Why the Jets will be a dangerous playoff opponent if they get in

The combination of a dominant defensive front and a streaky quarterback make the Jets capable of beating the AFC's best teams.

| 11 months ago
(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

(Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

Why the Jets will be a dangerous playoff opponent if they get in


All too often NFL Wild Card teams are simply the next two best teams from that particular conference, but the 2015 New York Jets could be a wild-card team in the truest sense of the term.

This is a team that may not be as good as several others in the playoff picture, but they have the right elements in place to cause better sides problems — and we saw no clearer illustration of that than their overtime win Sunday over the Patriots.

The Jets have one of the best defensive fronts in football, and have somehow produced a legitimate edge-rush presence this season despite having a line of essentially four defensive tackles on the field most of the time.

The combined listed weight of the starting four-man line of Sheldon Richardson, Leonard Williams, Damon Harrison and Muhammad Wilkerson is 1,261 pounds, or an average of 315 per man. This in a league where edge rushers typically average 40, maybe 50 pounds lighter than that. The Jets have somehow been able to generate pass rush on the outside — something that has been a problem for them for years — by simply moving their best two interior rushers out there and letting them do to offensive tackles and tight ends what they were doing to guards and centers.

That legitimate edge threat has allowed Leonard Williams and Damon Harrison to dominate on the inside, and means the Jets have a defensive line that can cause even the best offensive lines in the league problems. One of the quirks of this year’s playoffs is that many of the teams likely to make the field do not have the best offensive lines in the league. In fact, many have among the poorer units in football.

We saw yesterday what the Jets could do to the Patriots offensive line, beating it for 10 total pressures even if they were unable to get Tom Brady to the ground (on a play charged to the line), and being even more dominant in the run game, but Denver’s line isn’t much better. Houston’s offensive line isn’t as bad as either New England’s or Denver’s, but is far from formidable, especially in certain spots, and the same can be said for Kansas City’s. In fact, the only team with a real chance of making the playoffs that could face the Jets in Round 1 that has an offensive line of any quality is Cincinnati.

The Bengals have three-fifths of a great line, with Andre Smith and Russell Bodine dragging it down from its previous heights.

On paper, the Jets defensive front has a crushing advantage over almost any of the AFC’s playoff teams in the trenches, giving the back end a huge boost in any game they play.

On the other side of the ball, Ryan Fitzpatrick may not be a great quarterback, but he gives his receivers chances to make plays more than any other passer in the league. That isn’t necessarily a compliment, in that it will result in some horrendous passes being thrown that have no business ever being attempted, but it does make him dangerous, and can result in a stretch of play where the results are fantastic.

In Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, Fitzpatrick has a pair of receivers who can take advantage of those passes and win 50-50 balls, generating production and big plays where other quarterbacks wouldn’t even take the shot.

Running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell have both flashed big plays this season, and all of those pieces together to make this Jets offense extremely dangerous, if not consistently strong.

There may be better teams than the Jets heading into the postseason should they make it (and former head coach Rex Ryan has the chance to spoil it for them, if his Bills beat the Jets next week and the Steelers also win), but there are few as dangerous or well-crafted to exploit the weaknesses of the stronger teams on paper.

The Jets may earn themselves a Wild Card spot and prove to be a true wild-card team.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Erik Hild

    It really depends on which Jets team shows up. The Jets team that won yesterday would be a dangerous team to face but if they play like they did against Dallas they won’t make it past the wild card round

  • Albert Ross

    Even though the Jets are playing better they just barely manged to beat the Patriots who looked like they where playing the game in preseason mode.

    • Drew

      Nah bro it only looked like that because the Patriots playing with fifth stringers at every position except QB. The Jets came out strong but need to stay consistent throughout the game.

    • Nick

      the score line also doesnt represent how dominant the jets were that game. Fitz missed 2 open TDs on deep passes and the pats scored on more or less a fluke fumble recovery

    • philip

      must be another arrogant patriots fans, that loves smelling his own farts… until the patriots strip sack that went for a td the jets had the chance to stomp on the throats of the patriots… 17-6 with the ball, the jets dominated most of the game… the jets made the plays they needed to, if the patriots are in as you say “preseason mode”, to quote Bill Parcells ur only as good as ur last game, so ur team better wake from ur “preseason mode” and start getting healthy otherwise ur golden boy might get hurt in the playoffs… have a nice day

      • Albert Ross

        It’s not arrogance, it’s
        confidence.

        • HakeemA

          Stfu…you sound dumber then NY Giant fans!

        • John Smith

          Ten bucks says this guy got his balls deflated by Tom Brady

        • Bill Manley

          oh no. it is arrogance. that is crystal clear. Whenever the Patriots lose, there are 100 excuses. They weren’t full strength, the wind was not the right direction; blah blah blah. Fans can never just man up and say they got beat fair and square. That however is not arrogance. That is the definition of whiny cry babies. Just man up for once in your life. What are you going to do when Brady and Belichick retire? all commit mass suicide?

