FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - With six games to go in the regular season, the Jets are one game back in the AFC wild-card chase. But they are stuck in a pack of eight teams inside that margin, all scrambling for the sixth and final playoff seed.
That leaves them will little room to stumble. Realistically, to make the playoffs, they have to win all the rest of their games.
"Excuse the language, but that's kind of a no-s-t statement," said Jets coach Todd Bowles.
Well, yeah. Duh. The Jets can't afford to lose.
They know it as well as anyone as they prepare to return from their bye week to face the Carolina Panthers (7-3) at the Meadowlands on Sunday, coming off their horrible showing in Tampa two weeks ago. Though they've exceeded most expectations, they've also lost four of their last five games due to an agonizing combination of poor efforts, fourth-quarter collapses, and missed opportunities.
The could have won all four of those games. They should have won two or three of them.
"We see what we can be," said linebacker Jordan Jenkins, "if only we could put it all together."
But here's the thing: The time for that is now.
"The margin for error for us on the season is gone," Jenkins said. "We have to be keyed in every week. I said before the bye week the margin for error was slim. It's even slimmer now.
"Here it is. There's no 'got to find a way.' It's got to happen."
That won't be easy given the difficult schedule the Jets are facing, which starts with back-to-back home games against two playoff-bound teams - the Panthers and the Kansas City Chiefs (6-4). They also must travel to New Orleans (8-2) and New England (8-2). They also have a home game against the surging Los Angeles Chargers (5-6), and a dangerous trip to Denver (3-7), which is always a difficult place to play.
Currently, they are chasing the Baltimore Ravens, who are in control of the second wild-card spot with a 5-5 record. But the AFC playoff picture is packed. The Jets would currently be the 10th seed in the conference, behind the Bills (5-5), Chargers (5-6) and Dolphins (4-6). They're also in a virtual tie with the Bengals, Texans, and Raiders, who all have a 4-6 record.
The Jets can't count on all of those teams to continue to lose. They know the only way to stay in the race is to continue to win.
"We know what's going on," said cornerback Morris Claiborne. " We know we're still in this. We look around the league and everyone is all together. We still have a chance. (So) I agree totally. We need to win to assure ourselves of a spot."
Or, as his coach said, no … kidding.