The New York Jets have to be taken seriously if they make the playoffs, regardless of their record, but they cannot be trusted to go beyond the first round unless they win two games in a row at some point this year.
That's if they even get to the postseason without a single regular-season winning streak all year.
After Sunday's 37-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills, the 5-5 Jets have the dubious distinction of becoming the first team in NFL history to alternate wins and losses for the first 10 games of the season, according to ESPN.
We keep waiting for the Jets to reveal "who they are." The answer, however, is in plain sight. Maybe it's time to accept that this inconsistent product is exactly who the Jets are this season.
It may sound forehead-smackingly obvious to say the Jets are a .500 team this year, but that's what they are: average and wildly inconsistent.
The question is, is that enough? There have been 17 teams in NFL history to make the playoffs at .500 or below, and six of those teams have won a playoff game. None have made it out of the second round.
The hard thing to figure out is why they look so drastically different. The Jets are a young team, just as likely to slash the tires of a team on a roll as they are to get hit by a bus.
It may be a result of poor discipline, bad quarterback play, a lack of preparation, sloppy execution, responding poorly to success, or some combination of all the above.
|Jets wins and losses, 2013|
|Week||Result||Score||Geno Smith passer rating||Team turnovers|
It's hard not to notice how up-and-down the quarterback play has been, and how it might correlate to losses. But even that only hits the surface.
At times, Geno Smith's poor play has been a result of shoddy pass protection. At other times, however, it's clear he fails to recognize coverage and throws the ball exactly where it shouldn't go. On all three of his picks against the Bills, a corner or safety would undercut his throw. That's a trend that has continued over the course of the season, with a majority of his interceptions resulting from either a bad read or a bad throw.
The Jets are not a good enough team to overcome that many turnovers. They have turned it over two or more times in seven games this year, and are 2-5 in those games.
They've been good enough to overcome penalties at times (see: 20 of them, in Week 3 versus Buffalo), but those are still the mark of an undisciplined team.
Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that it really doesn't matter one bit that the Jets can't string together two wins in a row—an idea I still can't fully get my head around.
Even assuming that, the Jets are still 4-1 at MetLife Stadium and 1-4 away from their home turf. It'd be nice if a .500 record was enough to get a home playoff game (just ask the 2010 Seattle Seahawks), because maybe then, the Jets could have some faith in their ability to make it out of the first round.
The trend of win-loss-win-loss may end at some point this season, but the inconsistency will likely continue.
|Jets remaining schedule|
|12||at Baltimore Ravens||4-6|
|13||vs. Miami Dolphins||4-5|
|14||vs. Oakland Raiders||3-7|
|15||at Carolina Panthers||6-3|
|16||vs. Cleveland Browns||4-6|
|17||at Miami Dolphins||4-5|
There are winnable games left on the schedule, and it's entirely possible that the Jets could win three straight against the Ravens, Dolphins and Raiders. Their up-and-down performance up to this point, however, suggests it's very unlikely.
The Jets are performing above expectations this year. They are also on pace to finish with a better record than 2012. Those are both promising signs for 2014 and beyond (even if Geno Smith's play isn't promising in the least). But those factors do not offer any promise of success in January.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or via team news releases.