Six weeks ago, it seemed both the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks were shoo-ins for the NFL playoffs.
When the teams meet Sunday afternoon in Seattle, they’ll be clinging to slim postseason hopes as both have lost five of their past six games.
According to FiveThirtyEight.com, the Seahawks (7-8) have a 27 percent chance to make the NFC playoffs, while the Jets (7-8) have a 15 percent shot to make the AFC field.
“These last two games will be enormous for us, obviously,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We are playing the championship of the season right now. That is how we are going to approach it to get it done and give us a chance to be in it in the end.”
The Seahawks are a half-game behind Washington (7-7-1) for the NFC’s seventh and final postseason berth. They have home games remaining against the Jets and Los Angeles Rams (5-10).
But Seattle has lost three in a row at home and will try to avoid its first four-game skid at Lumen Field since 2008.
The Seahawks have failed to hold a lead in any of their past three games, including a 24-10 loss last Saturday at Kansas City.
“We had a tough stretch, but that’s in the past. That’s got to be in the past,” Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith said.
Kenneth Walker III showed he’s back to full health after an ankle injury as he rushed for 107 yards against the Chiefs. And Seattle’s leaky run defense limited Kansas City to 77 yards rushing.
But the Seahawks were just 2 of 14 on third-down conversions and failed to score on three of their trips inside the Chiefs’ 40-yard line.
“We’re not playing connected to help one another out and take advantage of a terrific day of defense,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks could get a boost from the return of wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who missed last week’s game after undergoing surgery Dec. 19 to repair a broken bone in his left hand. But tight end Will Dissly (knee) was placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
The Jets are ninth in the AFC race, behind Miami (8-7) and New England (7-8). They could snap an 11-year playoff drought if they win their final two games — including the regular-season finale at Miami — and the Patriots lose one of their final two games, at home against the Dolphins or at Buffalo (12-3).
“We’ve still got to find ourselves, we’ve still got to find confidence and we’ve got to get the ball rolling,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “And it starts with how we prepare day in and day out and how we attack these moments.
“The playoffs and all that stuff is cool, but we’ve got to stay connected to this moment in Seattle and Seattle only.”
Saleh announced Mike White will start at quarterback after missing the past two games — including last Thursday’s 19-3 loss to visiting Jacksonville — with broken ribs.
Saleh indicated Joe Flacco would serve as White’s backup and Zach Wilson, who passed for just 92 yards against the Jaguars, will go from starting the past two games to being the No. 3 quarterback.
“I thought Mike had been doing a great job moving the offense, sustaining drives and getting first downs,” Saleh said. “Much more efficient. Our offense was running with some good efficiency.
“It’s a great opportunity for him, a great opportunity for everybody.”
Starting free safety Lamarcus Joyner might also return after missing the past two games with a hip injury.
–Field Level Media