A look at what has to happen for the New York Jets to get into the playoffs

What has to happen for the Jets to get into the playoffs?

Pay no attention to those playoff standings that say the Jets would make the playoffs if the playoffs started today. They would make the playoffs if they started today but they don't start today, so ignore the current standings.

The standings you're looking at have the Jets in the sixth, and final, playoff spot in the AFC which would, understandably, cause some of you to think the Jets control their own destiny but in fact they do not. It's actually the Chiefs (currently the fifth seed) and the Steelers (currently the non-existent seventh seed) who control their own destiny.

Obviously this sounds confusing, so let's break it down.

All three teams have records of 8-5, since the Jets didn't play either of the Steelers or Chiefs the head-to-head loss the Steelers had to the Chiefs would be irrelevant if all three teams finish with the same record, and if they all finish with the same record the first tiebreaker would be conference record. The Chiefs are currently 7-2 against AFC opponents, the Jets are 6-4 in conference and the Steelers are 5-4. Because the Steelers have one less conference win the current standings show that the Jets would be in the playoffs over the Steelers but the Jets only have two games left against AFC opponents while the Steelers and Chiefs have three.

This means if all three teams win out the Chiefs would get the fifth seed with a 10-2 conference record and the Jets and Steelers would be tied with records of 8-4. Which takes us to the next tiebreaker, win percentage against common opponents, and unfortunately for the Jets the Steelers would win this tiebreaker.

In order for this tiebreaker to come into play the two teams must have faced at least four common opponents and that's exactly how many the Jets and Steelers have faced. Both teams have played the Patriots, Raiders, Browns and Colts but the Jets lost to the Patriots and Raiders while the Steelers only lost to the Patriots. This would give the Steelers the final playoff spot and leave the Jets and their fans fuming that teams from the AFC South and NFC East will have a losing record yet, not only, make the playoffs but also host a home game in the playoffs while the Jets get left out at 11-5 or 10-6.

There are many, convoluted, ways the Jets can make the playoffs but the simplest way to look at it is the Jets need to win their final three games and get a little bit of help or they could make it in with one more loss but they would need a ton of things to fall their way. 

If the Jets win out all they need is for either the Steelers or the Chiefs to lose one game. The Steelers have a tough matchup against the Broncos next week but then have two favorable matchups against the Browns and the Ravens (so Jets fans will be temporary Broncos fans next week unless you want to root for the Broncos to lose all of their remaining games and finish 10-6, same would go for the Bengals too. See, convoluted) and the Chiefs finish against the Ravens, Browns and Raiders. Again the Ravens and Browns are favorable matchups for the Chiefs, so the best chance for a Chiefs loss would come against the Raiders.

There is, however, one simple scenario where the Jets could lose one of their last three games and still get in but that would involve the Jets losing to the Cowboys and beating the Patriots and Bills. If the Steelers were to lose any of their last three games, since they are all against AFC opponents, it would give them five losses within the conference and if the Jets beat the Patriots and Bills they would only have four conference losses and would then get in. Of course it would obviously be better for the Jets to win out and just hope the Steelers and/or Chiefs just lose one measly game.

The loss of Andy Dalton for the Bengals opens up the door for the Steelers to win the AFC North but in that scenario the Bengals would need to lose out and they would also hold tiebreakers over the Jets, if the Jets also lose one more game and they finish with the same record, based on record against common opponents (they each played the Raiders, Bills, Browns and Texans with the Bengals goin 4-1 and the Jets 1-3). And with the Broncos losing yesterday there's one other scenario where the Jets could get in and that would involve the Chiefs winning out and winning the AFC West and the Broncos either losing their last three games to finish 10-6 or losing two of their last three and finishing 11-5.

The Jets and Broncos would have the same overall record in this scenario but the Jets would win the conference record tiebreaker. The Broncos are currently 6-3 in conference with all three remaining games in conference, if they lost two of them they would finish with a conference record of 7-5 and if the Jets beat the Patriots and Bills they would have a conference record of 8-4. And just so you know what we're talking about here, the Broncos last three games are against the Steelers, Bengals (no Dalton remember) and the Chargers.

So, basically it's all a giant jumbled mess. There are a few different ways things could break for the Jets to get in but everything could also break in a way where the Jets could win out, finishing the season on a six-game win streak and 11-5 and still miss the playoffs. 


Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (

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