The New York Jets are going to struggle offensively this season. Even if they aren’t as bad as many project them to be after a pathetic start to the pre-season, this offense isn’t built to consistently score over 20 over points even with improved play. Beyond that, they probably won’t hit their “stride” (whatever that will be this year) until the middle of the season, after all the injured receivers get in sync with Mark Sanchez, everybody becomes more comfortable with Tony Sparano’s system and the proper use of Tim Tebow is figured out.
Unfortunately the Jets schedule opens up with their most difficult five game stretch of the season, where they will face three playoff teams from last year and two divisional opponents. If they want to avoid digging themselves into a substantial early season hole, it will be up to the defense to flat out put the team on their back and win a few early season games. A closer look at the schedule, reveals that if this defense is as good as hyped they should start out very strongly.
In week one they face the Buffalo Bulls led by a mediocre quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick at home. Over the past two years, Chan Gailey’s offense is averaging 14 points per game on Rex Ryan’s defense. Buffalo made no major additions to their offense this season, while the Jets added a new pair of starting safeties and a first round defensive lineman. 14 points could very well be all the Jets can afford to give up at the rate their new offense is developing.
At first glance, week two in Pittsburgh appears to be a nightmare early season match-up. However, the Jets defense should actually match-up favorably with their offense. Pittsburgh has questions all over the offensive line, so you would think Ryan and Mike Pettine’s complicated scheme would cause some problems. Pittsburgh’s strength is going vertical with their wide receivers but the Jets are built to cover Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. In their two meetings in 2010, both in Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger’s offense scored 17 points both times (remember one touchdown in the AFC Championship Game was on a fumble return by Pittsburgh’s defense).
The only way Pittsburgh actually hurt the Jets defense that year was with Rashard Mendenhall who had 220 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns over the course of both games. Mendenhall won’t be on the field in week 2 this year as he recovers from an leg injury.
In week three, the Jets face a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehil and a Miami offense that is the only one in the NFL with less depth at wide receiver than their own. In week four they play San Francisco at home. The thought of their defense coming after Mark Sanchez with Wayne Hunter blocking is a nightmare but offensively Alex Smith is Alex Smith and there is no reason to think he will duplicate his consistency from last year. San Francisco improved at receiver this off-season but the Jets are still more than equipped to cover Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham with their trio of cornerbacks.
Finally in week five the Jets face the Houston Texans at home. The Texans are built the way the Jets want to be. They can run the football. They can play defense and they have a vertical passing game. There is every indication that the Jets run defense will be very good this year and it better be on point in week five or Arian Foster and Ben Tate will shred them. Andre Johnson will be checked by Darrelle Revis, like he always is.
Rex Ryan believes the Jets have a top five defense in the NFL. They must be, particularly for the Jets in this early season stretch of games or the start to the season could be very ugly.