Week 6 — vs. WashingtonWhile the Redskins may have some talent, they have a roster littered with question marks from RGIII to the offensive line to the defense as a whole. A core of skill players that includes Alfred Morris, DeSean Jackson, and Pierre Garcon will keep this team competitive, but if these questions remain unanswered, it could be another rough season for the team in our nation’s capital. The Skins present a favorable match-up for the Jets — the defense matches up well with any offense and Geno Smith and company should not have much trouble moving the ball against a sub par defense. Things can get a bit dicey for the Jets if RGIII returns to his rookie form because that play can cause trouble for any defense, but aside from that, Gang Green should be favored here.
Week 7 — @ New England
The “demise of the Patriots” conversations began prematurely last season, but there may be cause for concern in New England this season. Forget about the whole Brady suspension saga — while that contributes to the whole scenario, the Pats just do not have the pieces in place to do what they have done in the past. Every offense needs a threat on the outside, and this team does not have that. They can only get by on Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman for so long, especially when you consider the heightened risk of injury these players face as they make their living going over the middle. The loss of Shane Vereen hurts two-fold — it takes away a solid runner as well as a deadly receiving threat.
Defensively, they lost both Revis and Brandon Browner in the secondary, and the front seven is not what it once was. For the first time in recent memory, the Jets defense should have little trouble with the Pats offense, and the Pats defense may have its hands full with the Jets offense. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still Tom Brady and Bill Belichick so you have to avoid counting the Patriots out, but the outlook in New England may be the bleakest it has been in a long time. (Editor is terrified after reading this)Week 8 — @ Oakland
The Raiders have made some strides toward being a competitive team. The defense, led by breakout rookie star Khalil Mack, was ranked 17th against the pass last season and 11th against the run. A perennially abysmal offense now poses a legitimate threat. Derek Carr may emerge as the best QB from last year’s draft, and he has guys like Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and James Jones to target. Latavius Murray showed flashes of brilliance out of the backfield last season, and that backfield now includes Roy Helu Jr. and Trent Richardson — plenty of options to alleviate some of the pressure off Carr. I am not saying that the Raiders are a team poised to make a playoff push, but they are no longer an easy out that you can overlook on the schedule.
Week 9 — vs. JacksonvilleThe Jaguars, like the Raiders, have been terrible year in year out, but they too have made some moves that have them trending in the right direction (though they are not as far along as the Raiders). The defense is a bit weak on the back end, but Tyson Alualu, Jared Odrick, and Chris Clemons make up a solid front line. Offensively, Blake Bortles had an average rookie season in 13 starts, but the addition of big TE target like Julius Thomas will improve the play of any QB. The progression of second year WRs Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee will also have a big impact on the progression of Bortles. Just as the Raiders loaded the backfield to help Carr, the Jaguars added Bernard Pierce and T.J. Yeldon to a backfield that already included Toby Gerhart and Denard Robinson to ease the burden on Bortles. Progress is being made in Jacksonville, but they will still go into the vast majority of their games as underdogs.
This quarter of the schedule is by far the easiest for the Jets, as they face three teams that picked inside the top-5 back in April and will likely be favored in all three of those games. Over the last eight games, there is only one you can look at and pick the Jets as clear favorites, so it is imperative they win the “easy” games in this portion of the schedule (I hesitate to use the word “easy” because there is no such thing as an easy game in the NFL). If they cannot manage to win three out of these four games, making the playoffs may become a bit of an uphill battle.