New York Jets: Breaking Down Every Opponent On the Schedule
The New York Jets' schedule is hardly what you call a great challenge—even for a dysfunctional team—but then again, it's not exactly that easy either.
Playing teams like the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and San Francisco 49ers will be tough, but otherwise, there are other opponents that will define their season.
The Jets have the AFC South in its entirety, the San Diego Chargers, the remainder of the AFC East, and the rest of the NFC West to deal with. If anything, they will break .500 easily.
But which games will they win and which will they lose? Which offense will work for which game? And will the Jets make the playoffs at all?
Let this slideshow guide the reader on a hypothetical 2012 season.
Week 1: vs. Buffalo Bills
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A good way to start the season is against your division. For the Jets, they face their rival from the north with Buffalo.
The Bills made an aggressive push this offseason, adding former No. 1 overall draft choice Mario Williams on a multi-year contract, and signing top threat Stevie Johnson to a five-year extension. However, the question is can they compete?
Their defense is certainly stronger than it was before, especially against the pass. However, given the Jets' efforts to establish a ground and pound offense again, it's the equivalent of saying that you can lift 500 million nanograms.
The Jets do have a great secondary and a very good run defense, so expect Johnson and the Bills' backs to be held to less than 100 yards, individually, not as a team.
Week 2: at Pittsburgh Steelers
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For both Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, their last games against Pittsburgh really were different:
Sanchez led a failed comeback attempt as the Jets lost to the Steelers in the AFC championship back in January of last year at Heinz Field.
Tebow threw a miracle pass to Demariyus Thomas in overtime which helped beat Pittsburgh at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.
The Steelers are going to be the Jets' first tough test of the year. With a defense that resembles New York's vs. the Jets' own defense going up against an offense which is missing two key pieces already, (Hines Ward to retirement, Rashard Mendenhall to injury) it could essentially come down to a defensive/special team struggle.
So who wins? While the appealing option is Joe McKnight—who earned an All-Pro selection this year—my pick is Antonio Brown, who dominates both on offense and special teams. Even with Revis Island covering him, there's always the chance that Brown slips away on a special teams play.
Barring another miracle from Tebow, my pick for this game is Pittsburgh.
Week 3: at Miami Dolphins
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The last image we saw of the 2011 Jets season was Rex Ryan hanging his head as the Dolphins pulled off the attainable win with Matt Moore behind center.
This year, the Dolphins may have another behind center; former Jaguars' starter David Garrard was signed a few weeks ago, while the possibility of drafting Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill is still in play. Whichever way they go, the Dolphins will face a tough battle.
In order to try and win Peyton Manning, the team got rid of top wideout and problem child Brandon Marshall, sending him to Chicago. Big mistake, as Manning went to Denver.
While the Dolphins have every chance to fix that issue in the NFL draft, whomever they choose will need to develop.
This leaves the 'Fins with only one solid weapon: Reggie Bush.
Bush had a resurgent season in 2011, and will be given the bulk of the carries in 2012. The wide receivers here are weak though, as the top option is Davone Bess.
If the Jet defense can hold the Dolphin offense in check, expect the battle to be half won already.
Week 4: vs. San Francisco 49ers
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Make no mistake: the 49ers are back. After a convincing 13-3 season which brought them to the playoffs where they were one muffed punt away from the Super Bowl, expect the team to play hardball this year,
The Jets would have to hope that LaRon Landry can handle an effective tight end in Vernon Davis, who could in effect be the offensive difference maker for the team.
The 49ers' defense is also tough, what with the front seven led by Justin Smith, Mike Iupati, Aldon Smith, etc. Even putting in Tim Tebow—despite the fact that he had experience playing the 49ers before—could potentially backfire.
However, the make or break player for the 49ers is Alex Smith. Fresh off a contract extension, he could either play well for the whole season, or suffer 'extension syndrome,' which is what happened to Santonio Holmes last year.
Nonetheless, I am almost completely sure San Francisco has this game in the bag.
