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The Jets are the team no one should want to face in the playoffs

The Jets are riding a five-game winning streak and are looking like one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.

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The New York Jets are nearly there. One more win, or some more flailing from either the Pittsburgh Steelers or Denver Broncos, and Gang Green will claim one of the AFC's two wild card spots and make the playoffs for the first time in six years.

They've won five games in a row and are playing as well as any team in the NFL. On defense, they're terrorizing quarterbacks and on offense, they're running by and through opposing secondaries. But this week, the Jets face a Buffalo Bills squad led by Rex Ryan, a man who'd likely be willing to trade his first born for a guaranteed win over his former team.

The rest of the AFC's playoff teams better hope he does so, or at least figures out some other way to knock off the Jets. Because while they're far from a dominant team, what they are is a healthy one -- something that no other team in the AFC race can claim.

Last Sunday, the Jets handled the banged-up New England Patriots on both sides of the ball and given the weapons Todd Bowles' crew now, has there's no reason to believe they couldn't do similar things to the rest of the AFC when the playoffs begin.

Finally, a competent offense

Ryan Fitzpatrick is a strange creature. He's a Harvard grad who makes some astonishing dumb decisions. He's a weak-armed thrower who routinely chucks the ball down the field and loves trying to jam it into tight windows. In the past, these tendencies have gotten Fitzpatrick in trouble. There's a reason the Jets are his fourth team in four years.

This season, though, everything for Fitzpatrick has clicked. His numbers are better than ever: 29 touchdown passes compared to just 12 interceptions, a 91.2 quarterback rating and a 66.8 QBR, the ninth-best mark in the league. The 33-year-old has even rushed for 258 yards and two touchdowns. During the Jets' five game-win streak, he's boasted a 13:1 touchdown to interception ratio.

It all starts with the two big studs he has lining up on the outside, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Marshall, who's 6'4 and 230 pounds, has caught 101 balls for 1,376 yards and 13 touchdowns. Few in the league are as adroit as he is at shielding defensive backs with their body and going up to get the ball.

Marshall is also an expert at adjusting to errant throws.

At 6'3 and 215 pounds, Decker has snagged 75 catches for 977 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has sticky hands, no qualms about going over the middle and is precise route runner.

Neither player can be guarded one-on-one and both, because of their size and skills, are able to cover up for some of Fitzpatrick's more reckless throws. That, combined with the Jets' propensity for going with four-wide receiver sets (no team has had more snaps this season with four wide receivers on the field, via The MMQB), have made the game easier for Fitzpatrick.

Both Decker and Marshall thrive against a spread-out defense, but just as importantly, spreading out the defense gives Fitzpatrick clearer throwing lanes. Also, the scheme forces him to make quick decisions. It's no accident that he's only been sacked 9 percent of the time when being pressured, the lowest mark in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.

The spread attack also provides running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell with more room to run. Ivory, a battering-ram runner who's rushed for 989 yards this season, gets most of the spotlight. But the shifty Powell has been a revelation recently. He's averaging 7.3 yards per run and 7.9 yards per catch over the Jets' last three games.

All in all, the Jets have morphed into an offense that can win on the ground and through the air and is ranked No. 12 by Football Outsiders. The offensive line isn't great, and Fitzpatrick still goes through stretches where it seems like he's throwing with the wrong hand. But this is unit full of healthy weapons that can convert both third-and-shorts and third-and-longs.

Not bad, considering that offense isn't even the Jets' strength.

Beasts up front

Fitzpatrick, who was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his strong performance against the Patriots, is getting most of the credit for the Jets' recent surge. But it's still the defense, loaded with first-round picks and ranking third in the league in takeaways, that does much of the work. Darrelle Revis isn't the blanket he once was, but he's still one of the league's best cover men. Antonio Cromartie gets beat frequently but is also more than capable of holding his own against No. 2 receivers. Calvin Pryor is a menace in the middle of the field.

And then there's the deep and stout defensive line that has made life hell for opposing quarterbacks and runners. If it not for the Superhuman-play of J.J. Watt, Muhammad Wilkerson would be the defensive lineman quarterbacks feared the most. He's big, quick and strong. He's sixth in the NFL in sacks with 12 and has 20 quarterback hits and 38 hurries. Even more, he's just as much of a terror against the run:

The 6'3, 290-pound Sheldon Richardson is nearly impossible to contain. First-round pick Leonard Williams, another hulk-sized behemoth who can dance, has validated the Jets' decision to draft him No. 4 overall. And Damon Harrison, the largest of the group at 6'4 and 350 pounds, has the league's highest run stop percentage, per Pro Football Focus.

The Jets occasionally rotate these four and bring in traditional edge rushers. But recently they've allowed Wilkerson, Williams, Harrison and Richardson to share the field more frequently and since doing so, the defense has evolved into one of the league's best. The Jets are holding opponents to 3.7 yards per carry this season, the NFL's fourth-best mark, and is No. 1 against the rush according to Football Outsiders. That's forcing third-and-longs where the four rushers are able to tee off on opposing quarterbacks.

As a result, opponents are converting just 32 percent of their third downs against the Jets, the second-best number in the league. They were even able to stifle Tom Brady, who converted just one of his 10 third-down attempts against the Jets in Week 16.

Of course, not having Julian EdelmanDanny Amendola, Sebastian Vollmer and Dion Lewis certainly didn't make Brady's life easier. But that the Jets were able to take advantage of a depleted group is exactly why they've become so dangerous.

An AFC race there for the taking

Nearly every team in the AFC playoff picture has had to overcome some sort of injury to a primary player. The Patriots have had to deal with injuries to every offensive position except quarterback. The Broncos are marching along with Brock Osweiler, a quarterback in his fourth year who essentially had the experience of a rookie. The Cincinnati Bengals lost Andy Dalton until at least the first round of the playoffs, while backup AJ McCarron is now banged up too. The Kansas City Chiefs are winning but no longer have Jamaal Charles lining up in the backfield, while the Houston Texans have nearly clinched the AFC South with Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer taking snaps.

And then there's the healthy Jets, the only team in the conference that is approaching the playoffs with its starting quarterback and all his primary weapons still on the field. If the Jets beat the Bills this week and make the playoffs, Fitzpatrick might actually be the second-best quarterback among the six lining up under center for the AFC's playoff teams.

Injury luck plays a role every season, and this year, the Jets are the ones benefiting from it. Being healthy doesn't guarantee anything, but being the most well-rounded team of all the playoff contenders is a great place to start. That is, assuming they can take care of business in what promises to be a tough and emotional game against Ryan and the Bills.