With kickoff only 80 days away, Joe Malfa takes a look at the New York Jets schedule with a breakdown of their first four games.
*DISCLAIMER: I will be writing these previews under the assumption that Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starting quarterback, because I simply cannot see a scenario in which these parties do not get a deal done. In addition, with all of our coverage here at TOJ, you all know exactly what this Jets team looks like as far as roster, strengths, weaknesses, etc., so I will focus mainly on getting to know the opponents in these quarterly previews.*
Week 1 — vs. Cincinnati
For the 2nd consecutive season, the Jets will kick things off at home against an AFC North opponent from Ohio. Unfortunately, this year it will be the team that won the division in 2015 as opposed to the afterthoughts from Cleveland. It may not be the cupcake of a matchup posed by the Browns, but the Bengals may not be the same formidable bunch that they have been — at least not during Week 1.
The Bengals lost their entire receiving corps (outside of A.J. Green) to free agency, so it may take a bit of time for newly signed Brandon Lafell and 2nd round pick Tyler Boyd to form a rapport with Andy Dalton. Vontaze Burfict makes the defense tick, but he will be suspended for Week 1 as a result of his playoff implosion against the Steelers. Tyler Eifert was a major red zone threat for this offense, but reports surfaced last week that he may not be available for Week 1 after offseason ankle surgery.
I personally believe that the Bengals are primed for another solid season between 9 and 11 wins, but it may take them a couple of weeks to get into a rhythm. On the surface, it seems like a tough Week 1 matchup, but the Jets are actually very lucky to face them right out of the gates instead of a few weeks into the season.Week 2 — @ Buffalo (Thursday Night Football)
The schedule makers might have done the Jets a favor with the matchup against the depleted Bengals in Week 1, but they evened things out by scheduling this quick turnaround to a Thursday night showdown in Buffalo. Also, quick public service announcement, this game will once again feature the “Color Rush” uniforms — apparently the NFL did not get the memo that it is impossible to watch if you suffer from Red-Green Color Blindness.
We know exactly what the Rex Ryan-led Bills bring to the table. They play smash mouth, ground and pound football, and just when their offense lulls you to sleep, Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins pose a major threat for big-plays. The Jets did a solid job of bottling up the run-game last year, which will probably be the case again this year, but they simply could not get off the field on 3rd downs. Hopefully the speed and coverage ability of Darron Lee can help this defense overcome those 3rd down woes.
The Bills did not do much to improve in the offseason, which means they should be a middling eight win team again this season, but they have simply been a thorn in the Jets’ side — even when Rex was still a Jet.Week 3 — @ Kansas City
This Week 3 visit to the Chiefs is an absolute nightmare for the Jets.
The Chiefs play mistake-free football on offense led by the uber-efficient Alex Smith. Jamaal Charles and Charcandrick West are both fleet-footed backs that catch the ball well out of the backfield, and Travis Kelce has developed into one of the league’s top tight ends — we all know how the Jets have fared against these types of RBs and TEs over the last few years. Defensively, the Chiefs have one of the league’s best pass-rushes and one of the league’s loudest crowds, which does not bode well for either Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick — two mistake-prone QBs — behind an offensive line littered with question marks.
I am not saying that this is a guaranteed loss for the Jets, but I believe this is their toughest matchup in the first quarter of the season.
Week 4 — vs. Seattle
It seems like there is still this perception about Seattle being unbeatable Super Bowl favorites, but this version of the Seahawks may not be quite as daunting.
Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin linked up for 14 TDs last season, but I have not seen nearly enough out of Baldwin to go ahead and say that he’ll give Revis issues. The Seahawks’ strength has been their run-game, but Thomas Rawls is nowhere near as dominant as Marshawn Lynch, and their offensive line is in shambles — the Jets’ front seven should control the game. As far as the TE situation, Jimmy Graham is a shell of the goal-post dunking, touchdown machine that he was in New Orleans. The defense, however, is still one of the best in the league, which should make this game a hard-fought, low scoring battle.
The ace in the hole with this matchup is Todd Bowles’ knowledge of the Seahawks from his days in Arizona. During the Rex Ryan era, there were a handful of games in which the Jets simply seemed unprepared — look for Bowles to have his troops ready to go against a team he is very familiar with.
The Jets have an extremely difficult schedule in 2016, particularly before the bye week. There are a couple of stretches with easier matchups later on, but the early schedule is brutal. The 1st quarter features three teams that made the playoffs in 2015, with the fourth being a Bills squad that swept last year’s season series.
There is no clear-cut favorite in any of these four matchups. If I were to be very optimistic, I would say that they open 3-1. They have not lost a home opener since 2010, and the Bengals will come into town without two major pieces. The trip up to Orchard Park on a Thursday night is not ideal, but I believe Bowles will be ready to avenge last season’s sweep. Kansas City is the matchup most likely to yield a loss, but I like Gang Green’s chances coming back home against the Seahawks the following week.
Like I said, 3-1 would be my optimistic prediction, but I could just as easily be more pessimistic and put them at 1-3. With that being said, I will just split the difference, slap a 2-2 prediction on the first quarter of the season, and call it a day.
Final Prediction: 2-2
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com