As a result of Justin Tucker’s 61-yard field goal attempt just barely going through the uprights and over the crossbar to give the Baltimore Ravens a two-point lead and the eventual win Monday night over the Detroit Lions, the Jets were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Before the season started, most Jets fans would’ve gladly signed up for the idea of still being alive for the postseason up until the final seconds of Week 15. Back in August, finding positive predictions for the team were next to impossible because they simply didn’t exist.
The Jets weren’t expected to win more than four games this year by most – while some even thought they would be the worst team in all of football.
Despite the low expectations and perceived lack of talent, you can’t help but feel that the Jets underachieved a little bit this season.
Maybe it’s because they teased us with a win on the road over the Atlanta Falcons that seemed a lot more impressive on October 7 than it does on December 17.
But the upset wins against the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium still hold up today, which makes some of the bad losses all the more maddening.
The team’s inconsistent ways throughout the first 10 games always made it appear as though a bad performance was a thing of the past and the Jets would just bounce back the next week.
Perhaps the fact that the Jets were still playing meaningful games with playoff implications into mid-December unnecessarily raised the bar to a place where it never should have been in the first place.
Yet there is still this nagging feeling of what could’ve been had this team not continuously shot themselves in the foot.
The defensive front seven has been too good to have been paired with such a weak secondary. It’s downright cruel to watch a run-stuffing defense that gets after the quarterback, only to give up a huge passing play on the next down.
Most playoff-bound teams wish they had young defensive linemen like Muhammad Wilkerson or Sheldon Richardson.
Then again, those teams playing in January can count their lucky stars they didn’t have to start cornerbacks like Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner on a weekly basis.
The big-name players with even bigger contracts such as Cromartie and receiver Santonio Holmes are especially frustrating. If only they were a few years younger or not living off their past reputation, things might have gone a lot differently.
No player has exemplified the Jets’ up-and-down nature though more than rookie quarterback Geno Smith. He has somehow played both a huge part in the team’s success yet a has been a major catalyst in their failures.
While Smith has been allowed to play through the many mistakes he’s made, and been given more leeway than the typical New York quarterback, a pressure-free environment on a last place team might have been a better way for him to get acclimated to the speed of the professional game.
Instead, Smith went from a first-year player learning on the job to a liability on a team trying to sneak into the postseason.
With only a couple games left to play, the Jets can aspire to achieve one of two goals.
By defeating the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins, the Jets can finish the season at 8-8 and carry some good vibes into the offseason. Depending on the situation, a victory over the Dolphins could even knock their AFC East rival out of the playoffs.
However, for a young team looking to add pieces to the puzzle, the Jets might be better off dropping their final two games and finishing at 6-10 – giving them better positioning in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Given the way this season has played out, it would only be fitting through if the Jets accomplished neither and ended the year at 7-9.