Robert Saleh has a good reason why he is not letting himself get wrapped up in hypothetical playoff scenarios and going over the Jets’ remaining schedule trying to count up wins and losses.
“Too much crap to do, man,” the head coach said with a laugh Wednesday. “It doesn’t mean that when you’re sitting there, you don’t take a peek to see what’s ahead, but you quickly got to, like I said, you acknowledge it, and you know it’s not like it’s an elephant in the room, it’s not like you’re not going to acknowledge it, but none of it matters at the end of the day. You got to quickly refocus back to what’s important, and what’s important is this moment.”
That has been Saleh’s message to the Jets this week — stay in the moment.
He does not want his players, who are sitting at 7-4 and heading into a showdown with the Vikings (9-2) on Sunday, looking past that game and dreaming about ending the team’s 11-year playoff drought.
It’s a good message for the Jets … but not for those of us on the outside looking in.
As the calendar turns to December, it feels like the perfect time to look ahead and dig in on the Jets’ final six games. What will it take for them to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010?
Looking at the AFC standings, there are nine teams for seven playoff spots. Let’s say the Chiefs and Titans win their divisions. The AFC North will go to either the Ravens or Bengals. The AFC East will be won by either the Dolphins or Bills.
That would leave the Jets fighting with the runner-up in the North and the East, along with the Patriots and Chargers, for three playoff berths — five teams for three wild-card spots.
Looking at the way things set up, it is probably going to take 10 wins to get a wild card.
That means the Jets need three wins. Do your best “Mike and the Mad Dog” impression and go down the schedule, ‘Uhhh, it’s going to be cold, they might be thinking about Christmas, give ’em a loss.’ ”
Looking at the schedule, you’d expect the Jets to win home games against the Lions and Jaguars, both currently 4-7. That means they would have to steal at least one of these road games: at the Vikings (9-2), Bills (8-3), Seahawks (6-5) or Dolphins (8-3).
Those are not easy games. You have to expect the Jets will be underdogs in all of those road games. They have the fifth toughest remaining schedule, according to Tankathon. Only one team with which they are jockeying for position has a tougher schedule — the Bengals, who have the fourth-toughest. The Chargers have the easiest schedule of those in contention, at 26th. All of that could lead to major scoreboard watching for Jets fans.
So this playoff push could come down to the Jets doing what they are supposed to do against weak Lions and Jaguars teams at home — which they have done this year, including Sunday over the Bears — and then finding a way to come out with a win in a road game.
While Saleh and his team try to ignore the playoff scenarios, everyone on the outside can play the “what if” game. Saleh acknowledged that people in his life, including his kids, want to talk about the playoffs and what it will take to get there.
“Everyone’s excited and everyone should be excited, but it’s the hypotheticals and all the scenarios that those are great talking points for the rest of the outside world,” Saleh said. “We just have to stay focused here.”
That is fine for Saleh and his players. But for Jets fans, who are used to discussing who the top draft picks are by this point in the season, this December will be a rare treat. It will be a chance to dream about the playoffs and what it will take for Mike White to lead them there over the next six weeks.
This could be a December to remember for the Jets.