Would anyone be surprised if the New York Jets completely flame out this season?
Given the history of this franchise and the expectations they have set for themselves, would you really be shocked if they missed the playoffs altogether?
While that scenario does not seem likely for a team with arguably the best defense in the NFL and one of the top ground games, their offseason moves and Rex Ryan’s mouth have basically made this a Super Bowl-or-Bust season. Surely anything short of a return to the AFC Championship Game will be a disappointment.
The Jets can in no way be faulted for trying to make the team better. That argument will in no way be attempted here. However, it was questionable to let go of Thomas Jones in favor of an inexperienced Shonn Greene and an aging LaDainian Tomlinson. We have also repeatedly seen big-name acquisitions that make a team look great on paper not exactly pan out once the games are played. Just ask Daniel Snyder and Jerry Jones.
To the point of the team making it back to the doorstep of the Super Bowl, the odds are stacked against New York.
There have been forty AFC Championship Games played. Of the forty teams that lost that game, only nine have made it back the following year. Of the teams that have made it back a year after losing, less than half, four, have won.
Digest that for a minute.
Of the forty games played, only four losing teams have made it back the following season and won the game. Using those numbers, the Jets have a ten percent chance of making it to Dallas in February.
Consider this as well. The previous two times the Jets made it to the AFC Championship Game, in the 1982-83 and 1998-99 seasons, they followed that up the next year with records of 7-9 and 8-8, missing the playoffs both times.
History is not on their side.
And when you really think about it, this team, with a record of 9-7, was not all that impressive last year. Yes, the defense was nothing short of spectacular, but the offense often left a lot to be desired. They also lucked out at the end of the season when Indianapolis and Cincinnati basically rolled over for them.
This makes the amount of talk that has come from Rex Ryan a bit unsettling. Confidence is necessary to succeed in any sport, but over-confidence, bordering on arrogance, is another thing. It will be up to Ryan’s players to back up his words. They will not be sneaking up on anyone like they did last year, and his words have provided a gigantic bulls-eye. Every team they play would love to take them out.
Recent parallels of what New York could be expecting this year are provided by the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens. In 2008 both the Falcons and Ravens came into the season with rookie head coach/rookie quarterback combinations and low expectations. Both teams vastly exceeded those expectations, going 11-5 and making the playoffs with the Ravens going all the way to the AFC Championship Game.
The following season, with both teams suddenly having to deal with higher expectations, they both took a step back with records of 9-7. While Baltimore still managed to make the playoffs, they were unable to make it all the way back, losing in the Divisional Round. Atlanta missed the playoffs altogether.
This is terribly similar to what the Jets are facing this year. No one expected much of them last year with their rookie head coach, Rex Ryan, and rookie quarterback, Mark Sanchez. They outplayed their expectations, made the playoffs and nearly made the Super Bowl. Now, they have high expectations which brings the added pressure of living up to the hype.
Could a step back be in the works this year?