2012 SCHEDULE: Jets Dealt a Fair Hand

Updated, 7:45 p.m. ET

Fairness is always in the eye of the beholder, but from the looks of things, the Jets' 2012 schedule is, in a word ... fair.

Their first half looks more difficult — and will be heavy with four of the six games against their AFC East foes — but five of the eight games are in the cushy confines of their MetLife Stadium home.

Their second half will have more road games — in fact, the Jets close with three of four away from home in December — but against eight opponents who combined for only one playoff berth last year compared to the four playoff teams in the first octet.

Four primetime games are on the docket, one fewer than the five they drew in both 2010 and '11. But this time the night games are backloaded — the Houston Texans at home on Monday night, Oct. 8, the Patriots at home on Thanksgiving night, Nov. 22, then in Weeks 15-16 the Titans at Tennessee on Monday night, Dec. 17, followed by the Chargers back at MetLife on Sunday night, Dec. 23.

This year's bye week comes right in the middle of the season, Week 9.

And mixed in with the night games and several 4 o'clock outings are nine games now scheduled for 1 p.m. ET starts (before flex scheduling kicks in with Week 11 games).

Fairly fair.

"Now we realize the 2012 season's upon us," said head coach Rex Ryan, on a conference call with beat reporters tonight after the schedule was released. "We've got four primetime games, which is always good to be involved in that. Opening up at home is a good thing, but playing Buffalo, they're a tough team. We play New England at home on Thanksgiving, so that's going to be a huge game.

"It's a challenging schedule, but I'm really excited to see it and now our players can start visualizing it."

We'll have more of Ryan's comments in a blog on newyorkjets.com in a short while.

As Ryan said, the Jets begin and end the regular season with their good friends and competitors from Western New York, the Buffalo Bills. Both games are significant in franchise history.

The season opener comes at home against the Bills on Sunday, Sept. 9, at 1 p.m. This marks the third consecutive season the Jets have opened their schedule at home. That has happened only once before in Green & White annals, when they opened at home against Miami, Cleveland and the Baltimore Colts from 1978-80.

And the season finale comes at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 30 (kickoff time to be determined). This is the first time the Jets have begun and ended a season against the same opponent since 2008, when they did the same with the Dolphins. More interesting, this is the first time ever that the Jets have finished a regular season at Buffalo.

Perhaps the most strenuous stretch of sked comes from Weeks 2 through 7, a six-game span in which the Jets play four teams each of which won at least 10 games and reached the playoffs last year. In Week 2 they return to Heinz Field to play the Steelers, then travel to Miami. Then come home games, vs. the NFC-finalist 49ers and at night vs. the Texans. Following a third straight home game, against the rebuilding Colts, the Jets journey to Foxboro, Mass., for their first meeting with the Patriots.

Tough open. Yet the first half ends at home vs. the Dolphins. Then after the bye the second half opens on the road at Seattle and St. Louis. Next: a two-game homestand, vs. New England on Turkey Day night and Arizona 10 days later. Next: another two-game road trip, to Jacksonville and then Tennessee. San Diego and Buffalo wrap up the regular season.

As determined at the end of last season when the Jets' opponents were locked in, the opponents' combined schedule strength is .492 (126-130), tied for the league's 20th-strongest schedule. But whereas the first-half SOS is a stern .531 (68-60), the second half comes in at a manageable .453 (58-70).

Here are more details on each of the Jets' 16 games in the 2012 regular season:

Sunday, Sept. 9 — vs. Buffalo Bills, MetLife Stadium, 1 p.m. (CBS)

The Bills still hold the advantage in this original AFL rivalry, 54-49, but the Jets have loosened B-lo's grip with five straight wins and seven out of eight dating to 2008. And they've taken the last two in the Meadowlands, by 38-7 to head into the playoffs in '10 and by 28-24 on a career-best four TD passes by Mark Sanchez, two going to TE Dustin Keller. But if you give QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and WR Stevie Johnson another chance to pull a game out in North Jersey, such as they had in the final minute last year, this time Stevie figures to make that catch. So corner consiglieres Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie will be on high alert to prevent another such endgame scenario from unfolding.

Sunday, Sept. 16 — at Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz Field, 4:15 p.m. (CBS)

The Jets will be getting their first crack against Pittsburgh at Heinz Field since they came up short in their bid to reach the Super Bowl with their 24-17 loss to the Steelers in the 2010 AFC Championship Game. Pitt is 17-4 all-time in this series and 8-1 by the confluence of the three rivers, but at least the Jets ended a seven-game road drought with their 22-17 triumph over Ben Roethlisberger and crew earlier in the '10 season. Big Ben has been a tough competitor but the Jets have knocked him around a little in winning two of five and holding him to a 61.0 passer rating in their five meetings.

