Upon further review, one more oddity from the Jets' 2022 schedule released last week has become visible from the figurative photo bath, to take its place next to four AFC North opponents to open the season, one primetime game and 13 one o'clock kickoffs.
It has to do with the Jets' AFC East schedule. They play their three division foes at MetLife Stadium — the Dolphins Oct. 9, the Patriots Oct. 30 and the Bills Nov. 6. Then they get their Week 10 bye. Then they finish up their division home-and-home with three away games — at the Patriots Nov. 20, at the Bills Dec. 11 and at the Dolphins in the Jan. 7 or 8 season finale.
Question: When was the last season the Jets played three AFC East home games, then had their bye, then played three division road games?
Short answer: Never.
Longer answer: Since 2002, under the NFL's current divisional structure, the Jets had no AFC East schedule conclude with three road games after their bye.
Since 1990, with the advent of bye weeks and with the Colts in the then-five-team AFC East, the Jets still had no division schedule end with three road games after their bye.
We have to go all the way back to pre-bye 1975 to find a Jets season that ended with their final three division games played away from home.
Not only are the final three division games on the road a rarity, but so are three consecutive division road games at any point in the schedule. The Jets have played three straight division road games only 11 times since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, with the last such stretch coming in 2010. (Keep in mind we're not referring to three games in a three-game span but three consecutive division games, no matter the span.)
This prompts another question: Does it matter?
On the one hand, it seems as if it could be significant since the NFL has never unveiled a three-home/bye/three-road division schedule for the Jets and rarely does it in the league. (Minnesota is the only other team this year that will play its final three division games all on the road for 2022.)
And for a team building and striving to make up ground on its division, as the Jets are, three all-important division games, all on the road, in the second half of the schedule, could surely be a season buzzkill.
Yet we'd expect no excuses from the Jets brass on such a scheduling curveball.
As GM Joe Douglas has said this offseason: "We have to win divisional games. We have a lot of work to do moving forward and we need to get better across the board." No mention of three in a row there.
And as HC Robert Saleh said on the last day of the draft, "Really, the idea of closing the gap isn't necessarily trying to combat what they have, it's trying to get better with what we have, adding pieces, adding players, developing those players." Again, nothing about getting dealt a dead man's hand of division games in any order.
So whatever the debate may be outside One Jets Drive, the players and coaches on the inside are worrying only about getting better day by day, week by week, game by game so that they can attack all games, in and out of the division, whenever they arrive.
And maybe things will evolve the way they did in the two seasons in which they posted a winning record against three straight AFC East foes on the road. In 1998 and 2010, they went 2-1 in those division triples and proceeded to go deep into the postseason.
A stretch for the '22 Jets? Perhaps. But as Saleh said about the general frustrations of rebuilding an NFL franchise, "It's something we've been through before, we expect it, and it's something that will change eventually."
Regardless of who, where and when the Jets will be playing.