Win and We're In. There's been a lot of furious speculation on GGN over the last month about who to root for, the different tie breaking procedures, strength of schedule down the stretch, etc. And rightfully so. That's what average to above-average teams (and their fans) have to do when they are on the brink. After a discouraging loss in Houston to the TJ Yates led Texans, the 5-5 Jets were the definition of on the brink. Few teams have the luxury of controlling their playoff destiny in the last few weeks of the season. Thanks to 5 straight victories, the New York Jets are now one of those teams.
The Jets last made a postseason appearance in 2010, but they actually clinched their berth thanks to a Week 16 loss by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jets failed to take care of their own business that week in Chicago against the Bears, but the Jets flew home that day as official playoff contenders. The last time the Jets experienced a necessary "win and we're in" Week 17 game, similar to this upcoming matchup against the Bills, was the year before in 2009 against the Bengals.
That '09 team led by rookie Mark Sanchez was the first team in NFL history to make the postseason after enduring two separate 3 game losing streaks. You might remember Rex Ryan publicly proclaiming that the 4-6 Jets were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. You might also remember that team catching every conceivable break, including the undefeated Colts pulling Peyton Manning and other key starters in Week 16. That win over Indianapolis put the Jets at 8-7 and officially in control over their playoff destiny.
The following week the Jets hosted the AFC North Champion Bengals on an absolutely frigid night in the Meadowlands. The Jets absolutely pummeled the Bengals from start to finish, defeating Cincinnati by a score of 37-0. Brad Smith had a career night for the Jets, running for 57-yards on the first possession, while later adding a 32-yard touchdown run. Carson Palmer went 1-11 for 0 yards (not a typo) and an interception before being pulled in the 3rd quarter with the Jets lead in hand. Despite locking up home field and the AFC North prior to this game, the Bengals may have fell victim to backing into the playoffs, as they lost to the Jets again the following week in the Wild Card round.
It's been 6 years since a do-or-die win and we're in game. Though this isn't quite 100% do-or-die, it's hard to imagine the Steelers losing to the Browns. The playoffs have come a week early for Jets nation.