Starting Sunday against the Jaguars at MetLife Stadium, the Jets start a stretch of six straight games against teams they have recently or historically struggled against. This will be a big test for Sanchez who fans and the front office need to see can point them to victories.
Hold on a minute...I know that such a statement can be made for ANY team this season, however for the 2011 New York Jets, the next six opponents represent the disaster and failures that this franchise has been saddled with since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Ask any football fan that know his history, and no doubt the most important event in Jets franchise history after winning Super Bowl III was hiring Bill Parcells prior to the 1997 season. Before that season, the Jets were the only team since the merger to not win a division title. From 1970 through 1996, the Jets had Just five winning seasons (one coming in the strike-shortened season of 1982), and just three postseason victories (two coming in the strike-shortened 1982 season).
Bill Parcells took over a team that finished 1-15 in 1996 and was outscored by 175 points, marking the third time since the merger that gang green has been outscored by that many points. Parcells impact was immediate, as the Jets responded with a 9-7 record and had a chance at the postseason heading into their final game.
In the 14 seasons starting with 1997, New York has won two division titles, finished with 10 winning seasons, and won seven postseason games. However, despite the turn in fortune for the Jets, there are some teams that have been a constant thorn in their side. The Jets next six opponents will really give us some insight into how much of that "same old Jets" image the team has shed.
On Sunday the Jets will host the Jaguars. Since joining the NFL in 1995, the Jets are just 2-6 against Jacksonville in the regular season. They have not defeated the Jags since 2003, having lost three straight and six of their last seven regular season games against them. Rex Ryan lost to the Jags 24-22 on a last second field goal in 2009 at the Meadowlands, while Eric Mangini suffered his worst loss as a Jets head coach in a 41-0 trouncing at Jacksonville in 2006. In Herm Edwards final season as coach in 2005, he watched Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler suffer season-ending injuries in a three-play span in the Jets 26-20 loss at home.
In Week 3 the Jets travel to Oakland, a place that has never been kind to the Jets. Yes, the Jets manhandled the Raiders 38-0 in their last visit there in 2009, but also lost the previous season 16-13 in OT against a very poor Raiders team. No doubt Oakland is much better than they were in 2009, and with Darren McFadden, the Jets better make sure they come to play against a franchise they are 4-14-1 against (includes postseason) in their last 19 road games.
Week 4 sees the Jets travel to Baltimore to play the Ravens, a place they have never won at, going 0-3 all-time. Since defeating Vinny Testaverde in the teams first matchup in 1997, New York has lost six straight against the Ravens, which includes last season's 10-9 Week 1 failure. More importantly, the Jets seem to be frightened and intimidated by Baltimore. Led by Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the Ravens defense have held the Jets to just 211.0 yards per game in the last three games, and since the Jets took a 14-0 lead in their 2004 meeting at the Meadowlands, the Ravens defense has held the Jets to just one TD in their last 14 quarters.
In Week 5 the Jets take on the Patriots in New England, a game the Pats I'm sure have highlighted on their calendar after they suffered a 28-21 loss to the Jets in the 2010 AFC Divisional Playoff Game at home. Just to show how tough this stretch of games is historically for the Jets, the Patriots are the team they have had the most success against recently, going 3-2 (including postseason) since Rex Ryan took over as head coach. The Jets have also by far had the most success against Brady and the Pats, going 3-6 (includes postseason) at New England, compared to fellow AFC East rivals Dolphins and Bills 1-17 combined record against Brady.
Week 6 finds the Jets coming home to host the Dolphins. Although the Jets have had a lot of success against Miami under Parcells (4-2), Al Groh (2-0), Herm Edwards (6-4) and Eric Mangini (5-1), they are just 1-3 against Miami under Rex Ryan, and have lost three straight home games against the Fins. The Jets have always had a special hated for the Dolphins going back to the Dan Marino days, however although the "spike game" and a few other embarrassing losses like the 52-14 trouncing in Week 1 of 1995 were tough to take, the Jets have ruined a few seasons of the Dolphins as well. In 1991 the Jets defeated the Dolphins in OT in a winner-gets-in the postseason game at Miami in the seasons final week. There was the 51-45 game in 1986 in which Ken O'Brien outplayed Marino, and who can forget the "Monday Night Miracle" when the Jets fought back trailing 30-7 in the final quarter. Although the Jets have the better team on paper this season, judging by these teams head-to-head histories, upsets are very, very common.
Finally in the last game of this stretch the Jets host the Chargers. While the Jets have had postseason success against San Diego, defeating them on the road in the 2004 and 2009 postseason, they have struggled during the regular season. The Jets have lost their last two regular season games against the Chargers, which includes a 48-29 thumping on Monday Night Football at San Diego in 2008. The 48 points allowed by the Jets that night is the most they have allowed in a single-game in the Parcells era. The Chargers have also won three of their last four visits to New York.
If the Jets are able to have success in this stretch, many of their fans will definitely see that talk of the "same old Jets" and their inability to defeat certain teams is no longer applicable. Many experts and football fans like to tease Jets fans for being so negative and always waiting for the other shoe to drop. After all, what exactly does the Jets 41-0 loss to the Jaguars in 2006 against a team that is totally different now? Why should anyone care that the Jets lost games to five different Ravens QBs over their six-game losing streak as Eric Zeier, Trent Dilfer, Kyle Boller, Anthony Wright and Joe Flacco have all defeated them? What does a OT loss three seasons ago have to do with this season?
Looking at things that way, those who make such points are 100 percent correct. Jets fans have a very hard time letting the past go, and tend to go into panic mode when things get dicey. However, 42 seasons of blown leads and missed opportunities will do that do a fan base. In each of the previous two seasons, the Jets have lost games against opponents they were better than, because of self destructing or just not showing up to play. If the 2011 Jets want a division title to hang from MetLife Stadium, they need to develop Patriot like consistency and beat up on teams they should beat. That starts with Sunday at home against the Jaguars. For a franchise and fan base that yearns for another Super Bowl title, this stretch can answer a lot of questions about the teams chance to do so.