The New York Jets' 2013 schedule is out, and Rex Ryan's juices are already flowing at the Atlantic Health Training Center.
"As a fan you get excited and you realize that 'Wow! It's here!' It's right in front of us," Ryan told Jets Talk Live exclusively this evening. "The schedule comes out, next week we have the draft, and then boom, you have your minicamps and really, it's a brand new season. Obviously last season didn't work out the way we wanted it to, but it's a new beginning and I know I'm excited about it and I think the entire organization is excited about it."
One thing about the Jets' recent universe is that they have lined up to play schedules Before Rex and During Rex. The just-released schedule contains distinct elements of the kind of schedule the NFL handed down before Rex Ryan arrived as head coach and the kind since he took the helm in 2009.
For example, one thing that's definitely D.X. (During ReX): Opening the season at home. This year's season opener comes at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 8, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 1 p.m.
It's the fourth consecutive season the Jets have opened at home, and that's the longest such stretch in franchise history. Last year's opener vs. Buffalo gave the Green & White three home openers in a row, equaling the previous long stretch from 1978-80.
"The first thing that I look at is where you're playing that first game at," Ryan said. "Obviously, I'm excited to be playing at home. We're hosting Tampa Bay. I always want to start the season at home, get that buzz with the home crowd and get them going. I always enjoy that."
Not as Much Prime Exposure
On the other hand, it was definitely B.X. (before Rex) that the Jets had endured an extended period in the new millennium where, while competitive, they didn't get a lot of primetime exposure. In Ryan's first four years, they averaged four primetime games a season.
This year, though, the Jets have only two games after dark: their game at New England on Thursday night, Sept. 12, four days after the Bucs opener — it's the Pats' home opener, no less — then three games later their ESPN Monday night affair Oct. 7 at the NFC West-champion Atlanta Falcons.
As for 1 p.m. ET kickoffs, the Jets are set for 10 of them overall and for seven in their eight home games. The last times they were scheduled for seven 1 p.m. home games were 2009 (but that wound up as six when the regular-season finale vs. Cincinnati was flexed into primetime) and, before that, 1998.
As for the ebbs and flows of home and away, AFC East and non-division, playoff and non-playoff, this 16-game lineup has some interesting wrinkles.
In one way it bears some similarity to last year's schedule, when the Jets had a tough but fair opening that quickly turned into a "Murderers' Row," then concluded with an extended stretch of games against non-playoff-type teams.
This year's September schedule — vs. Tampa Bay, at New England, vs. Buffalo, at Tennessee — presents a combined opponents' 2012 strength of schedule of .484 (31-33) with only the Patriots as a playoff combatant.
The Brutal "Middle Third"
Then comes October-November and the "trick" part of this treat-or-trick first half. The Monday nighter at Atlanta is followed by home games vs. Pittsburgh and New England, at Cincinnati, and, in the first days of November, back home vs. New Orleans before the Week 10 bye.
"That is tough," Ryan said of the five games before the bye. "Really, you don't schedule wins in the National Football League, unfortunately. But that particular stretch with four playoff teams [including Pittsburgh] obviously is going to be tough."
After the bye week, the Jets head back on the road, to Buffalo and then on Nov. 24 to the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens.
"That's always special for me," Ryan said of playing the Ravens, whom he coached for from 1999-2008. "We haven't had a whole lot of success against them. I think we're 0-2 against Baltimore. That's about as tough a venue as there is to play. Their fans always get revved up and things. I know I'll be looking forward to it and we'll see what happens. Hopefully we'll be ready to roll and find a way to get a victory there."
From Atlanta through Baltimore, those seven opponents combined for a killer .589 schedule strength (66-46) in 2012 and for 15 playoff berths in the past three seasons. That could be some tough sledding.
But if somehow these new-look Ryan Jets can get through the first 11 games alive, they conclude with a two-game homestand vs. Miami and Oakland, at Carolina, home for Cleveland and then the regular-season finale Dec. 29 at Miami — the third time in six years the Jets will finish up against the Dolphins.
"I like having Miami play at our place late in the season, and I like the fact that we don't have to play there early," Ryan said. "You have to be real mindful playing Miami early in the season with all that heat and humidity. I kind of like playing down at Miami the last game of the regular season."
Reunion Tour of Sorts for Rex
Two more rarities are worth mentioning regarding AFC East opponents. The Jets will play the Patriots twice in the first seven weeks of the season for the first time since 2000, when they were two-wins-and-done-with-the-Pats after Game 6.
And the Green & White will play the Aqua & Coral twice in December for the first time since 1999, when they took on the Dolphins on Dec. 12 and then Dec. 27. That year the Jets starting QB was Ray Lucas and the 'Fins starter was Dan Marino. And Lucas and the Jets beat Marino and Miami twice.
And the entire schedule is a Ryan reunion tour of sorts. He'll be trying to win games for the Jets, of course, but he'll be trying to beat a number of former coaching comrades in the process: Mike Pettine, now the Bills' defensive coordinator; Falcons head coach Mike Smith, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, Raiders assistant head coach Tony Sparano, and of course his brother, Rob, who is now the Saints' D-coordinator.
"That Saints offense is loaded," Rex said, "and then my brother there on defense, he'll have his guys chomping on the bit for sure. That'll be tough. But again, we'll be up for it."
Here is the "short form" for the Jets' just-released 2013 schedule. See the accompanying schedule sidebar with more names and notes on each opponent. All kickoff times are Eastern. *denotes games that are subject to the NFL's flex scheduling: