The New York Jets were projected to finish last in the AFC East this season under first-year head coach Todd Bowles. But Gang Green can return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010 with a win Sunday at Buffalo in the regular-season finale. And perhaps more fitting, the Bills are coached by the guy the Jets fired after last year’s 4-12 record: Rex Ryan.
PLAYOFFS AT RYAN’S EXPENSE?
So it’s very simple for the Jets (10-5): Beat the Bills as 3-point favorites and they will be either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the AFC as one of two wild-card teams. New York would also get in with a tie, although there hasn’t been a tie in the NFL this season and no Jets game has finished in a tie since 1988.
New York is playing its best football of the season, having won five straight. Over that span, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick — who wasn’t even the projected starter this season until Geno Smith had his jaw broken in training camp — has 13 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. On the season, Fitzpatrick, who once played for the Bills, is completing 60.8 percent for 3,724 yards, 29 touchdowns (a career high) and 12 picks. Last Sunday for the third time in the past four games, Fitzpatrick led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime as the Jets upset New England.
If Fitzpatrick wasn’t the best trade acquisition this offseason in the NFL, costing only a late-round pick to Houston, then Jets receiver Brandon Marshall might have been. He only cost a late-round pick to Chicago, and Marshall has been one of the NFL’s best at his position. Marshall has a franchise-record 101 catches for 1,376 yards and 13 touchdowns. He’s the first player in NFL history with six 100-catch seasons.
Buffalo (7-8) has nothing to play for this week other than a spoiler. But you know Ryan would love to keep his former employer out of the playoffs.
Buffalo won at the Jets on a Thursday in Week 10, 22-17. Ryan’s underachieving defense played one of its best games of the year as it intercepted Fitzpatrick twice, recovered a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and stopped the Jets inside the Bills’ 10 in the final minutes. Fitzpatrick played pretty terribly that night, completing 15-for-34 for 193 yards, two TDs and two picks. Marshall did have one of those TD grabs but only three catches for 23 yards.
The Jets are 19.0000 to win the AFC title.
STEELERS NEED WIN, HELP FROM BILLS
The Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6) might have the best all-around offense in the NFL, but they also could miss the playoffs following last week’s shocking loss at Baltimore. Now the Steelers must win this week against visiting Cleveland as 11-point favorites and have the Jets lose. Both games do begin at the same time. It already was unlikely that Pittsburgh would lose to the Browns but now Cleveland likely will be without starting QB Johnny Manziel due to a concussion. Former third-stringer Austin Davis probably starts.
Even though the Steelers need major help to reach the postseason, they are still 8.0000 third-favorites to win the AFC.