The New York Jets roster is largely unchanged from 2011. Nearly all of their starters have returned, and they have made only minor offseason moves. However, they are still primarily the same team that reached AFC championship games after the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Perhaps more importantly, they are facing a much easier schedule this year than they have faced in recent history.
The AFC East should be a strong division this year, and the Jets will need to have a good season in order to win the division and/or make the playoffs.
Here is a look at the Jets' 2012 regular season schedule, along with predictions for each game.
Week 1 vs. Buffalo Bills (Win 1-0)
While the Bills have improved in the offseason by adding defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, I do not think that will be enough to end the Jets' reign of dominance over Buffalo. The Jets are 5-1 against the Bills in the Rex Ryan era, and they will start their season by making it 6-1.
Week 2 at Pittsburgh Steelers (Loss 1-1)
The Jets are implementing a new offensive system and have shown in the preseason that it still needs work. I expect them to be playing mediocre at best on offense early in the season. For this reason, they will not yet be ready to handle the Pittsburgh Steelers. The fact that this game is on the road only makes it harder.
How will the Jets do this season?
Week 3 at Miami Dolphins (Win 2-1)
The Dolphins have had one of the worst offseasons of any team in the NFL. They will be starting a rookie quarterback and recently gave away their only good wide receiver. Prior to that, they were tied for the last place spot in the AFC East last season. The Dolphins should be strong favorites to come dead last in the division this year. In the middle of a tough stretch of games to start the season, the Jets should get their lone easy victory in Week 3.
Week 4 vs. San Francisco 49ers (Loss 2-2)
This will be a low scoring battle of great defenses and mediocre offenses. Ultimately, I think the 49ers—who are legitimate Super Bowl contenders—will win this one. The Jets start out with a tough stretch of games in their opening five weeks before it gets easier. There will be some grumbles from the fanbase after Week 4 when the Jets are 2-2.
Week 5 vs. Houston Texans (Loss 2-3)
The Jets' challenging start comes to a climax against the Houston Texans. The Texans have arguably the best defense in the NFL and a serviceable offense. With a mediocre 2-3 start, the Jets will take heavy criticism in the media. Don't worry though. The rest of the schedule is a cakewalk by comparison.
Week 6 vs. Indianapolis Colts (Win 3-3)
Who will win the AFC East?
The Colts have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck—though the No. 1 overall pick of the draft—is nonetheless a rookie and is not surrounded by much talent on offense. Keep in mind Peyton Manning's rookie year in 1998 as precedent. This will be an easy win for the Jets.
Week 7 at New England Patriots (Loss 3-4)
The Patriots are always a tough team to beat at home. While they have suffered some setbacks in the offseason and have question marks on their offensive line, they will be a strong team once again this year. The Jets will fall below .500 for the last time of their season after they lose to the Patriots in Week 7.
Week 8 vs. Miami Dolphins (Win 4-4)
With all the steps that the Dolphins have taken backward this offseason, a home game against Miami is one of the easiest matchups in the NFL. The Jets will win this one easily, sweep Miami and get back to .500 for their bye week.
Week 9 Bye (4-4)
Head coach Rex Ryan will again give his players a few days off and again be criticized for it. Nobody will really care.
Week 10 at Seattle Seahawks (Win 5-4)
Right after a bye is the perfect time to have a road game on the west coast. The Seahawks have some cause for optimism this year with several new faces on the team. However, they will be relying heavily on rookies and are coming off a weak showing in 2011. The Jets will be well prepared for this game and will end up victorious.
Week 11 at St. Louis Rams (Win 6-4)
The St. Louis Rams do not have much to look forward to in 2012. Their new defensive coordinator is suspended, and their new offensive coordinator is a man who Jets fans know about from first-hand experience. Schottenheimer will make the Rams offense even worse than it was in 2011. This game will not be close. Furthermore, by winning their third straight game the Jets will get their first relief of the year from media disparaging.
Week 12 vs. New England Patriots (Loss 6-5)
Both the Jets and Patriots will be coming off of short weeks to play each other on Thanksgiving. While it is usually a good bet to pick the Jets and Patriots to split home and home, the Jets often have let down games when they are on winning streaks. The Patriots will pull off the sweep on Thanksgiving day and put some pressure back on the Jets.
Week 13 vs. Arizona Cardinals (Win 7-5)
Cardinals star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will do nothing against Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. With their primary offensive weapon neutralized, the Cardinals will not have enough firepower to accomplish much against the Jets defense. This is likely to be a low scoring game, but the Jets will pull out a win.
Week 14 at Jacksonville Jaguars (Win 8-5)
The Jaguars were crushed by the Jets in 2011, and there will be a similar result in 2012. The Jaguars did not making significant improvements in the offseason. There is also the possibility that star running back Maurice Jones-Drew will not play. Even assuming he does play for the Jaguars, this game will be a second straight win for New York.
Week 15 at Tennessee Titans (Win 9-5)
Most likely this will be a significant game for the Titans, with them still alive in the wild card race. They will put up a good fight, and this will be a close game. However, the Titans do not match up well against the Jets on offense or defense. Stretching their streak to three games, the Jets will win this game in Tennessee.
Week 16 vs. San Diego Chargers (Win 10-5)
The Chargers have made a few positive additions this offseason, including rookie linebacker Melvin Ingram. However, the Chargers are known for playing poorly on the east coast and poorly late in the season. This game will be meaningful for the Chargers, but they will not come through. An easy stretch of opponents will result in the Jets putting together a surprising (to some) four-game winning streak.
Week 17 at Buffalo Bills (Loss 10-6)
As a division game, this will be an important game to both teams no matter what their records are. Most likely the Jets will be in a position to clinch a wild card spot with a win. This will definitely be a close game. The Jets often sweep the Bills in the regular season. However, I am picking the Bills to win a nail-biter and split the season series. With the loss, I predict the Jets will back into an AFC wild card spot.
How do you feel about the Buffalo Bills this year?
The Jets' easy schedule this year has a significant impact on predicting the results of their season. Here are some breakdowns of where the Jets will get their wins and losses in 2012.
AFC East Position: Second
AFC Playoff Position: Sixth
Final Record: 10-6
Home Record: 5-3
Road Record: 5-3
Jets vs. AFC East: 3-3
Jets vs. AFC South: 3-1
Jets vs. NFC West: 3-1