The 1986New York Jetsseason was the 27th season for the team and the 17th in the National Football League. It began with the team trying to improve upon its 11–5 record from 1985 and return to the playoffs under head coach Joe Walton. The Jets finished the season with a record of 10–6, qualifying for the top Wild Card spot in the playoffs despite losing their last five games of the season. They defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round, but lost to the Cleveland Browns in the divisional round. The loss to the Browns is infamous in Jets history. Leading 20–10 in the 4th quarter, the Jets collapsed when Mark Gastineau hammered Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar seconds after he released a pass; Gastineau was flagged for roughing the passer and the Browns rallied to force overtime and win early in the game's second overtime.
The Week 3 game against Miami was memorable as Ken O'Brien and Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino fought a wild shootout that culminated in the Jets winning 51–45 in overtime. Marino threw for 448 yards and six TD passes while O'Brien accumulated 479 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception for what would statistically be the best game of his career.
Three years after being drafted by Buffalo, Jim Kelly made his debut with the Bills with three touchdowns and 292 passing yards. It wasn't enough as Ken O'Brien tossed for 318 yards and two scores in New York's 28-24 win.
The NFL scheduled the Jets to host the Patriots in a rare Thursday night game. The Jets were limited to two field goals as Tony Collins caught two touchdowns in a 20-6 Jets loss where the two teams combined for just 486 yards of offense.
The Jets-Dolphins rivalry reached an apex in this Week 3 matchup as Ken O'Brien and Dan Marino unleashed ten combined touchdowns, the last a 43-yard score to Wesley Walker and a 51-45 overtime win for the Jets.
Johnny Hector and Steve Grogan had memorable performances as the Jets raced to a 24-0 halftime lead. Subbing for injured Tony Eason, Grogan stormed the Patriots back in the second half with three touchdowns and a career-high 401 passing yards. Hector, with a career-high 143 rushing yards, also scored three times, and in the final minute Grogan completed a deep pass to Irving Fryar, but Fryar fumbled to the Jets, ending a 31-24 Jets win.
The two teams used four quarterbacks (John Elway, Gary Kubiak, Ken O'Brien, and Pat Ryan) and combined for ten quarterback sacks, 22 penalties (for 172 yards), and just 490 yards of offense as the Jets ran away with a 22-10 win.
Despite being shut out 17-0 in the fourth quarter, the Jets beat the Saints 28-23. Al Toon caught three touchdowns against his son's future team and Freeman McNeil added a fourth score. The Jets grabbed three fumbles and picked off the Saints twice.
Mounting injuries for the Jets had steadily weakened the club and the repercussions began in a 45-3 massacre by the Dolphins in Miami. Dan Marino tossed four touchdowns and Lorenzo Hampton blasted to 188 all-purpose yards and three scores. Ken O'Brien completed just 11 of 21 passes with an interception, and Pat Ryan took over under center but was picked off himself; the Jets also fumbled twice.