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The most agonizing Jets reminder of NFL Wild Card Weekend

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The Jets spent Wild Card weekend at the same place you did — on the couch.

All the Jets could do was watch the playoffs after losing their final six games and blowing their shot at ending the team’s postseason drought, which is now at 12 years.

It had to be particularly painful for the Jets to watch this weekend as five of the six teams that beat them at the end of the season were playing instead of them, and none of the five played a complete game. It was a reminder that the Jets just needed to win two of those games to have been playing in the playoffs. Instead, they were watching and must have been wondering what could have been.

Geno Smith #7 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to pass against the New York Jets during the second quarter at Lumen Field on January 1, 2023.
A loss to Geno Smith and the Seahawks, who turned out to be playoff duds, in Week 17 sealed the Jets’ playoff fate.
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Start off with Saturday afternoon’s game between the Seahawks and 49ers. Seattle beat the Jets in Week 17 by a score of 23-6. That same Seahawks defense that made the Jets look inept gave up 41 points to the 49ers and their third-string rookie quarterback Brock Purdy in a 41-23 loss. The Jets defense struggled early against the Seahawks and then played pretty well against Geno Smith and Co., but the offensive struggles doomed them. Mike White played the game with five broken ribs, and the injury flared up when he got hit just before halftime.

Could a healthy White have beaten the Seahawks? It is something the Jets are definitely thinking about. Seattle’s defense did not strike fear in anyone, and the Jets still could not score a touchdown on them.

Next up on Saturday night was the Jaguars taking on the Chargers. The Jets lost to Jacksonville, 19-3, in Week 16 on a sloppy Thursday night. The Jets were somehow non-competitive in this game when they had everything to play for. Going into that game, the Jets were the more likely playoff participant than the Jaguars were.

Trevor Lawrence #16 of the Jacksonville Jaguars runs with the ball against Michael Carter II #30 of the New York Jets during an NFL football game between the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium on December 22, 2022.
The Jets defense would have loved a 27-point cushion against Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars, though the Chargers blew theirs on Saturday night.
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On Saturday, the Jaguars played a terrible first half and fell behind 27-0. Trevor Lawrence threw four interceptions. How many did the Jets notch against him? Zero. As good as the Jets defense was this year, they had just two takeaways after the bye week, and that hurt an already struggling offense. Quinnen Williams did have a strip sack of Lawrence on the first series of the game, giving the offense the ball on the Jaguars 16-yard line. All they could muster was a field goal.

The Jaguars played a better second half and pulled out a come-from-behind 31-30 win over the Chargers, but seeing them turn the ball over in the first half had to make the Jets defense sick. There is no way the Jaguars would have come back on the Jets defense if they were spotted a 27-point lead. Of course, the idea of the Jets scoring 27 points is laughable. They did not score a touchdown against the Jacksonville defense.

The Jets lost to both the Bills (20-12) and the Dolphins (11-6) during their late-season collapse. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Jets defense played well in both games, but the offense was a no-show. The Jets lost to the Dolphins in Week 18, though Miami looked nothing like a playoff team. But the Dolphins played well in Buffalo, and it speaks to how strong the Jets defense is that they gave up nine points to the Dolphins and the Bills surrendered 31 to Skylar Thompson and friends. If the Jets offense could have mustered anything in Miami, the Jets might have won the game and at least kept the Dolphins out of the playoffs. But Joe Flacco and the offense again failed to score a touchdown.

Mike White #5 of the New York Jets is tackled by Ed Oliver #91 of the Buffalo Bills just as he throws the ball during the second quarter.
The Bills defense that jacked up Mike White’s ribs in Week 14 proceeded to allow 31 points to the Dolphins in a Wild Card nailbiter.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

The Bills meanwhile looked surprisingly beatable, and that should have irked the Jets, who had a golden chance to win in Buffalo in Week 14 and possibly gain some momentum. The Jets had already beaten the Bills earlier in the season at home, but the offensive line failed to protect White and Matt Milano rearranged his ribs. A few days later, White was declared out and replaced by Zach Wilson, and it felt as if the Jets season was over.

