The general consensus in the NFL community currently seems to be that the Bills are the best team in the AFC, and the Chiefs are number two.
The third best team seems to be a topic of debate. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell waded into the discuss weighing nine contenders for the spot. The Jets were among his candidates.
Right now, depending on how you slice it, the Jets have a credible case as the AFC’s third-best team. They’re tied for the second-best record in the conference behind the Bills. The Chiefs are with them at 4-2. And in comparison with the Chargers — the other 4-2 team — the Jets have a better point differential (plus-15 vs. minus-11). They also just pulled off one of the largest upsets of the season by blowing out the Packers 27-10 in Green Bay.
I’ll admit I wasn’t taking the Jets seriously before last week. It’s true they were 3-2, but their three wins had come over teams fielding backup quarterbacks. Jacoby Brissett played the entire game for the Browns, while the Steelers swapped out Mitch Trubisky for Kenny Pickett at halftime of their loss to New York. The Dolphins, already starting backup Teddy Bridgewater, were forced to turn to third-stringer Skylar Thompson after Bridgewater was injured in the first quarter. Getting the opposing team to play second- and third-string quarterbacks is a great way to win games, but it’s probably not sustainable.
Well, Aaron Rodgers is the reigning MVP, and the Jets just held him (and a garbage-time series from Jordan Love) to 10 points on 13 drives. The Packers had previous struggles on offense, but that’s the sort of defensive performance you can’t write off as an aberration or a product of overmatched competition. The Jets deserve a closer look.
You can click here to read his full take on the Jets along with his eight other contenders. Barnwell ultimately concludes the Jets are probably closer to an average team than the conference’s third best, but he doesn’t rule it out.
I think an article like this raises a bigger point, though. You could credibly argue that there are nine contenders to be the conference’s third best team. There just aren’t many elite clubs this year. Heck, at least four of the teams Barnwell mentions in the article are going to miss the Playoffs.
I feel like this is something we need to consider when we think about the path forward for the 2022 Jets. This team isn’t all the way there yet, but that’s true of almost everybody else in the AFC. It isn’t just about how the Jets do. It is also about the caliber of the competition.
Making the Playoffs this year in a conference with so much parity could come down to luck as much as skill. So far this season the Jets have gotten plenty of breaks to go their way, namely the caliber of the quarterbacks they have faced. Even Aaron Rodgers looked compromised last Sunday. This has allowed them to bank four early wins.
Let’s say the Jets are just an average team. If they play 6-5 football the rest of the way, they get to 10 wins which would mean a likely trip to the Playoffs.
I still don’t think a postseason berth is essential for this season to be a success. The legitimate progress key young players are making provides plenty of hope for the future. But maybe there is an open door for the Jets to make some noise in the AFC this year.