I would argue that no team changed more during last season than the New York Jets. They and rookie QB Mark Sanchez were the talk of the NFL early last season as New York started 3-0, beating all potential playoff teams (although only one – the Pats – made it). Then Sanchez sort of hit the wall and New York went into the tank, losing six of seven to seemingly put the playoffs out of reach.
But then something clicked again after Thanksgiving, as the Jets won five of six to sneak into the postseason. Did it help that Week 16 opponent Indianapolis and Week 17 foe Cincinnati didn’t play all their starters because their playoff spots were set? Sure it did, but then the Jets proved they were no flukes by easily winning in Cincinnati, stunning the Chargers in San Diego and pushing the Colts in the AFC title game before falling, 30-17.
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Sanchez was OK in the regular season, throwing for 2,444 yards and 12 TDs to go with 20 picks for a rating of 63.0. He had the fewest attempts, completions and passing yards among quarterbacks who played at least 15 games in 2009. Sanchez was better in the playoffs, giving hope he will take a big step up in 2010.
But really the 2009 Jets were built on defense and the ground game – New York led the league in total defense and passing defense (thanks in large part to incomparable cornerback Darrelle Revis) as well as in rushing offense.
And New York hardly stood pat this offseason, dumping leading rusher Thomas Jones because of Shonn Greene’s emergence, as well as trading versatile RB Leon Washington, who suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 7 last year. New York brought in a litany of stars: LaDainian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes, Jason Taylor and Antonio Cromartie. However, the team did release nine-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Alan Faneca, and he was a big part of that O-Line being arguably the best in the NFL last season.
A lot of people are picking the Jets to reach the Super Bowl – the Sporting News, for one. This team is already woofing more than any other team in the NFL, led by outspoken coach Rex Ryan. Tomlinson himself guaranteed a Jets Super Bowl win.
WagerWeb lists the Jets’ ‘over/under’ for NFL season win totals at 9.5. Let’s break down the 2010 New York Jets schedule:
Week 1: Monday, Sep. 13, Baltimore, 7:00 PM
Week 2: Sunday, Sep. 19, New England, 4:15 PM
Week 3: Sunday, Sep. 26, at Miami, 8:20 PM
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 3, at Buffalo, 1:00 PM
Week 5: Monday, Oct. 11, Minnesota, 8:30 PM
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 17, at Denver, 4:05 PM
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 31, Green Bay, 1:00 PM
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 7, at Detroit, 1:00 PM
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 14, at Cleveland, 1:00 PM
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 21, Houston, 1:00 PM
Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 25, Cincinnati, 8:20 PM
Week 13: Monday, Dec. 6, at New England, 8:30 PM
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 12, Miami, 4:15 PM
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 19, at Pittsburgh, 4:15 PM
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 26, at Chicago, 1:00 PM
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 2, Buffalo, 1:00 PM
This is tied for the 16th toughest (or easiest, I suppose) schedule in the NFL with an opponents’ 2009 winning percentage of .500 (128-128).
The networks love those New York teams as the Jets make a franchise-high five prime-time appearances that probably will grow when flex scheduling takes over late in the season. That Ravens opener as the first game of the MNF doubleheader is, of course, against Ryan’s former Baltimore team. That game’s total may not reach 20. It’s also the Jets’ first game in the new Giants Stadium (albeit a day after the actual Giants christen it). Then they visit the archrival Pats, whom the Jets beat 16-9 in the Meadowlands in Week 2 last year. That was the first Jets home win over Tom Brady and the first over the Patriots at the Meadowlands since 2000. Of course the Pats may not have star WR Wes Welker this early in the season, which could cripple Brady against the stellar Jets secondary. It’s the first time New York’s first two games are at home since the New York Titans' first year of existence in 1960. The Dolphins, Week 3 opponents, managed to sweep the Jets last year and have added Brandon Marshall. That three-game opening stretch is arguably the toughest of the season for New York.
One would expect New York to beat Buffalo, but the Bills gave the Jets some problems last year and managed to split. Think Brett Favre will be booed when he returns to face the Jets for the first time since playing with them that one year? Then New York has the difficult task of playing at Denver in the thin air on a short week. Let’s call it 3-3 at the bye.
If the Jets can beat the Packers at home following the bye they will be in good shape because in Weeks 9-11 they play teams that missed the playoffs in 2009 and were a combined 16-32. And on Thanksgiving night the Jets face a Bengals team they swept last year (although the Jets are 0-3 on Turkey Day all time). So a midseason surge seems very likely.
December is much tougher as each opponent is likely a playoff contender – 11 days off before a crucial date with the Pats is a benefit -- before closing with what should be a victory over a Bills team that will be far out of the playoffs and playing out the string. With the new rule that all Week 17 games have to be divisional games, the Jets couldn’t have asked for a better foe while the Pats and Dolphins fight it out.
I’m not as big on the Jets as everyone else, but don’t doubt they will be good. This looks like 10-6, so take the ‘over’. I predicted the Pats to also finish 10-6, so it could come down to tiebreakers to win the AFC East (Pats are +105 on WagerWeb and Jets at +110). I do think the Jets will miss Thomas Jones and that the passing game will still struggle and, thus, New York won’t make it back to the AFC title game -- but will get within a game of it.
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