“You have got to understand the nature of this league,” said Pennington. “If you look at our 10 wins last year, they weren’t all blowouts. They all came down to the fourth quarter. They were games where either our opponent made a mistake and we capitalized or we were able to make a big play and squeak a win out. This year we have been on the flip side of that.”
It’s hard to argue with Pennington on that point, but it does raise a sticky question? If the 10-6 Jets weren’t so great in 2006, does that mean they aren’t so awful in 2007? Is the difference between 10-6 in ‘06 and 4-12 in ’07 (I’m being generous in that prediction) just a few plays? The answer would determine whether the Jets are close to being playoff contenders, but in today’s NFL the answer is hard to pinpoint.
Let’s look at the Jets’ losses from a wide perspective. Since the opening day loss to New England, a team that has blown out everyone except the Colts, the Jets have played 8 games. Their record is 1-7 and the average score was 24-18, less than one touchdown difference. Your own eyes told you the Jets were in every game in the 4th quarter. They’ve all been close, except for opening day. One big play more, you thought, and maybe the Jets would have escaped with a victory.
Let’s look at some other teams around the NPL in this manner, although season points differential may be misleading because some teams have squeaked out close wins and have been blown out in losses, or vice versa.
The 4-4 Bills have been outscored 156-130. The 4-4 first place Chiefs have been outscored 146-124. The 5-3 Redskins, 160-152. The 5-3 Browns, 233-227. The 4-4 Ravens, 157-131. Those are five teams, outscored by their opponents, which much better records than the Jets.
The 6-2 Lions have outscored their opponents by fewer than 2 points per game! How strong are the Lions? Could their season also be broken down to a few plays that went in their favor which amount to the difference between 6-2 and 2-6?
Let’s set stats aside and go with our guts. We’ve all watched the Jets this season. Do they have the look of a team close to being a winner? If any team week after week after week fails to make just a few plays that could put them over the top, what would that tell you?
It tells me the Jets stink. And management can’t be fooled into thinking this club might be in the thick of the playoff race had a few things broken their way in so many of the tight losses. The good teams, the elite teams, make the plays.
Maybe next season the Jets will win the games they are now losing, finish 10-6 and reach the playoffs. Who knows? Whenever I think I have this league figured out something happens that reminds me I haven’t figured out anything. But I am pretty certain the Jets players and management shouldn’t convince themselves they’re close. The Jets are in desperate need of improvement. Squeaking into the playoffs at 9-7 or 10-6 won’t be enough as long as New England and Indianapolis reside in the AFC.