The New York Jets are widely predicted to be one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2017. Despite optimism on the potential of many players drafted in 2015 and 2016, they are unproven at a high number of positions. It is fair to argue they have the least talented roster in the NFL. Yet, talent doesn’t always match record output.
It is easy to look at the Jets 2017 schedule and say you cannot find more than 1-3 potential wins. Maybe they grab one or two from their games against Buffalo and Miami in the AFC East. Maybe they beat Cleveland and/or Jacksonville. On paper, this is a reasonable evaluation as the Jets are likely to be underdogs in most, if not all, of their games. Unfortunately for fans who would like to see this team tank in the most spectacular way possible, games are not played on paper and many things can change between now and the autumn.
Did the Jets have any business beating the Baltimore Ravens last year or did they just catch a team much better than them who was decimated by injuries that particular week? How about their week 17 win over Buffalo, which was turned into a glorified preseason game with Tyrod Taylor benched for EJ Manuel and Cardale Jones? We have no idea what the context is going to be around their match-ups in 2017. Players will get hurt. Teams will fire their coach midseason and use the last month for evaluative purposes. A team could simply lay an egg. How did San Diego manage to lose to Cleveland last season?
We have seen plenty of examples in recent Jets history where a team’s talent level does not match their record. The 2013 team finished 8-8 despite a -97 point differential. Yes, Bill Parcels always said you are what your record says you are but that 2013 team was a 4-12 team who went 8-8, thanks to a timely personal foul against Tampa Bay, EJ Manuel starting on the road and a bizarre penalty on New England.
The 2014 team on the other hand was probably better than their 4-12 record since they lost six games by one possession or less. Was the 2015 team a legitimate 10-6 or did they just play an easy schedule and steal a few late season games they had no business winning? Football can be a random sport. A fumble bounces the wrong way, a kicker shanks a pair of kicks he normally makes, a quarterback has a Jake Delhomme like day at the office and all of a sudden a bad team finds their way into a few more wins than they merit based on their talent level.
This can work the other way also. Despite their limitations, the Jets have talented players at multiple positions. The only reason the Jets beat Cleveland last year is because Quincy Enunwa took over in the second half. The only reason they beat San Francisco is because Bilal Powell was the best player on the field. If Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson are used right, they are talented enough to overwhelm a bad offensive line and steal a game.
The Jets can be a “bad” team and not be the 1-15 train wreck many are predicting. Despite the adverse effect on the tank it will have, it is not out of the question for this team to find their way to 5-7 wins if a few things break their way. This means if they want their quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft, they might need to be aggressive and move up to acquire him.
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