Debating the Toughest Game on the New York Jets' 2012 Schedule
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Don't be mistaken, though; there will be a few tough games on the schedule. From the looks of it, the majority of those games could come early on in the season.
But which games should be the most concerning for Jets fans? Which games should be circled as fans prepare extra packs of cigarettes, extra bottles of Pepto-Bismol or whatever helps one deal with stress?
Take it away, Andrea!
I agree with you, Erik, that the first half of the Jets' schedule is particularly rough. They travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in Week 2, host the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4, followed by the Houston Texans the next week and are at the New England Patriots Week 7.
In terms of toughness, it's hard to choose from those four games. The Steelers are always tough to beat, no matter if it's early or late in the season; the 49ers are likely to have a brutal defense yet again; and the Patriots are the Jets' perennial rivals.
But honestly, I think that Week 5 game against the Texans is going to prove the most difficult.
The Texans are an extremely well-balanced and well-managed team. They've come to know their strengths and weaknesses over the last few seasons and have found ways to maximize the former and downplay the latter. It's partially why they made the playoffs last year with rookie quarterback T.J. Yates at the offense's helm.
It's one thing for the Jets to be outmatched on either defense (like the Niners and Steelers) or on offense (the Patriots). But to have to take on a team that's explosive on both sides of the ball is going to be a struggle for New York.
The Houston game also comes at an inopportune time. I don't see the Jets winning either contest against the Steelers or the Niners, and it's going to be a frustrated team and fanbase by the time Houston comes to town. I think the Jets could be suffering from a focus problem if that's the case, making Houston even more of an obstacle than they'd be otherwise.
Last season, the Jets ranked in the 20s when it came to average passing and rushing yardage per game, while the Texans defense was in the top five in both categories. Conversely, the Jets defense was far better at defending the pass (giving up an average of 201 yards per game) than the run (giving up 111.1).
Though the Jets have done some work to make all parts of their defense more consistent, this disparity between run and pass defense plays right into the Texans' hands.
They're not the best passing offense—in fact, their 219 average passing yards last season was downright conservative—but they have one of the top rushing attacks in the game. I don't see the Jets figuring out how to stop Arian Foster while keeping an eye on quarterback Matt Schaub at the same time.
There's nothing all that explosive, exciting or threatening to me about Jets running back Shonn Green, nor quarterback Mark Sanchez, and to beat the Texans this year, I think an offense needs to be just that.
That's an unexpected answer from an AFC North blogger!
I agree with you that the Texans present the toughest challenge from a team standpoint. Their offense is well-rounded, with the tandem of Schaub and wide receiver Andre Johnson presenting one of the most difficult-to-defend matchups in the NFL (though Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis would have something to say about that).
Catching Foster is a chore in and of itself. Sure, these were two different teams in 2010 than they were last year and than they will be next year. But the Jets beat the Texans 30-27 in their last meeting back in the 2010 season.
However, the Jets were a much better home team in 2011 than they were on the road. They went 6-2 at home and a pathetic 2-6 outside of MetLife Stadium. For that reason, I'll go with the Pittsburgh Steelers. They have one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL and went a whopping 7-1 at Heinz Field last year.
Their defense is known for its exotic blitz packages, which won't make Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez's reads any easier (and his pre-snap reads were already a bit shaky).
They gave up a defensive passer rating of just 71.7, ranking fourth in the NFL, but even if the ground-and-pound Jets stick with the running game, they could have a very hard time getting it going against a run defense that consistently ranks in the top 10 and gave up just over four yards per carry last year.
New offensive coordinator Tony Sparano will help simplify the Jets' offensive game plan, but the Steelers defense will make life difficult regardless. They also have some of the best pressure outside linebackers in the NFL with James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley, who combined for 18 sacks last year.
Jets fans know how much of a problem edge protection was last year (right tackle Wayne Hunter has earned the nickname "turnstile," and he has really earned it).
The Jets front seven could have its way with an offensive line that has been porous at times. Their best bet to win that game is to get consistent pressure on Roethlisberger and get their offense the ball back with as good field position as possible.
But can the Jets defense keep a lid on the big-play potential of the Steelers offense for 60 minutes? That will be a tough task with so many explosive threats at receiver (the Steelers ranked fifth in the NFL with over eight yards per pass attempt), so it's with confidence I call this their toughest matchup.
The Steelers are never an easy team to take on, I completely agree, and there is an element of surprise to them this year, with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley calling the plays. However, I think there are ways to prepare for the Steelers that you can't for the Texans.
The bottom line is that the first half of the year for the Jets is going to be a brutal stretch of games. Once they recover from what's likely to be two serious beatings at the hands of the Steelers and 49ers defenses, Mark Sanchez and company will have to take on the Texans.
If there's any chance that Jets fans call for Sanchez's benching this year, it might be after these first five games. I don't think I'd wish that first-half schedule on my worst enemy.
With my fingers on the pulse of the AFC East, I can tell you for certain that plenty of Patriots and Bills fans are more than happy to wish that treacherous schedule on the Jets.
I'm very interested to see where things stand after that early brutal stretch. If the Jets are anywhere above .500 after the Texans game, there's hope for them to make the playoffs with a schedule that gets a bit softer. The Texans game will be the capstone on that stretch, and the Jets could already be exhausted after so many tough games.
Don't forget, also, that while the Texans are trending upward and look like the team to beat in the AFC South, the Steelers have been a top dog for years and are always in the mix as one of the top teams in the AFC as a whole.
Which game will be the toughest on the Jets schedule?
There may be a bit of turnover on their roster from this year to last, but the roster remains loaded with guys who have been to at least one, if not more, Super Bowls. The Steelers will be ready, and the Jets had better be also.
I think that will wrap it up for this debate. Thanks for joining me, Andrea!
Who got it right? Did we both get it wrong? Which game on the Jets' schedule will present the toughest challenge. Vote in the poll and leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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