      • JointhePredacons

        Agreed. Even with replacements here and there. Brady and Gronk alone should have been able to dismantle and destroy the Jets. Especially with those short range, afraid to throw the ball long, passes Brady seems to only be able to.throw. what happened was the Jets defense was making him rush and not be able to set all day. That will happen again in the playoffs regardless of personnel. 5 wins in a row. They’re riding a wave of confidence. These Jets could be Super Bowl bound. That’s what Pats fans are upset about.

        • Chris Pelloc

          Regardless of the personnel? LOL. The Patriots were 1-10 on 3rd down. If you think the absence of Edelman and Amendola have nothing to do with that, you’re delusional. LaFell wasn’t even 100% either. Keshawn Martin was our #1 receiver that game. Not to mention the absence of Chung and McCourty.

          • James

            Gronk is their number one receiver always. Jets and pats always play tight games. There’s no need for excuses, jets were better in both games this year. Pats took the first one jets took the second. Hopefully we get to see a third!

        • philip

          knock of wood… but oh man that would be amazing.. honestly, the patriots haven’t been healthy all year and every time tom brady steps on the field he gives them a chance to win a football game regardless of his supporting cast… he can make anyone look good and turn them into studs… peyton manning did it with dallas clark and countless other players, tom brady did it with wes welker and julian edelman.. wes welker and dallas clark’s career’s took a nosedive once they stopped playing with those quarterbacks… just hope the jets can take care of business this last week in buffalo

          • JointhePredacons

            If we can beat the Pats I’m sure we can beat Buffalo. Knock on wood , crossing fingers, etc. We are on such momentum now, 5 game winning streak. The confidence and camaraderie in that locker room must be amazing. Love how the Jets winning got Pats fans all butthurt and defensive and more nasty then they usually are. Lol.

          • expat1007

            Nothing is guaranteed. I love our Jets. I love that is was looked at by many as a bunch of misfits led by a journeyman QB. I have so much respect for Bowles keeping the team on an even keel in both the good and bad days. I surely hope we can make it into the post season and I hope they decimate the Bills and shut Rex up. I have to say I am still a bit bitter about how Rex just kept taking our Jets down further and further each. He;s doing it with the Bills and I hope he tanks his team on Sunday.

  • 24AHAD

    Chiefs vs Jets would be very interesting

  • YankeesDoodle

    If jets make playoffs I can see them
    Beating Broncos, Texans or bengals

  • DinkSinger

    I’m a lifetime Jets fan, back to when they were the Titans. Yesterday the Patriots chose to lose. Running out the clock in the first half and at the end of regulation and chooslng to kickoff in overtime made it obvious that they would rather have the Jets in the playoffs instead of the Steelers.

    • JointhePredacons

      Regardless of what Belicheat said. Slater made a horrendous error in judgement. If you’re a lifetime fan you should know coaches can’t predict how the playoffs will go. Jets are just as good or better than the Steelers. Plus, if he’s playing the odds because of records its also retarded. The Jets this year are not the Jets of old. I know for a fact that Belicheat wanted to receive the ball. No team would throw a game for a favorable playoff setup. In fact I’m sure that’s illegal. How bout you just have faith that your team is a great team this year and not that our biggest rivals purposely let us win. OK. That’s not what a real fan would say.

      • DinkSinger

        Do you remember game 15 of the 2009 season when Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell pulled Peyton Manning and put in third string rookie Curtis Painter, then kept him in after the Jets came back to take the lead? That was another “horrendous error in judgement” designed to help the Jets make the playoffs. Caldwell did it despite the Colts being 14-0. He claimed that it was to rest his starters but is there really any difference between increasing your odds in the playoffs by losing a game so players are rested or so a team a coach judges inferior make the playoffs? The Jets won two playoff games and lost to the Colts in the AFC Championship game. I don’t remember if it would have been the Steelers or the Texans in the playoffs if the Colts hadn’t tanked that game but at the time Caldwell made the decision I suspect he was more concerned about the Steelers.

        I think that this year the Jets are a better team than the Steelers, but the question isn’t what you and I think, it is what Belichick thinks. You call the guy Belicheat but you don’t think he would “throw a game”? It is not illegal unless it is done in exchange for a bribe of some sort. (Deflategate was a crime because Brady paid off the guys who deflated the balls with shoes and jerseys. The jerk should be in prison.) It will be great when the Jets beat the Patriots in the Divisional Playoffs.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Fitzpatrick can go from being competent to dreadful in a heartbeat so the Jets defense has to keep the team out of situations where they have to rely on him heavily.

  • Back The Money Truck up….

    We got a good running game,arguably the best WR duo,top 5 Defense and a very serviceable QB….Why not us?? I agree-the Jets will be very DANGEROUS in the playoffs. ✈✈✈✈

    • crosseyedlemon

      It’s not a good sign when the highest compliment you can give your QB is “very serviceable”….lol.

      • Back The Money Truck up….

        I’m being honest….all we need him to do is manage the game and keep the turnovers down-it’s working so far.

  • bigtrip

    Last week, this article was about the Steelers. Let’s just all admit that we don’t have a clue and enjoy the games.

  • derek lundeen

    The reason the Jets are good is because they didn’t sit on there ass in the off season, instead they went out and got B Marsh, Revis Island, and Fitzmagic is 5 times better then Geno jaw breaker.