Sunday, Sept. 23 — at Miami Dolphins, Sun Life Stadium, 1 p.m. (CBS)

For a decade the Jets ruled this rivalry with the Dolphins, winning 17 of 21. But from the '08 season finale forward, the Dolphins have snagged five of the last seven overall and two of the last three at Sun Life. On New Year's Day, QB Matt Moore led the 'Fins on a 21-play, 94-yard, 12½-minute TD drive that was the final straw in the Jets' 0-3 stretch run to finish out of the playoffs. It could be more Moore leading the Aqua & Coral offense or it could be a draft choice selected in the next 10 days. But Rex will need a 60-minute effort on both sides of the ball and especially defensively to prevent a similar meltdown under the South Florida September sun.

Sunday, Sept. 30 — vs. San Francisco 49ers, MetLife Stadium, 1 p.m. (FOX)

This is one of those infrequent rivalries that haven't gone the Green & White's way. The 49ers have won nine of 11 all-time, including five of six at the Jets' home, plus the teams' most recent pairing, when the Niners prevailed, 24-14, at San Francisco in '08. The Jets won the last matchup in the Meadowlands, 22-14, in '04, and they'll need a similar effort to upend the Niners, who re-signed QB Alex Smith after his efficient 2011. The visitors also will send LB Patrick Willis and their stifling defense, No. 1 against the Jets, who have their own brawny inside 'backer in top tackler David Harris.

Monday, Oct. 8 — vs. Houston Texans, MetLife Stadium, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

The Texans were one of the great NFL stories of 2011. Missing QB Matt Schaub and LB Mario Williams with season-ending injuries, they still rode to a 10-6 record to gain the first playoff berth in franchise history, then their first playoff win, over the Bengals, before the storybook slammed shut in Baltimore. This year Williams is gone but Schaub is back and eager to help Houston repay the Jets. This is one of the few NFL rivalries that the Jets have dominated. They've won all five meetings, including three at home and the most recent one at their new MetLife home — the last-minute 30-27 comeback win over Schaub and Co. in 2010.

Sunday, Oct. 14 — vs. Indianapolis Colts, MetLife Stadium, 1 p.m. (CBS)

For the first time since 1997, the Jets will take on an Indianapolis side not led by QB Peyton Manning. The Jets did win six of 14 against the Manning Colts, including their last meeting, the 17-16 comeback in the 2010 AFC Wild Card Game in Lucas Oil Stadium. In the offseason owner Jim Irsay dismantled and reassembled the Colts, sending Manning to Denver and preparing to select Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III with the first pick of the draft. The Jets would enjoy welcoming Indy's new franchise QB into the league just as they greeted Manning — with a 44-6 crushing in the Meadowlands in the third game of the '98 season. To help out their new QB, the Colts have retained WR Reggie Wayne while adding WR Donnie Avery, who also visited the Jets in the offseason.

Sunday, Oct. 21 — at New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, 4:15 p.m. (CBS)

The Jets had fared as well as any and better than most recently at the stadium in the Massachusetts countryside. But the Patriots, who had lost four of six in the rivalry, including the 2010 divisional-round game, smacked down the Green & White with a sweep that began with their 30-21 home win in Week 5. One way for the Jets to show they won't be nicked up in Gillette is by going Greene. Last year RB Shonn Greene, off to a sluggish start, had his first solid game of the year at New England, rushing for 83 yards and a touchdown to keep things close until a late Pats drive. From there Greene was off and running to the first 1,000-yard season of his career. Shonn also had the final TD in that '10 playoff stunning of the Patriots. More of the same will be needed from No. 23 and his O-line if the Jets are to push back in this series.

Sunday, Oct. 28 — vs. Miami Dolphins, MetLife Stadium, 1 p.m. (CBS)

At least last year the Ryan Jets finally figured out how to beat the Dolphins in their own backyard pool. After hard-to-swallow defeats in '09 and '10, Darrelle Revis had a 100-yard interception-return TD against Brandon Marshall and Mark Sanchez ran for one TD and threw to Santonio Holmes for another in the solid 24-6 primetime win in Game 6. But that's the Jets' only home win in the last four home outings against their long-time Fish friends. It would be fitting this time if former Miami head coach Tony Sparano, the Jets' new O-coordinator, whips up a game plan combining Sanchez and Wildcat whiz Tim Tebow to supply the the offensive half of the next home win over the 'Fins.

Sunday, Nov. 4 — Bye Week

Sunday, Nov. 11 — at Seattle Seahawks, CenturyLink Field, 4:05 p.m. (CBS)

Because of a change in the AFC East-NFC West scheduling rotation, the Jets return to the formerly named Qwest Field four years after they last played there, in their dreary, snowbound 13-3 loss to the Seahawks in '08. But the Green & White won three of their last four in the Pacific Northwest before that game and are looking to even their all-time record with the 'Hawks at 9-9. They'll be trying to hang a loss perhaps on new Seattle QB Matt Flynn and in the process beating Seattle head coach Pete Carroll, Mark Sanchez's HC at Southern Cal and of course the Jets' field boss for one season back in '94.

