With kickoff only 18 days away, Joe Malfa takes a look at the New York Jets schedule with a breakdown of the last four games of the season.
*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 14 — @ Buffalo Bills (12/9; 1:00 p.m.)
This will be the second time the Jets face the Bills this season. The first meeting takes place in Week 9, and I broke down the matchup in my 3rd quarter schedule breakdown:
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.
McCarron has already sustained an injury since I last wrote about the Bills. It just goes to show how quickly things. Regardless of whether its McCarron or Allen, the Bills won’t be good. The Jets need this win otherwise they may go winless in this quarter.
Week 15 — vs. Houston Texans (12/15; TBA)
The Texans may be a dark horse contender in the AFC this year as long as Deshaun Watson is back to what he was before he tore his ACL. DeAndre Hopkins is arguably the best receiver in the league. Will Fuller showed just how explosive he can be last season. He played four games with Watson last season and hauled in seven touchdowns. No one has emerged as a tertiary target yet, but Watson’s talent can elevate those around him.
The offensive line is a bit suspect. Nick Martin is alright at center, but that’s about it. There is a definite concern for the level of protection Watson will receive coming off an injury. Lamar Miller is not what he once was, but Houston can count on him to produce at least 800 yards. D’Onta Foreman is the name to watch in the backfield this season. If he is fully healthy after last year’s torn achilles, he may supplant Miller as the go-to back. He averaged 4.2 yards per carry and showed both the power and quickness teams look for in a bell-cow back.
Defensively, the Texans should be stout. It struggled at times last season as the injuries piled up, but everyone is healthy and ready to go to start the season. J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus make up a formidable front seven as long as they each make it through the season fully healthy. That is a big if — Watt and Mercilus combined to play in 10 games last season. The secondary is composed of Jonathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson, Kevin Johnson, and the newly acquire Tyrann Mathieu. The ‘Honey Badger’ is another injury question mark, but if this defense stays healthy it can be tough to beat on the front and back ends.
This is a tough matchup for the Jets all around. The Texans are better on paper and they will need this game more assuming they are fighting for a playoff spot. The one thing going in the Jets’ favor is this may be flexed to the Saturday night game, and the crowd could be rocking for some prime time football.
Week 16 — vs. Green Bay Packers (12/23; 1:00 p.m.)
The Packers are once again a Super Bowl favorite. Their season went down the drain last season after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone, but the offense may be the best it has ever been if health is on the Packers’ side this season.
It wasn’t just Rodgers who went down last season, as Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, Ty Montgomery, Randall Cobb, Aaron Jones and various offensive linemen also missed some time due to injury. They have a clean bill of health — for now at least — and added Jimmy Graham into the mix. The addition of Joe Philbin as the offensive coordinator should not be overlooked either. He was in charge of the offense when the Packers won the Super Bowl in 2011.
The issue for the Packers has always been the defense, but they took steps towards fixing that in the offseason. They drafted cornerbacks in the first two rounds of the draft — Jaire Alexander in the first and Josh Jackson in the second. They should both play major roles in this defense from the start. This is also the Muhammad Wilkerson revenge game. It will be interesting to see which version of Wilkerson the Packers will get.
Any way you slice it, this looks like a loss for the Jets. The only hope for a win would be playing against a roster depleted by injuries, which you never want to see.
Week 17 — @ New England Patriots (12/30; 1:00 p.m.)
The Patriots are the second repeat opponent for the Jets in this quarter of the schedule. The first meeting takes place in Week 12, and I broke down the matchup in my 3rd quarter schedule breakdown:
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  matchup.
If this game were at home, the Jets would have a shot as they always do against the Patriots at home. On the road in Week 17 in a season in which the Patriots may actually need that game for a first-round bye, the Jets probably have no shot in this one.
On paper — inevitable injuries notwithstanding — the fourth quarter of the schedule is by far the toughest for the Jets. Getting to the playoffs is not the primary goal this season, but if there is any shot at making a surprise run they need to somehow find eight wins through the first 12 games. It is really difficult to say the Jets are capable of winning more than one game (@ Buffalo) in this stretch of the schedule. I think they take a 2-2 split away from each quarter — except for this one.
Final Prediction: 1-3 in the quarter; 7-9 overall
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com