5 Games That Will Determine the New York Jets' Fate in 2013
Nobody expects the New York Jets to compete for a playoff berth in the 2013 season.
The green and white have undergone ugly turnover, headlined by the exit of former franchise player Darrelle Revis.
The Jets reached a crossroad at the start of this offseason when it became apparent that the team would be forced to rebuild without the presence of its supposed prima donna, albeit a player that could be a supreme difference-maker for a team just footsteps removed from earning championship glory.
It's an unprecedented clash between two teams that aren't touted as playoff-caliber, but the game's outcome will dictate the tempo of each team's season.
Week 1 serves as a starting point for the Jets for multiple reasons. It has the potential to represent the beginning of a new era if rookie quarterback Geno Smith becomes the team's main signal-caller. It also grants New York a chance to deny its former star player a stake at supremacy.
The following examines five key games that will determine the Jets' fate in the 2013 season.
Week 1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The Jets open the 2013 campaign at MetLife Stadium against the Buccaneers in an intriguing matchup that showcases Darrelle Revis against his old team.
New York has a chance to spit fire in the faces of doubters in Week 1. Tampa Bay isn't considered to be a perennial threat in the NFC, but it's arguably a team on the rise.
On the flip side, the Jets are vastly considered a team on the downfall. Rex Ryan has unofficially reached lame-duck status as the team's head coach, while GM Idzik has stripped apart a once-formidable roster in an attempt to revamp the roster's talent pool.
There's no doubt that the Jets will enter Week 1 with a chip on their shoulder. A win against Revis and Co. couldn't be classified as a statement, but it would set the tone for a season that is supposedly going to be filled with failure.
The first game of the season will be an immediate test for whoever is delegated the role of starting quarterback. The Buccaneers feature a rebuilt defensive backfield that includes Revis and safety Dashon Goldson.
Embattled QB Mark Sanchez would be on a short leash if given the chance to start, while Smith would face unparalleled pressure in symbolizing the "anti-Sanchez."
New OC Marty Mornhinweg's offensive game scheme will still have a learning curve at the season's start, which means the Jets will likely give the Buccaneers a heavy dose of Chris Ivory in Week 1.
The objective would be to limit the pressure put on the quarterback, pressure which could be exacerbated by the presence of "Revis Island."
Week 5: Atlanta Falcons
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The Jets travel to Atlanta for their second and final nationally televised game of the season on Monday Night Football in Week 5.
The Jets were the epitome of "bad" in a 49-19 defeat at home on Thanksgiving night last season on national TV. It was arguably one of the worst performances in the history of the franchise and helped solidify the team's sad reputation.
The Falcons, led by perennial Pro Bowl QB Matt Ryan, have serious Super Bowl aspirations after falling just short of NFC Championship glory last season. They lost two home games in 2012, including the postseason, and are one of the most difficult teams to beat on the road.
This early test will be pivotal for the Jets, who enter a daunting stretch of games against superior opponents in Week 5. A crushing defeat could lead to an ugly tailspin, since games against the Steelers and Patriots in Week 6 and 7 follow.
The Jets' newly constructed secondary will be hard-pressed to impose its will against a potent air attack that features outstanding vertical threats like Roddy White and Julio Jones.
This game is an opportunity for players like Quinton Coples, Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson to brand themselves as household names in the NFL.
The Jets' D-front needs to pressure Ryan and stuff the run to limit the damage downfield and take the pressure off guys like potential starting safety Antonio Allen and rookie cornerback Dee Milliner.
Week 7: New England Patriots
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The Jets collapsed in Week 12 last season when Mark Sanchez enshrined himself in the football Hall of Shame, succumbing to multiple turnovers, including the infamous "butt fumble."
The team suffered a brutal 30-point beatdown on its home turf in front of a national TV audience, becoming a laughingstock across the nation.
That game symbolized an opportunity for the Jets to climb back into the playoff picture and achieve revenge against a team they scarcely lost to in Week 7, when the team blew a three-point lead with two minutes remaining in regulation.
This matchup could be a make-or-break game for the Jets, who could be staring down their fifth defeat of the season at this juncture. It's a realistic likelihood for a bumbling franchise that faces question marks at several key positions across the field.
The Jets have lost five straight regular-season games against the Patriots.
The last time they beat their arch-rival was January 16, 2011, when the green and white stunned the football world, beating the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Playoffs to earn a berth in the conference title game.
A win against the Patriots in Week 7 would help redefine a new era for the Jets.
Week 12: Baltimore Ravens
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The Jets will visit the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 12. Ryan's team hasn't beaten the Ravens in two tries during his tenure. He'll be hard-pressed to push his squad toward a win this go-round. The Jets are expected to be outmatched on a large scale.
Baltimore features a beastly offensive attack that is destined to outlast the Jets' youthful defense.
QB Joe Flacco has steadily risen to the upper echelon of elite talent in the NFL. His big arm combined with precise decision-making ability in the pocket make him difficult to defend. This matchup will be another huge test for the Jets' secondary, which could be forced to defend multiple deep balls.
The Jets' most recent trip to Baltimore ended in an ugly 17-point loss on Sunday Night Football in Week 4 of the 2011 season.
The Ravens will likely be in a dog fight for playoff positioning at this point in the season, while the Jets could be floundering beneath the depths of mediocrity.
Earning a win in Baltimore would ultimately be a career feat for Ryan, who has failed to outwit the team that denied him a chance to be head coach.
Week 17: Miami Dolphins
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The Jets' 2013 regular-season schedule ends in Miami, where the team self-destructed at the conclusion of the 2011 season in a bitter defeat to dissolve scarce playoff hopes.
That game was headlined by a scuffle between Santonio Holmes and offensive lineman Wayne Hunter. Holmes was ineffectively benched by former OC Brian Schottenheimer in favor of Patrick Turner as punishment for the verbal confrontation on the field.
Sanchez promptly delivered a season-ending interception down the stretch to cap a signature unimpressive performance. It was a fitting ending for a defective team that failed on a massive level to reclaim playoff relevancy.
The Jets are 0-6 in the final three weeks of the season since 2011 under the leadership of Ryan.
It's entirely possible that Ryan could be staring down his final game as the Jets' head coach in Week 17 of the upcoming season, especially if his team plummets against lame-duck competition down the stretch.
It's highly doubtful that New York would be positioned for a potential playoff berth in the season's final week. The Jets will most likely be playing for pride in Week 17, although a win against the Dolphins would help ease what could be a bitter season.