By Brad Carroll
The New York Jets have their path to the postseason, opening with the Cleveland Browns and finishing with Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills, with games against the Patriots, Dolphins, Giants and many more in between. Also, while the Jets won't benefit in a game situation from the four-game suspension of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, for cheating during the AFC championship game, they could benefit in the AFC East race. Here is our second, post-draft and post-suspension, look at the Jets' schedule with predictions for each game.
Week 1: vs. Browns, 1 p.m., Sunday
Much like last year, the Jets open the season with a team they absolutely have to beat in order to set up a possible playoff run. The Browns finished 7-9 a season ago and don't have a quarterback that scares you, with Josh McCown starting and Johnny Manziel as the backup. Of course, the Jets don't have a quarterback either right now. The Jets, however, get the important win.
Week 2: at Colts, 8:30 p.m., Monday
This game is why it's so important for the Jets to beat the Browns in Week 1, as the Colts will be big favorites, especially on Monday Night Football at home. Andrew Luck is the best young quarterback in the game, and while the Jets' secondary is one of the best in football, the Colts have the edge. Plus, the Jets offense is still a work in progress. Jets drop to 1-1.
Week 3: vs. Eagles, 1 p.m., Sunday
Will both Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow return to MetLife Stadium with the Eagles? Sanchez should certainly be there. Tebow, on the other hand, would be a longshot. Neither is likely to start, as Sam Bradford, if he can ever stay healthy, will be the starting quarterback. There's plenty of drama surrounding Philadelphia, with former players calling out coach Chip Kelly's decision-making. Wow, the Eagles have some issues. Jets win at home.
Week 4: at Dolphins (London), 9:35 a.m., Sunday
The Jets don't have to go to Miami this year, and get what should be a neutral site divisional game in London, a huge positive. The Jets actually have a strong following across the pond, but the Dolphins are a popular out-of-market team as well, so at best it should be 50-50 in the stands. The Dolphins finished 8-8 last year and won't be better this year. Jets win and head to the bye at 3-1.
Week 5: Bye Week
Week 6: vs. Redskins, 1 p.m., Sunday
The Jets have to take advantage of playing bad teams at home and coming away with victories. The Redskins qualify for that scenerio. Washington is a team fueled in dysfunction, with most of the controversy surrounding quarterback Robert Griffin III and whether or not he's the franchise anymore. Likely, he starts at MetLife against a Jets team coming off a bye. Jets have to win.
Week 7: at Patriots, 1 p.m., Sunday
The first of two huge matchups with the Jets' biggest rival happens at Foxborough, with the depleted but always great Patriots. Darrelle Revis plays for his old team against his other old team, which should be what's hyped most leading into this matchup. The Jets, for the most part, always play the Patriots tough, but New England is nearly impossible to beat
Week 8: at Raiders, 4:05 p.m., Sunday
The Jets will have to travel cross-country for their second straight road game, but luckily it will be against the Raiders, one of the league's bottom-dwellers. The Jets dominated the Raiders last year at home in Week 1, and they've improved a great deal, while Oakland has remained rather stagnant. With the road trip, the Jets could slip, but we'll go with talent over travel.
Week 9: vs. Jaguars, 1 p.m., Sunday
The Jets get a nice break in the middle of the season, on paper anyway, with back-to-back games against the Raiders and Jaguars, two of the NFL's worst. The Jaguars should be better on offense this year, with quarterback Blake Bortles having a season under his belt and the addition of tight end Julius Thomas, signed from the Broncos. Still, the Jets win and move to 6-2.
Week 10: vs. Bills, 8:25 p.m., Thursday
Rex Ryan returns to his home of five years, and if he doesn't use the week lead-up to disparage the Jets, he should get a nice welcome home. After all, he did put the Jets back on the football map. Make no mistake, he had to go, but Jets fans should either cheer or sit on their hands for the former coach. On the field, the Bills are very good, but Jets win at home.
Week 11: at Texans, 1 p.m., Sunday
Who's the best defensive player in the NFL? We get to debate a couple of them in this matchup in Houston, as the Jets have Darrelle Revis, while the Texans have JJ Watt. It's a debate that likely ends with who you root for. The Jets, with a surprising 7-2 record, are on a roll, but this is where the tide starts to change, with a tougher schedule to end the year, starting with a loss to Texans.
Week 12: vs. Dolphins, 1 p.m., Sunday
The Jets see the Dolphins for the second time, this go-around a whole lot closer to home. Miami will get a great deal of hype heading into the season, banked on, among other things, the continued maturation of quarterback Ryan Tannehill and his big contract extension. But we're not sold on Miami, as evidenced by our earlier pick of the Jets winning in London. Even at 7-3, this is an important game for the Jets, and they win
Week 13: at Giants, 1 p.m., Sunday
The last time these two teams played in the regular season, it was one of the lowest points in recent Jets history. On Christmas Eve, the Jets made the entire game about taking over New York, freeing themselves from their repressive older brother. The Giants not only won that game (remember the 99-yard touchdown?), they then won the Super Bowl. The Jets went in the tank. Jets lose again.
Week 14: vs. Titans, 1 p.m., Sunday
This game features a quarterback many hoped would fall to the Jets in the NFL Draft. Marcus Mariota was drafted No. 2 overall by the Titans and it would be a shock if he wasn't starting at this point in the season. This could be a game where Geno Smith, if he's still starting, makes a statement. Either way, the Jets can't lose to the Titans. Jets move to 9-4.
Week 15: at Cowboys, 8:25 p.m., Saturday
The Jets get a Saturday primetime game in Jerry World late in the year. The Cowboys took a major step in becoming a contender last year, and should be even better this season, despite DeMarco Murray leaving town. Tony Romo is probably the most underrated quarterback in the league, as a number of teams would take him if they had the chance, including the Jets. Cowboys win.
Week 16: vs. Patriots, 1 p.m., Sunday
With a 9-5 record and a home game with the hated Patriots, the Jets could either take a giant step toward a postseason berth with a win, maybe even winning the AFC East, or suffer a depressing loss that could put them in a win-or-else game at Buffalo in the season finale. The Jets, as fans know, play the Patriots tough, and with this home game, they will prevail. Jets are 10-5.
Week 17: at Bills, 1 p.m., Sunday
This matchup is why it's so important for the Jets to reach 10 wins in Week 16, as beating the Bills on the road is going to be a difficult challenge. The Bills are better than they were a year ago, and Ryan's teams always play well at the end of the year, especially if they are fighting for a cause, whether it be for the coach or a playoff berth. Ryan gets some revenge, beating the Jets.
The Jets would sign up for a 10-6 record right now, and it's not at all unrealistic. With the improvements the Jets have made this offseason, anything less than a winning record would be a disappointment. Prior to the four-game suspension of Brady, 10-6 wouldn't be good enough to win the division, but now, it just might be.