Week 5: vs. Houston Texans (MNF)
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The Jets' first game in primetime is against the success story of the weak AFC South, with the Houston Texans.
Returning after injury is quarterback Matt Schaub, while running back Arian Foster and wide receiver Andre Johnson give the team a very potent offense.
Gone, however, are the defensive stars Mario Williams (Buffalo) and DeMeco Ryans (Philadelphia). However, with J.J. Watt, Brian Cushing, and Brooks Reed, the team still has a vaunted attack.
Although history has been on the Jets' side—with every regular season game between the two teams going to them— it looks like Houston will gain the upper hand in this contest.
Week 6: vs. Indianapolis Colts
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The Jets finally catch a break here when they play the Andrew Luck (most likely) and Chuck Pagano-led Colts in Week 6.
The only weapons that Luck will have for sure are aging wideout Reggie Wayne and often-injured runner Donald Brown, as Pierre Garcon and Joseph Addai have both flown the coop.
In addition, Dwight Freeney, who's showing his age, may have to start thinking about retirement, and let young "star" Pat Angerer do most of the work.
The only way that this matchup goes in the Colts' favor is if the Jets decided to do what the Colts did back in the 2010 AFC Wild Card Game, or worse, let Greg McElroy throw a few passes a lá Curtis Painter.
Week 7: at New England Patriots
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Depending on if the Jets add a legitimate pass rusher, this game could fall into either team's hands.
Ever since Mo Lewis ended Drew Bledsoe's season back in 2001, Tom Brady has been giving the Jets fits. Only recently have the Jets figured out a way to beat him, but last year, the team took a step back.
The New York Giants found out how to stop Brady, and that was with a pass rusher by the name of Jason Pierre-Paul. With JPP, the Giants effectively neutralized the sure-fire Hall of Famer, reducing him to his famous 'Bradying pose.'
The Jets do however have upgraded weaponry to deal with Rob Gronkowski, as they added two new safeties to possibly neutralize him. In addition, Wes Welker will be covered by Revis while Cromartie takes on Brandon Lloyd.
Add the fact that the Patriots just lost their best runner to Cincinnati, which means they will have to draft someone, it's easy to see the Jets have at least some fighting chance.
One piece of advice: the Jets should not use Tim Tebow under any circumstances. We all know how that worked out last season.
The Patriots will take the first game in Foxboro, but it will be a turning point in the Jets season.
Week 8: vs. Miami Dolphins
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I think we can safely say that the Dolphins will need to pull out all stops if they have any chance at beating the Jets. Maybe there will be a change at quarterback by the time the 'Fins roll back to play, but as of now, it's another victory for New York.
Week 10: at Seattle Seahawks
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This is going to be a key game for the Jets, as they try to prove that they can win on the road out west.
The last time the Jets were in Seattle, they were in the snow and lost 13-3, as part of Brett Favre's fall from grace.
This year, things are different.
First, Rex Ryan is the coach, and Mark Sanchez is his quarterback, let's get that abundantly clear. Second, Sanchez's former coach Pete Carroll is patrolling the Seahawk sidelines, with his new shiny backup rags to riches story in Matt Flynn. Third, this game will not be played in the snow, so no weather advantage for Carroll.
What the Jets do have to remember is that CenturyLink Field is considered one of the stadiums with the best home field advantage, as evidenced by the rowdy fans over there.
My belief is that a steady mix of Tebow and Sanchez, along with key stops on 'Beast Mode' Marshawn Lynch will definitely help this team get the win it deserves, as well as allowing Sanchez to prove to Carroll that he was ready to go to the NFL after just 16 starts in college.
Week 11: at St. Louis Rams
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The Rams were a complete disaster last season, but don't count them out just yet.
After getting rid of coach Steve Spagnuolo, the team went for a proven winner in Jeff Fisher, who promptly set the Rams' future on bright by trading with the Redskins for a bounty of picks.
Assuming the Rams use the picks on weapons for quarterback Sam Bradford, they could be more dangerous than before.
