Although most of the playoff teams are set, there is one wild card that’s up for grabs. That’s the last spot in the AFC. Two teams have a shot at it. One is a club that has come on strong in the second half of the season, the New York Jets. The other that could end up in the playoff mix is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unlike the Jets, they have been on a rollercoaster ride all season.
In order for the Jets to be in the playoffs, they have to win outright, or if they lose, then the Steelers have to lose also. For Pittsburgh to be in the postseason the Steelers have to win and New York must lose. Both teams play at 1 pm on Sunday.
Coming Into the Game
The Jets (10-6) have won their last five. Before they went on that streak they were a .500 club. Big wins included a 23-20 victory against the Giants and a 26-20 OT win over the favored New England Patriots. The win against the Pats came last week. The Jets went on their streak after losing to the Bills 22-17 and Texans 24- 17. It’s hard to pinpoint what New York did to change their situation, but quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has noted that they simplified their offense, especially their passing attack, and altered formations. Whatever the case may be, the Jets look like a new team.
Buffalo, headed by former Jets coach Rex Ryan, comes into this final week of the NFL 2015 season having lost three of their last five. Two of the clubs they lost to, Washington and Kansas City, are playoff bound. The other was Philadelphia where the final score was 23-20. The two wins came against Houston, 30-21, a month ago, and last week against Dallas, 16-6. The Bills are struggling in all aspects of the game. They will need to put something together quickly to have a shot at the Jets.
Jets vs. Bills
For the second time this December NY quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week. In his last five games, Fitzpatrick is completing 65% of his passes. In those five wins, he has 13 TD passes and has thrown just one interception. His rating in those five games stands at over 100.
The Jets will look to Fitzpatrick to exploit what is a mediocre Buffalo defense.
Fitzpatrick will want to connect with wide outs Brandon Marshall (13 TDs) and Eric Decker (11 TDs). Both are listed as “probable.” If RB Chris Ivory can have a solid outing, something he has not done in awhile, that will help.
Buffalo QB Tyrod Taylor (63.6% COMP, 20 TDs, 6 INTs) is having a solid season. He’s best when he’s on the run, and often he is due to the lack of a sound Buffalo front line. Taylor has been sacked 34 times this season. Sunday’s game will be challenging, as a large number of Buffalo players are questionable. Offensive starters who may not or will not see action include running back LeSean McCoy (knee), tight end Charles Clay (back), and receiver Robert Woods (injured reserve). On defense, tackle Marcell Dareus (neck) and cornerback Ronald Darby (groin) are injury questions.
Taylor will have one primary receiver to toss to, Sammy Watkins. Watkins has 49 receptions with nine of those being for touchdowns. He’s averaging 18.6 yards per reception.
But the Jet defense is solid in all respects. The D, which is limiting opponents to under 20 PPG, includes DL Muhammad Wilkerson (12 Sacks) and DT Sheldon Richardson (5 Sacks). In 12 games, CB Marcus Williams has a team-leading six interceptions. Plus, CB Darrelle Revis has five. Together they’ve made 11 of New York’s 18 picks.
This is a big game for the Jets, as a win automatically puts them in the playoffs as a wild card. It’s a major game for overly emotional Bills’ coach Rex Ryan. Ryan would love to beat his former team a second time this season.
But Buffalo has major injuries on offense; is underperforming on defense, as players are openly complaining about Ryan’s schemes; and is going nowhere. The Jets have their eye on the playoffs, and it’s hard to believe that after this long march to the end of the season that they are going to be willing to have to relay on a Pittsburgh loss to slip through the backdoor and compete in the post season.
The spread opened with the Jets at -1.5, and it is now at -3.0. Bet New York. The over/under is at 43. Bet the over.