With kickoff only 25 days away, Joe Malfa takes a look at the New York Jets schedule with a breakdown of games five through eight.
*DISCLAIMER: I will be writing these previews under the assumption that Sam Darnold is the starting quarterback. In addition, with all of our coverage here at TOJ, you know the Jets inside and out. Getting to know the opponents will be the focus of these previews.*
Week 9 — @ Miami Dolphins (11/4; 1:00 p.m.)
This will be the second time the Jets face the Dolphins this season. The first meeting takes place in Week 2, and I broke down the matchup in my 1st quarter schedule breakdown:
Do not let the fluke playoff appearance from two years ago fool you — this Dolphins team is trending downward and will likely wind up in the cellar of the AFC East this season.
You could do worse than a receiving corps lead by Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, and Danny Amendola, but pair that group with Ryan Tannehill and a shoddy offensive line and you have yourself a recipe for mediocrity. The ageless wonder Frank Gore will be the early down back with Kenyan Drake getting a lot of touches in the run game as well. The Dolphins finished 25th in total offense last season, and I would not be surprised to see them finish closer to the bottom this season.
Things don’t look much better for the Dolphins defensively. Minkah Fitzpatrick is an exciting addition on the back end, but no improvements were made to the front seven. Cameron Wake has posted double-digit sacks in back-to-back seasons, but can he keep it up now at 36 without Ndamukong Suh to draw double teams? Kiko Alonso is the anchor in the middle of the defense, but he can only do so much. Raekwon McMillan needs to step up in what is his de facto rookie season since a knee injury last training camp cost him all of last season.
Week 10 — vs. Buffalo Bills (11/11; 1:00 p.m.)
The Bills are a tough matchup to read this far in advance. Injuries are always a possibility, but that goes for all teams. The issue is the quarterback situation. The case could be made that any of the Bills’ three quarterbacks could line up under center in this game.
AJ McCarron will get the nod to start the season, but there’s no guarantee he proves he keeps the job. If his play goes south, does that mean Buffalo turns to Nathan Peterman or Josh Allen? The answer will probably be Allen, but they may opt to give him a redshirt. The Chiefs did it with Patrick Mahomes last year, which could be a blueprint the Bills follow.
Regardless of who the quarterback is, the opposing defenses won’t be shaking in their boots. Peterman and Allen will be mediocre at best. McCarron is an unknown, but don’t expect him to go out there and be anything more than average. The lackluster offensive line won’t help the cause either. Vladimir Ducasse — VLADIMIR DUCASSE — is slated to start at left guard. All of the linemen to his right are unremarkable as well. Left tackle Dion Dawkins was Pro Football Focus’ 8th ranked tackle last season, but one good piece does not make it a good offensive line.
LeSean McCoy and Kelvin Benjamin are the only two playmakers on offense, but how effective will they be? McCoy has legal issues hanging over his head and is bound to slow down now at the age of 30. Benjamin complained recently about his time with Cam Newton — former league MVP Cam Newton. What will he think about this bunch?
The defense is in a similar position to the offense. There are two players in particular who can be playmakers, but that’s not nearly enough. Tre’Davious White is a budding star and was PFF’s 5th ranked cornerback last season. Tremaine Edmunds was one of the best defensive prospects in the draft. He just turned 20 in May, and his skillset is unprecedented. The best comparison for him may be a mix between Ryan Shazier and Brian Urlacher.
The Bills will disappoint after making the playoffs last season. They’ll be battling the Dolphins to avoid finishing in the division’s cellar. The Jets will pick up an important win heading into the bye week, especially when you consider how difficult the schedule is post-bye.
Week 11 — BYE WEEK
Week 12 — vs. New England Patriots (11/25; 1:00 p.m.)
The Jets have played the Patriots very well at home over the last five seasons despite four losing seasons. New York has won two of those five home games (both in overtime). The three losses came by a combined 13 points. This will be a battle regardless how each team is looking in the standings.
There will be a buzz around this team if they head into the bye week 6-4 (as I have predicted). Pair that with the fact that it could be that iconic passing of the torch game between Tom Brady and Sam Darnold, and this game may feature the best crowd MetLife Stadium has seen for a Jets game since it opened.
The Jets match up with the Patriots better than they have in recent years. I say that with caution because whenever it seems like the Patriots’ dynasty will die, they prove us wrong by winning a Super Bowl.
This may finally be the year, though. Bill Belichick lost his defensive coordinator, Matt Patricia. The defense, which has ranked poorly over the last few seasons, did not make many improvements this offseason. The only two acquisitions of note were Jason McCourty as a backup cornerback and Adrian Clayborn as a pass rusher. Clayborn did have 9.5 sacks last season, but keep in mind six of them came in against the Cowboys with Tyron Smith out.
The Patriots lost playmakers Brandin Cooks and Dion Lewis. More importantly, they lost Brady’s blindside protector in Nate Solder. Julian Edelman is suspended the first four games, but that has no implications on this Week 12 matchup.
The Jets can certainly come away from this game with a victory.
Week 13 — @ Tennessee Titans (11/25; 1:00 p.m.)
The Jets could be heading into this game as winners of three of their last four and may be coming off a win against the rival Patriots. Traveling to face a Titans team that will be in the playoff mix could prove to be a letdown.
The Titans made it to the playoffs and won a game last season. Mike Vrabel will certainly breath some life and energy into this team after a few years of Mike Mularkey. New offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur comes from Los Angeles where he spent a year as the Rams’ offensive coordinator and helped with Jared Goff’s development. He may be able to help Marcus Mariota take that next step as well.
The Titans have arguably the best offensive line in the league, and they have a thunder and lightning duo at tailback that will be tough for defenses to stop. Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis can be the new version of what we saw the Giants create a decade ago with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. Corey Davis seems poised to break out this season as a top target for Mariota.. Delanie Walker is aging, but he is still one of the most productive tight ends in the league and Mariota’s safety valve.
Tennessee ranked 13th in total defense last year and added Malcolm Butler, 1st-round pick Rashaan Evans, and 2nd-round steal Harold Landry into the mix.
This team may find its way to the playoffs once again in 2018, and while they are not markedly better than the Jets, this will be a very tough game for New York to win on the road.
This quarter of the schedule opens with two matchups that should result in two wins for the Jets. Then they get a week off before two tougher matchups against the Patriots and Titans. Part of me is confident they take down the Patriots, but it’s just tough to pick against Brady and Belichick especially since they are coming out of a bye week as well. The matchup against Titans looks like a loss to me.
The optimist in me says they go 3-1 in this quarter with a statement win against the Patriots, yet the pessimist believes the Patriots pull out a victory. The pessimist wins this time. I feel like a broken record at this point because I said the same thing about the first two quarters, but it is what it is. This is how I have been conditioned over the last two decades.
Final Prediction: 2-2 in the quarter; 6-6 overall
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com