What games should New York Jets fans be circling on the schedule?
Now that the NFL players have ratified their new 10-year collective bargaining agreement, the 2011 season is officially ensured, meaning it is finally appropriate to look ahead to the most enticing matchups set up for the coming months.
The Jets will be one of the teams receiving the most attention, not only in New York but across the league. Given their back-to-back AFC championship appearances, the confidence of head coach Rex Ryan and the acquisition of wide receiver Plaxico Burress, the Jets are among the most intriguing teams in the NFL.
But what will be their most intriguing regular season games in 2011? These five matchups should promise plenty of headlines and hoopla.
The New York Jets and the Baltimore Ravens have developed a growing list of ties over the last couple of seasons.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan was a member of the Ravens coaching staff for 10 years, serving primarily for the defense. He took on his present role with the Jets in 2009, the same year that linebacker Bart Scott, who played the first seven years of his career with Baltimore, signed with New York as a free agent.
Last year, the Jets signed Trevor Pryce, apparently "stealing" the defensive end after the Ravens released him with the intention of re-signing him.
Now, the Jets appear on the verge of signing longtime Ravens receiver Derrick Mason, a free agent who spent the past six seasons in Baltimore.
This homecoming of sorts will be intensified by the memories of the last matchup between these two, a Monday Night Football affair on September 13, 2010. The Ravens won the highly contested defensive battle, 10-9.
Little prepared hype is needed here. The New York Jets and New England Patriots have formed one of the most formidable rivalries in the NFL today. Considered the elite of the AFC East, these two teams will likely contend again for the division crown.
The battle will begin with this Week 5 matchup, which will return the Jets to Foxborough for the first time since last year's AFC Divisional playoff game. The Jets shocked the Patriots, 28-21, to advance to their second straight AFC Championship.
While the Jets' most significant offseason acquisition so far has been wide receiver Plaxico Burress, the Patriots have made two big splashes with defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.
These are new names, but the buzz surrounding this rivalry is very much the same heading into the 2011 season.
The New York Jets' lone Monday Night Football game of the season comes against the Miami Dolphins.
There are a few very distinct, but very intriguing, storylines surrounding this matchup.
First, the last game between these two teams is probably best remembered for "Tripgate." Then-Jets strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi tripped Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll as he was running up the sideline covering a punt. This has undoubtedly caused there to be some bad blood between these AFC East rivals, despite the fact that Alosi resigned the following month.
Second, the last time the Jets played on Monday Night Football, they suffered the second-most one-sided loss in MNF history, a 45-3 loss to the New England Patriots.
The New York Jets had their eye on free agent safety Nnamdi Asomugha, in hopes of pairing him with Darrelle Revis to form a truly lethal secondary.
However, all did not go as planned, and Asomugha decided to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Jets will have their chance to show Asomugha what he missed out on when they visit Philadelphia in Week 15.
New York will also be facing the one of the primary preseason Super Bowl favorites. Given how much the Jets have been hyped in recent seasons, we can just go and call this the Battle of the Buzz.
From the one that got away to the one they got.
The New York Jets did sign wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who we last saw as a member of the New York Giants. In case you forgot, he got into a little bit of legal trouble that shortened his tenure with Big Blue.
Burress will be playing in the same stadium he called home last time, but this particular home game will undoubtedly bring a heightened level of emotion.
What emotion(s) will be most prevalent?
We can't be sure of that right now, but early bets for the Giants are on anger (how Burress's absence affected the Giants' offense), jealousy (seeing him go to the Giants' in-state rivals), animosity (just another reason to want to win this already-heated matchup) and nostalgia (because of this).