*DISCLAIMER: I am 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 5 — @ Pittsburgh
We will eventually get to our league-wide predictions for the 2016 season here at TOJ, but I’ll give you all a little taste of mine right now. The Steelers will be my AFC Super Bowl pick, and that may tell you all you need to know about my thoughts on this matchup for the Jets.
In a recent article on ESPN.com, Bill Barnwell ranked the best trios in the NFL. Spoiler alert: the Steelers’ trio of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell came in at #1 on the list, and rightfully so. Big Ben is an elite top-5 QB, Bell is an elite top-5 RB, and Antonio Brown is undoubtedly the best WR in the NFL. Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates have proven themselves as valuable secondary targets for Big Ben who are capable of taking the top off the defense. Heath Miller is gone but the addition of Ladarius Green is an upgrade, especially in the red zone (quick fantasy tip: I believe Green will score 10 TDs and put up top-5 TE numbers this season).
The Steelers are less than stellar defensively, but scoring 30 against them means nothing if they put up 40. Pittsburgh may be the team to beat this year in the AFC, and I would not count on the Jets stealing a win in the Steel City.Week 6 — @ Arizona (Monday Night Football)
Gotta love these schedule makers — a week after the trip to Pittsburgh, the Jets have to fly cross country for a Monday Night showdown with my pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The Cardinals may not have Pittsburgh’s elite offensive trio, but they are the most complete team in the NFL. They led the league in total offense in 2015, ranked 5th in total defense, and ranked among the league’s most efficient teams on special teams. Carson Palmer’s career has been resurrected in Phoenix *insert cliche about a Phoenix rising from the ashes* thanks to the system of Bruce Arians. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown make up the most dynamic receiving corps in the league. David Johnson and Chris Johnson combined for nearly 2,000 yards of total offense out of the backfield, while Andre Ellington added over 400 yards of offense as the 3rd option.
Arizona’s defense helped carry them to the NFC Championship game last season, but it unraveled in the blowout loss to the Panthers. The front office took a major step to improving an already great defense by trading for Chandler Jones in the offseason. The Cards then added Robert Nkemdiche with the 29th overall pick, and the defensive tackle out of Ole Miss is ready to make a major impact from Day 1. Add those pieces to a defense that already featured Deone Bucannon (recently ranked the 7th best ILB in the NFL by Sports Illustrated), Patrick Peterson, and Tyrann Mathieu (who was sidelined down the stretch with a torn ACL), and this defense is ready to improve upon a stellar 2015.Todd Bowles may be eager to face his old team, but I do not think he will be a fan of the outcome.
Week 7 — vs. Baltimore
Of all the games on the Jets’ schedule this season, this one may be the toughest to get a read on. I’ll get to the Ravens roster in a moment (which has many questions in an of itself), but just take a look at where this game is placed on the schedule. It is safe to assume the Jets will lose two straight on the road against Pittsburgh and Arizona, so this home game against the Ravens may be a must win. Unfortunately, they come into this game flying back across the country on a short week after a tough game against the Cardinals. On top of that, this can be somewhat of a trap game if they find themselves looking ahead to a cupcake matchup against the Browns.
As far as the makeup of the Ravens’ roster, there are a lot of question marks, starting with their three most important players on offense. Joe Flacco has had his ups and downs, father time eventually has to catch up to Steve Smith, and Justin Forsett is an average RB now on the wrong side of 30. Breshad Perriman can potentially step up, but he is already having injury issues. If he is not healthy, Mike Wallace may be the next best WR on the roster, which tells you all you need to know about the rest of Flacco’s weapons.
Baltimore ranked 8th in total defense last season, which is right around where you can expect them to be again this season. Terrell Suggs will be back from injury to wreak havoc on QBs with Elvis Dumervil, and Eric Weddle will be a valuable addition to the secondary.
Overall, the Ravens are beatable and I believe the Jets are the superior team, but the mere placement of this game on the schedule makes it a bit more difficult.
Week 8 — @ Cleveland
The Cavs won the NBA Championship and the Indians have won 12 straight games, but the Browns are still the Browns — don’t expect them to miraculously turn things around.
Not much to talk about here — the Browns are simply terrible and this should be an easy win for the Jets. I am looking forward to watching Matt Forte haul in 11 catches for 120 yards against Demario Davis.
If you thought the 1st quarter of the schedule was hard, then you must really hate the 2nd quarter. It may end with a more than favorable matchup against the Browns, but it begins with matchups against top Super Bowl contenders in Pittsburgh and Arizona. I didn’t hesitate to chalk up the game against the Browns as a win, but I didn’t hesitate to count the games against the Steelers and Cardinals as losses. The only game that provides some intrigue is the one home game in this stretch against the Ravens, but the Jets should come out on top.
This stretch of the schedule will serve as a good barometer for the Jets. We will get a chance to see how they stack up against the league’s elite teams, and whether or not they can take care of a Ravens team that may contend for a wild card spot.
Final Prediction: 2-2
Running Total: 4-4
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com