3-7 and 7-3 and that gives the Jets a fighting chance at a third straight ticket to the playoffs.

    The AFC is so screwy this season that the Patriots, who can tie the Ravens, Texans and Steelers for the best record in the conference with a win on Monday night, were being eulogized heading into last week's Jets game. You've got the Bills and Bengals, who were in the thick of the playoff race two weeks ago and sliding out of contention today, while the Dolphins are playing as well as any team even though their record is a rather ugly 3-7. 

    Put it all together and you can only come to the conclusion that the Jets have as good a chance as any team to wind up in the playoffs. Sure, they've got problems but find the team that's fighting for a Wild Card spot that doesn't.

    Mark Sanchez needs to play better. So do Ryan Fitzpatrick, Phillip Rivers, Colt McCoy and, even after Thursday night, Tim Tebow.

    The Jets have a subpar running game, but it's not like Chris Johnson, Reggie Bush and whoever is running for the Chiefs are any better. Injuries are a concern, but the Bengals have the same concern without the experience of the last two seasons to buoy their run.

    If you're looking for a reason to bet against Rex Ryan and company, it comes from the fact that the Jets have failed to take care of business in their own backyard to this point in the season. They are 4-5 in the AFC and they've lost to teams like the Broncos and Raiders who could be matched against them in a tiebreaker.

    But if they put together a winning streak, that becomes a moot point. The schedule isn't particularly daunting, no more so than the other contenders anyway, and they don't have to make up more than a game -- we're conceding a spot to the Ravens or Steelers -- on any team that they'll be battling for the final spot.

    They don't control their own destiny, but how could they hope to after the way they've played this season? Their heart is still beating, if only because everyone else is almost as disappointing as they've been this season.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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