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The Jets Finally Have a Game That Matters. REALLY Matters.

Over the last week, we've gotten pretty obsessed with ESPN's Playoff Machine, which allows you to predict results for every game left on the NFL schedule and see who, with your set of results, will end up in which playoff spot. As of today, the Jets have the No. 1 seed (and home-field advantage) in the AFC. But the last five games, everything can and will change.

As the Jets prepare for their monster Monday Night Football game against the Patriots tonight, we run some scenarios through the Playoff Machine. With the Jets, this is difficult, because they have a particularly difficult schedule the rest of the way. And so do the Pats.

The Patriots' sked, the rest of the season, after tonight:

at Chicago.
vs. Green Bay.
at Buffalo.
vs. Miami.

The Jets' sked:

vs. Miami.
at Pittsburgh.
at Chicago.
vs. Buffalo.

That's a tough one. And it gets tougher when you look at the rest of the AFC. We decided to do one basic run-through, with our (admittedly, usually wrong) predictions for the rest of the season. We didn't pick tonight's Jets-Patriots game, for reasons you'll see in a moment. We made the Patriots 3–1 after this week — figuring they'll lose to either Green Bay or Chicago — and made the Jets 2–2, with tough games at Pittsburgh and Chicago. Everyone else in the league, we just used our judgment.

Then, at the end, we picked the Jets winning tonight's game. Here's how that one looked:

AFC
No. 1 seed: Pittsburgh
No. 2 seed: NY Jets
No. 3 seed: Kansas City
No. 4 seed: Indianapolis
No. 5 seed: Baltimore
No. 6 seed: New England

Then we did one with the Pats winning. That looked like this:

No. 1 seed: New England
No. 2 seed: Pittsburgh
No. 3 seed: Kansas City
No. 4 seed: Indianapolis
No. 5 seed: Baltimore
No. 6 seed: NY Jets

Now, obviously, that's with a lot of other things falling a certain way, and that's giving the Jets two losses when they might just have one (and giving the Patriots one loss when they might have two). But that's a lot riding on one game. This is a heavily hyped game that's as important as Jon Gruden is telling you it is. This is also only the fourth game the Jets will have played all season against a team that is likely to make the playoffs; they're 1–2 so far. And that scheduling warmth is about to change.

The Jets haven't had a perfect game all season, with the possible exception of the win over Buffalo in Week 4. Their comfy schedule has made it so that it hasn't hurt them so far. Now is when we'll find out who the Jets are. We'll know tonight. It is about time. We, for one, cannot wait.

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Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images