The slide started in Minnesota, where the Jets lost 27-22 to the Vikings. It was clear that day that the Vikings were not as good as their record indicated, and the Giants proved that Sunday afternoon with their 31-24 win.

The Jets fell behind the Vikings 20-3 before their second-half rally, but they went 1-for-6 in the red zone and Braxton Berrios dropped a touchdown pass that would have given the Jets the lead with 1:43 left in the game. It is the ultimate what-if for the Jets: What if Berrios catches the ball? What if they win in Minnesota? Does that give them a momentum boost?

Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum (24) and linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) and linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) react after New York Jets wide receiver Braxton Berrios (10) drops a touchdown pass late during the fourth quarter.
If Braxton Berrios hangs onto this potential touchdown in Week 13 against the one-and-done Vikings, does the Jets’ season end differently?
USA TODAY Sports

That is what the Jets are left with now. Wondering “what if?” Watching the games on Wild Card weekend reaffirmed that the Jets easily could have been there. They were in the same class as most of the teams playing, but they couldn’t finish the job in the regular season.

Takeaways from a Week 1 rewatch: White over Flacco?

I always rewatch the Jets season once the offseason hits. It’s a time-consuming project that usually takes me a few months, but I got started this week and watched the Week 1 loss to the Ravens. It is always fascinating to watch the early-season games knowing what we know now. Here are a few takeaways:

1. I forgot how many mistakes the Jets made in this game that really hurt them in the 24-9 loss. Michael Carter dropped a potential touchdown pass. Breece Hall had a fumble deep in Baltimore territory. Tyler Conklin fumbled away a first down. The defense had several breakdowns to allow long Lamar Jackson touchdown passes. It took a few weeks before the Jets really started clicking.

Chuck Clark #36 of the Baltimore Ravens forces a fumble against Breece Hall #20 of the New York Jets in the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2022.
Breece Hall’s late fumble was an example of the mistakes the Jets made in Week 1 that they cleaned up as they evolved into a playoff contender.
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2. The defense was not a cohesive unit yet. There were several miscommunications on long plays that you did not see a few weeks later. Despite the defense not being great in this game, there were signs of what it could become. The defense was fast and flew around the field delivering big hits, something we would see all season. It also became clear quickly how good Sauce Gardner would be with his breakup of a touchdown pass in the end zone. After one Jackson run play, he went over and slapped Gardner’s hand almost as a “welcome to the league” moment, a pretty cool sign of respect.

3. A fair question to ask looking back is whether White should have been starting at the beginning of the season instead of Flacco as Wilson recovered from his knee surgery. Looking back, I think the answer is clearly yes. White played better than Flacco did when given the opportunity. I acknowledge this is a total second guess. Flacco had a better training camp than White did, and seemed at the time like an obvious choice to start. Flacco did not play well in this game, though, and watching it now makes you wonder whether the offense would have put up more than one touchdown in the game with White starting.

Stat’s so

Head coach Robert Saleh of the New York Jets looks on during the second half of a game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on November 6, 2022.
Where does Robert Saleh rank in all-time Jets coaching wins?
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Robert Saleh has 11 victories in his first two seasons as Jets coach. That has him at 11th all-time in franchise coaching wins, including playoff wins. Here is the complete list of Jets coaches (including interim coaches) and their overall records:

Weeb Ewbank (1963-73): 73-78-6
Joe Walton (1983-89): 54-59-1
Rex Ryan (2008-14): 50-52
Herm Edwards (2001-05): 41-44
Walt Michaels (1977-82): 41-49-1
Bill Parcells (1997-99): 30-20
Bruce Coslet (1990-93): 26-39
Todd Bowles (2015-18): 24-40
Eric Mangini (2006-08): 23-26
Sammy Baugh (1960-61): 14-14
Robert Saleh (2021-22): 11-23
Al Groh (2000): 9-7
Charley Winner (1974-75): 9-14
Adam Gase (2019-20): 9-23
Pete Carroll (1994): 6-10
Bulldog Turner (1962): 5-9
Rich Kotite (1995-96): 4-28
Lou Holtz (1976): 3-10
Ken Shipp (1975): 1-4
Mike Holovak (1976): 0-1

Source: Pro Football Reference

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