After the NFL officially released its 2009 schedule today, I thought it would be a good idea to give Jerricho Cotchery a call. J-Co, who is one of the longest tenure Jets, always seems to find proper perspective.
"At this point in time, you can't make the schedule too much of a big deal," the Jets' top wideout told me. "Your team hasn't even started doing on-field work and doesn't even have its roster set yet. I think people can think about that more as the preseason develops."
But Cotchery is not only a tremendous athlete, but he's a fan who gets excited for the schedule just like you.
"It's always cool to see the layout of the schedule. Last year it was difficult to see the number of West Coast games we had [four], and how they spaced those games out was intriguing," he said. "It's always fun to see how they match up the teams on a week-to-week basis."
The Jets play four games in the South in '09 and Cotchery, a Birmingham, Ala., native, says he'll have to outwork at least a couple of his teammates for tickets.
"Kerry Rhodes, BT [Bryan Thomas] and I are all from Birmingham, so we're going to be fighting for tickets before any of those games down south. The past three years we've played in Tennessee so Kerry, Bryan and I had a hard time getting those tickets. There were a lot of requests, but it's always nice to play near home in front of your family and your friends."
We had the rare opportunity on schedule day to discuss the Jets '09 slate with J-Co and he generously obliged with his analysis on all 16 games ...
Sept. 13 at Houston (8-8)
Cotchery: A lot of people believe the Texans have the chance to be a playoff team and I think they do have that ability. You know they want to start out fast this year, so they'll be gearing up for training camp. They have a lot of talent down there, so it's going to be a good matchup for Week 1. Defensive end Mario Williams is developing into the guy that I saw at NC State. He's a very good player and it's good to seeing him doing well.
Sept. 20 vs. New England (11-5)
Cotchery: If you're trying to win your division, you have to protect your turf. We haven't done that at all with New England, so that's going to have to change pretty soon. We haven't beaten them at home since 2000 — the year I was entering college. That's a long time. I've beaten them twice since I've been here and both times were up there.
Sept. 27 vs. Tennessee (13-3), 4:15 p.m.
Cotchery: My family probably wished the game was back in Tennessee again, but we played the Titans three straight years down there, so at least we'll get one home game in. But this series is one of those quiet matchups that has become a good rivalry. It's going to be a good game and I'm pretty sure those guys want to get a little payback from last year.
Oct. 4 at New Orleans (8-8), 4:05 p.m.
Cotchery: This is one of those down-South games where I'll have some family in attendance. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was part of the same Jets 2004 draft class as me, did a great job last year for the Saints. Obviously they rewarded him with the payday for it. That's a tough environment to play in, but we'll be ready.
Oct. 12 at Miami (11-5), Monday night
Cotchery: It's always fun playing against Miami, especially going down to that warm weather. Everyone loves to be on Monday Night Football, so that's going to add to this game.
Oct. 18 vs. Buffalo (7-9), 4:15 p.m.
Cotchery: Our division is getting back to where it used to be when it was the best division in football. I think we're getting back to that right now where teams are adding talent and continuing to develop as a group. Buffalo is always tough and they've added to their team with the addition of Terrell Owens.
Oct. 25 at Oakland (5-11), 4:05 p.m.
Cotchery: My first Black Hole experience with the fans last year was pretty fun. Some of the guys told me the fans weren't as harsh on us as they normally are, so I guess I didn't experience the real harshness of that crowd. But it was fun to see those fans dressed up and it was a great atmosphere.
It would be good to get a win out on the West Coast and get that off our backs. Once we lost a couple games out there last year, I think we started to make a big deal of it and it ended up costing us.
Nov. 1 vs. Miami (11-5)
Cotchery: I'm glad it's set up that we play the Dolphins twice in four weeks. When you play a team you're familiar with closely together, there's only so much you can change. We opened against the Dolphins last season and closed with them, and they were two totally different teams because a lot had changed over that course of time.
Nov. 8 Bye Week
Cotchery: This is a great time for a bye. You always want a bye in the middle of the season. You never want it too early and you never want it too late.
Nov. 15 vs. Jacksonville (5-11)
Cotchery: The Jaguars have always been tough. I think last year was just a down year, but I expect a tough game from those guys when they come up this way.
Nov. 22 at New England (11-5), 4:15 p.m.
Cotchery: Our OT win up there last year ranks as one of the more memorable victories in my career. After a short week, we were able to perform well in primetime. Those guys have been leading our division for a while. Miami took it over last year, but the Patriots have been the team you have to beat if you want to win this division. We gave ourselves a great chance to do it last year.
We've won two of our last three up there and it's all about the mindset. We have to apply that same mindset to our homefield because if you want to be great in this league or have a chance at winning in his league, you have to protect your home turf.
Nov. 29 vs. Carolina (12-4)
Cotchery: I attended NC State and everyone is always asking me about when we're going to play the Panthers. This game is going to be another physical contest that we look forward to playing because we plan on playing that physical style as well.
Dec. 3 vs. Buffalo at Toronto, Thursday night
Cotchery: My mom lived in Toronto for a while, so she's told me a lot about Canada. It's going to be fun to play a game out of the country. And from what I saw last year, they had the dome covering the field when Miami went up there so that will be good to not go up to Buffalo with all that wind, snow and all that stuff.
Cotchery: They have a great homefield advantage working for them in Buffalo, especially when it's late in the year and that wind's blowing like crazy. To be able to play out of the country and in a dome, you can't ask for much more than that.
Dec. 13 at Tampa Bay (9-7)
Cotchery: Since I've been a pro, we've played the Buccaneers once in the regular season and once in the preseason. To get that extra rest following the Bills game will allow us to rejuvenate our bodies. We can sneak in some rest before the end of the season to help us hopefully finish the season off strong.
Dec. 20 vs. Atlanta (11-5)
Cotchery: Those guys did a great job last year. They battled hard before losing to the eventual NFC champs, the Arizona Cardinals. I know Abe [John Abraham] is going to try to do his best because he played in this area for a while. And I'm going to give Erik Coleman, another former Jet, a call. He'll be ready but it's a different staff, so he'll have to calm it down a little bit. They have a good young team that's been growing and the future is bright for them, but we're going to want to finish the season off strongly.
The Falcons are a dome team, so it's to our advantage that we'll be able to play in and practice in the wintry elements up here. We're used to it.
Dec. 27 at Indianapolis (12-4), 4:15 p.m.
Cotchery: The Colts beat us in the closing minutes when they came up here a couple of years ago. That was a heartbreaking loss. From what I've seen, that new stadium [Lucas Oil] looks great. It's going to be fun playing there.
We'll see what type of identity they have without Tony Dungy. A lot of coaches that have worked under him have turned out to be great coaches, so I wouldn't expect much of a dropoff under coach Jim Caldwell, especially when you have Peyton Manning at quarterback.
Jan. 3 vs. Cincinnati (4-11-1)
Cotchery: The final regular-season game at the Meadowlands is going to be a lot of fun. I know the energy is going to be crazy for that last game because the fans are already energetic. We want to be gearing up for the postseason at that point in time.
It's going to be different seeing Laveranues [Coles] on the opposition sideline. I know he's going to be juiced up to play. Once we're on the field, the friendship part of it kind of goes out the window because everyone is trying to win the game, everyone's trying to go to the postseason and everyone's trying to win a championship. I'll wish him the best of luck before the game, but we're trying to win the game once it starts.