Sunday, Nov. 18 — at St. Louis Rams, Edward Jones Dome, 1 p.m. (CBS)

The Jets have never won a game in the Arch City, against either the Rams or the Cardinals, and they trail the Rams all-time, 9-3. Yet the two most recent meetings have provided favorable outcomes for the Green & White. The last time, at the old Meadowlands venue in 2008, the Jets opened a franchise-record 40-0 halftime lead en route to a 47-3 beatdown. And the last time these sides gathered under the EJD, in '04, the Jets lost in overtime, 32-29, but still found out that despite the loss they had clinched a playoff berth. Also that day, new Hall of Famer Curtis Martin rushed for 153 yards, giving him 1,697 for the season, a total that ultimately won the NFL rushing title by 1 yard over Seattle's Shaun Alexander. New Rams include several former Jets — O-lineman Rob Turner, TE Matt Mulligan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Thursday, Nov. 22 — vs. New England Patriots, MetLife Stadium, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)

It seemed the Jets had righted the ship that had leaked home defeats to their bitter division rivals since Tom Brady took the controls in 2001. They had lost eight in a row to Bill Belichick's Patriots until Ryan arrived on the scene and the Green & White scored a 16-9 home win in '09 and a 28-14 success in '10. Then came last year's pull-away Pats win by 37-16 on Sunday night TV. The Jets will find out if they have found one of the answers to rebounding in this rivalry, based on how S LaRon Landry and the defense fare against Brady's pinpoint passing to his TE targets, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Brady also figures to have a few wideouts to play catch with, including Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco, as well as three free agent signings in Anthony Gonzalez, Brandon Lloyd and Donté Stallworth. This will be the Jets' eight Thanksgiving game all-time and third since '07.

Sunday, Dec. 2 — vs. Arizona Cardinals, MetLife Stadium, 1 p.m.* (FOX)

The Jets will welcome the Cardinals to MetLife Stadium. That's because they've won five in a row in this rarely reenacted rivalry, including their last matchup in the Meadowlands in '08, when they opened a 34-0 halftime lead and won a second-half shootout for their 56-35 "W." Who will the Cards' quarterback be? Kevin Kolb opened last season under center and started 1-6 before John Skelton, the rookie from Fordham, took over and won five starts (plus another in relief) in the second half. One thing we're pretty sure about: Jay Feely will kick against his former team for the first time since he left the Jets following the '09 season.

Sunday, Dec. 9 — at Jacksonville Jaguars, EverBank Field, 1 p.m.* (CBS)

The Jets are 3-6 all-time vs. the Jaguars and winless in three trips to Jacksonville over the years, most recently a 41-0 whitewashing in 2006. But they're planning to reverse those trends and put some more hurt on the Jags, similar to their 32-3 thumping at MetLife Stadium last September. With Jacksonville's acquisition of Chad Henne in free agency, it's likely the Jets will be facing the fourth different starter in their last four matchups after losing to Byron Leftwich in '06 and David Garrard in '09 and beating Luke McCown last year. But they'll have one of Jacksonville's favorite sons ready to do battle against his hometown team in Tebow. The Jaguars also have retained the services of two former Jets defenders in CB Dwight Lowery and lineman C.J. Mosley.

Monday, Dec. 17 — at Tennessee Titans, LP Field, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Since this franchise moved from Houston to Nashville, the Jets have had their way in the rivalry. They've taken five of their last six over the Titans and three of four in the Volunteer State. In their most recent visit to Music City, they toppled the then 10-0 Titans, 34-13, with Brett Favre at the helm, and the next year in North Jersey, in their most recent get-together, then-rookie Mark Sanchez improved to 3-0 as a starter in the 24-17 conquest. The prahmtahm pressure will be on RB Chris Johnson to move closer to his 2,000-yard form of 2009 and further away from the Titans' ranking as the NFL's 31st-best rushing offense in '11.

Sunday, Dec. 23 — vs. San Diego Chargers, MetLife Stadium, 8:20 p.m.* (NBC)

The Jets have taken five of seven in the 21st century in this rivalry, including the 27-21 comeback win at MetLife last October, with Sanchez firing three TD passes (all red zone darts to Plaxico Burress) to one for San Diego's Philip Rivers. The Chargers have reloaded for this one, signing free-agent WRs Robert Meachem, Roscoe Parrish, Eddie Royal and Micheal Spurlock (while losing Vincent Jackson to Tampa Bay) and also adding to their defense LB Jarret Johnson, who had a fumble-return TD in primetime against Sanchez and the Jets at Baltimore last year.

Sunday, Dec. 30 — at Buffalo Bills, Ralph Wilson Stadium, 1 p.m.* (CBS)

QBs, beware — the Bills have beefed up their pass rush something fierce. Mario Williams was one of the NFL's prize signings this offseason and he joins a unit that includes fellow free-agent DE Mark Anderson and holdovers Marcell Dareus and Chris Kelsay. But Sanchez, after his horrific first pro game vs. Buffalo, his five-INT overtime loss in '09, has fared well against the Bills, going 5-0 while throwing eight touchdowns to only two picks. And he's won all three games he's played at Ralph Wilson Stadium (and the Jets have won their last four) — all the more reason to be wary in this year's short trip to Western New York.

*Subject to NFL Flexible Scheduling

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