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Three Games Will Determine Course of New York Jets Season

In a watered down AFC playoff picture, the Jets are very much alive and these next three games will tell if they truly are.

Florham Park, N.J. - The seed was planted. Despite a discouraging 2-5 record heading into Week Eight of the NFL season, the New York Jets are shockingly still alive in a watered down conference days after experts and critics (possibly even fans too) pronounced them dead at the scene. As the team approaches the next portion of their schedule, a total of zero teams the Jets play in the next three weeks made the postseason in 2015 and are far from elite this year. Wait a second - the Jets have a chance? 

As crazy as it sounds - yes - the New York Jets are still alive in the playoff picture. It sounds absurd. It sounds insane. It sounds ridiculous. But, it is true. Nobody is denying the fact things look bleak. The end of the tunnel is still far from sight. Yet - if three wins come against the Cleveland BrownsMiami Dolphins and Los Angeles Rams, suddenly every light in that tunnel gets turned on. 

"I never lost hope," head coach Todd Bowles said after his team handled the Baltimore Ravens 24-16 on Sunday. 

Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. Either way, his team should share that same sentiment going into the next three games. Amid an offseason of financial controversies and a regular season of mediocre secondary play and hapless offensive execution, the Jets are very much alive and kicking in the AFC. 

One game does not a season make. But, three will. The way they play during the next three weeks will determine whether or not this team is a pretender or a contender. At 2-5, the notion may be pretender - but don't look now - a spark may have been lit Sunday afternoon. Against the Ravens - the Jets played inspired in certain stretches while dominant in others. Their defense had arguably their strongest performance of the season holding Baltimore to just six rushing yards. Call it crazy but the facts are there. 

New York must bottle the energy they played with Sunday and use it moving forward. Their first task: a winless Cleveland Browns team. Coming off an important victory against the Ravens, the Jets must avoid the trap Cleveland will attempt to set. Every ounce of positivity will be drained away if the Jets cannot take advantage of the weak Browns. What makes matters more intriguing for the Jets, there are a lot of question marks surrounding the Browns on the injury front - Joe Haden is dealing with a faulty groin and the status of quarterbacks Cody Kessler (concussion), Charlie Whitehurst (knee) and Josh McCown (collarbone) remain up in the air. The Jets have no excuse - even without Geno Smith and with the inconsistencies of Ryan Fitzpatrick - they must handle the Browns to get to 3-5. 

It starts with one game at a time. There is no reason to fully look ahead - unless, of course, you are writing for the media. 

Following the trip to Cleveland, the Jets head south to Miami to face Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins. Last season, the Jets swept the season series with a 27-14 victory in London and a 38-20 destruction at MetLife Stadium. A win would not only put them at 4-5 and within striking distance but it would also put the Jets at 2-0 in the division and 4-3 against conference opponents - only if they beat the Browns. The Dolphins have played well at times (win at Pittsburgh, 30-15) but awful in others (loss vs. Tennessee, 30-17). The Jets defense must play well in that game against Jarvis LandryKenny Stills and Jay Ajayi

In an ideal world, the Jets will be riding a three game winning streak going back to MetLife Stadium to host the Rams on Nov. 13. But, let's remember anything can happen on a week-to-week basis in football. Who knows - maybe Bryce Petty is starting by then? 

Los Angeles has had a difficult time finding consistency in their offense. They have been limited to 10 points or fewer three times this season and the Jets get the pleasure of hosting a western-based team at 1 p.m. The Rams are 30th in the league in total offense but 11th in total defense. It will be another challenge for the Jets to play the same way they played against the Ravens - but not impossible. If the Jets could pull out the victory, they would be 5-5 entering the BYE. 

There is no denying the road to the postseason will be difficult. The Jets may even lose the next three games, which would make this entire idea irrelevant. These next three weeks will tell outsiders a lot about the 2016 New York Jets. It will be another chance for Ryan Fitzpatrick to prove himself and another chance for the defense to put the past behind them.

Seven teams ahead of the Jets are under .500 and three teams are one game over .500. If the Jets can be 5-5 entering their Week Eleven BYE, the postseason - as crazy as it sounds - can be a reality. 

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Joe Barone is a staff writer at JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@28JoeBarone), or via email (joebarone28@gmail.com)


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