Nonetheless, the Jets have more proven starters and will get every opportunity to score, as the defense, despite a couple of top five selections in the past five drafts, is still shaky.
Let's also not forget that Brandon Lloyd is no longer on the team.
Week 12: vs. New England Patriots (Thanksgiving)
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After four weeks of waiting, the Jets finally get their chance for revenge. And from what we learned in their previous matchup, they have come prepared.
In the rematch, it's Aaron Maybin who strips the ball, taking it to the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown as the Jets finally get their first win against their dreaded rivals since the AFC Divisional game in January of 2011.
Interestingly enough in the battle of the meme poses, there are a lot more 'Tebowing' sightings than 'Bradying' sightings, rather curious considering Sanchez would start this game.
Week 13: vs. Arizona Cardinals
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The Jets finally finish up with the NFC West when they play Arizona, and it's safe to say this once could potentially end up like the previous matchup.
Last time, Brett Favre led the Jets to a 56-35 shootout that culminated in Anquan Boldin suffering a head injury when he collided with perpetual black sheep Eric Smith.
While I'm not saying the same will happen to Larry Fitzgerald, I am saying that this game will be ripe with scoring chances, most of which will be between Joe McKnight and Patrick Peterson.
Kevin Kolb will not play to the level he was once hyped at, and Fordham product John Skelton will be brought in. He'll put up a good fight with the two-headed monster of Tebow and Sanchez, but in the end, it will be Tebow who will end the game on a run.
Week 14: at Jacksonville Jaguars
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The Jaguars will not be the pushover they were last year, when the punchless Luke McCown and the equally punchless Blaine Gabbert piloted their team to a 32-3 loss. Now, they will have Chad Henne and Gabbert, one of which will lead the team in a better fight.
The Jets will contain Henne, as they have done countless times, or they will embarrass Gabbert.
While Maurice Jones Drew will contribute the only offense on this team, it won't be enough as the multi-level attack of the Jets' offense and defense will put the Jaguars to bed early.
Week 15: at Tennessee Titans (MNF)
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This may be the second-toughest AFC South matchup for the Jets on the schedule, as Jake Locker will have likely ascended to the throne and Chris Johnson may find his running style again.
But consider the fact that the Jets hold history over the Titans, it could just end their way again.
In short, the Jets may just win this simply because they are better.
Week 16: Vs. San Diego Chargers
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The Jets have to wait nine weeks until they lose another game, and for them, it's against the Chargers.
After finally realizing that having two strong running backs and only one good receiver isn't good enough, the Chargers went out and signed Saints' starter Robert Meachem, Bills' speedster Roscoe Parrish, Broncos' receiver Eddie Royal, and Buccaneers' return man Micheal Spurlock. In this multitude of signings, plus the loss of perpetual problem child Vincent Jackson, the Chargers pretty much bolstered their offense by a lot.
While I have no doubt that the Jets have the manpower to catch up to these receivers, it's who will start at quarterback that determines if this game is a close one or a blowout. In this case, the Jets should go for Tebow, as he knows the Chargers defense well enough to make an impact.
Nonetheless, a loss is a loss, and while it is demoralizing, it shouldn't weigh that heavily on the team, considering they hypothetically have won 10 games already.
Week 17: at Buffalo Bills
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In the final game of the regular season, the Jets will rest their starters, while the Bills just hope to play spoiler and either play for their first .500 season since 2002 or just get one more win.
Greg McElroy gets his only action this year and plays magnificently as he picks apart the Bills' secondary much like he did Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl during his final season at Alabama.
Chaz Schilens will score two touchdowns and the Jets will return to the playoffs with a thirst for blood.
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11 wins, five losses, second in the AFC East standings and a five seed in the playoffs.
I know, it's heavily optimistic, but considering the gift that the schedule makers have given the team, it would be a waste if the Jets lose more than five of those games.
2011 was a fluke, and with their butts on the line, Ryan, Sanchez, and Tebow will help bring the Jets back to their 2009-10 days.