The Jets are about to enter unfamiliar territory — a playoff chase.
For the first time in seven years, the Jets are truly in the thick of the AFC playoff race with six games left in the season. They are playing meaningful games in December — something that was a stated goal from members of the organization in the offseason.
“You acknowledge the fact that we’ve got a chance to play some cool games,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “And we acknowledge the opportunity that we have, but the opportunity doesn’t exist if we focus on our moment. … You got to focus on the process. If you’re busy counting wins and looking at things you have zero control over, you’re missing on the opportunity to focus on the things you have control over. So, while we acknowledge our opportunity, hopefully we recognize that that opportunity won’t exist if we’re not taking care of our jobs.”
The Jets would be the No. 7 seed if the season ended now, so they are in control of their playoff lives. They begin the final push to make it there Sunday in Minnesota against a 9-2 Vikings team.
“We got a great opponent we’re going to go visit,” Saleh said. “They’re vying for their number one seed. They’ve got championship thoughts on their mind, so we got a great challenge on our hands, but for us, we just got to stay in the moment and focus on us. Just like you dig on the tape when you lose to find ways to get better, you got to do the same digging when you win and find ways to continue to get better. Confident group, we just got to continue to keep that confidence and continue to prepare the way we know how.”
The Jets came to life on Sunday against the Bears with Mike White at quarterback. White will now face a tougher challenge playing the Vikings on the road, even though the Vikings have the worst passing defense in the NFL, allowing 276.1 yards per game through the air. The Jets also have road games with the Bills, Seahawks and Dolphins on the schedule, so grabbing their first playoff berth in 12 years won’t be easy.
The last time the Jets even sniffed the playoffs was in 2015 when they won five games in a row to make it to 10-5 entering the final week of the season. Those Jets were upset by the Bills in Buffalo and the Jets have not been close to the playoffs since.
At 7-4, the Jets have their best record through 11 games since 2010. They have been 3-8, 4-7, 3-8, 4-7, 0-11 and 3-8 through 11 games in each season since 2016.
“It’s great to be where we are,” Saleh said. “We expected to have a competitive football team, but at the same time we haven’t accomplished anything, there’s still six games left. There’s still a lot of football to be had, we’ve got six really good opponents that we get to go play, first one being Minnesota. I always say there’s only one team happy at the end of the year, and the focus, you just got to focus on your moment. It’s awesome to be where we are right now, like we said playing meaningful games, it’s fun, it gives you purpose, it allows you to play for something more than just a paycheck. But at the same time, we’ve just got to focus on our moment.”
The Jets signed RB Jonathan Ward and LB Kai Nacua to the practice squad. They released DL Marquiss Spencer and WR Diontae Spencer from the practice squad.
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