Updated, 4:10 p.m. ET
The New York Jets will entertain wunderkind QB Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers on Aug. 26 in a nationally televised Sunday night game at MetLife Stadium a week after they host the Giants for the second annual MetLife Bowl as their 2012 preseason schedule was announced by the NFL this afternoon.
The Carolina game marks the fourth time in head coach Rex Ryan's four years at the Green & White helm and the 10th time in the last 12 years that the Jets will play a preseason game in network primetime.
That third slot in the preseason calendar is also the game in which NFL fans expect to watch their first-teamers log their most playing time before the regular season starts in September.
As such, NBC will train its cameras on Newton and the Panthers' now dynamic offense battling a Green & White defense that has hard-hitting safety LaRon Landry joining holdover playmakers Darrelle Revis and David Harris and the rest of the first unit. And the network was also attracted by the Jets' QB situation with starter Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow in his backup QB/Wildcat roles.
The Jets-Panthers game has unseated Jets-Giants from its traditional next-to-last week of the preseason schedule, a spot that their annual summer rivalry held for 22 of their previous 23 meetings. This year's game — the Jets' home game this time around — has been confirmed for Saturday, Aug. 18, at MetLife Stadium with kickoff at 7 p.m. The Green & White will be pumped to go up against Big Blue, the defending Super Bowl champions who will take Eli Manning, WR Victor Cruz and their vaunted pass rush "on the road" for this 44th annual rematch.
The Jets will leave their training camp base of operations at SUNY Cortland in upstate New York to open their preseason schedule on the road, playing the Bengals at Cincinnati on either Friday, Aug. 10, or Saturday, Aug. 11. And they will wrap up their four-game summer slate also on the road as usual against the Eagles in Philadelphia on Thursday evening, Aug. 30.
While the entire NFL preseason schedule is official, not all of the details have been firmed up as teams will continue to set the days and times of their games. In the coming weeks we'll have the day and kickoff time for the game at Cincinnati and the kickoff time for the Eagles game.
Friday or Saturday, Aug. 10 or 11 — at Cincinnati Bengals, Paul Brown Stadium
After playing the Bengals twice in the preseason in a 24-year span, the Jets will be taking on the Stripes for the second straight August, and this time they'll be doing it in the opener. The Jets have taken five of eight in this summer series, including the last four, and that includes last year's 27-7 home win in preseason Week 2, when Sanchez threw a pair of first-half touchdown passes in the rain in a rare Sunday night summer game. This time around the Bengals will be sending "the Law Firm" at the Jets' run defense. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who had four TD runs vs. the Jets for the Patriots the previous two regular seasons, will make his debut in his new home wearing Bengals black and orange.
Saturday, Aug. 18, 7 p.m. — vs. GIANTS, MetLife Stadium
The Jets and Giants have one of the NFL's preeminent preseason rivalries, with the stadium and metro market rivals having met every summer since 1969. The Jets are 23-19-1 in the preseason series, including last year's 17-3 win over the Giants in the first MetLife Bowl. The Jets have won eight of the last 10 when they've been the home side. Of course, none of these results has any bearing on how the teams will do when the games count. On the other hand, it never hurts to beat the defending champs and build some early momentum of your own.
Sunday, Aug. 26, 8 p.m. (NBC) — CAROLINA PANTHERS, MetLife Stadium
These teams have met just once in the preseason, in a touchdown-less 9-3 Jets win at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte in 2010. And they have played Carolina in the Meadowlands only twice in the regular season. In this game under the national spotlight, the Panthers play the Jets for the first time at MetLife and they'll be bringing in Newton, one of last season's most electric rookies, as well as a new RB to help Cam drive the offensive engine in RB Mike Tolbert, signed from San Diego.
Thursday, Aug. 30 — at Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field
The two green teams have met 27 times in the past 27 preseasons (twice in '92, including the Hall of Fame Game, no meeting in 2000), and this will be the 12th consecutive year they've met in the final preseason game. The Jets' 24-14 loss at MetLife last summer snapped a nine-game Green & White winning streak in the series, but the Jets still have a five-game preseason win streak going at "the Linc." As has been their tendency, Rex Ryan and Andy Reid will probably rest most of their starters ahead of their season openers the following weekend, so the Jets probably won't have to contend with Michael Vick throwing to DeSean Jackson and handing off to LeSean McCoy. But the Birds' defenders presumably will have to be on their horses to keep tabs on the Jets' new backup QB.
As for the "Games That Count"
The regular-season schedule for the Jets and all other NFL teams is still not ready for release by the league but it will be announced later this month. To refresh all memories, here are the Jets' regular-season opponents:
Home — Buffalo, Miami, New England, Houston, Indianapolis, San Diego, Arizona, San Francisco
Away — Buffalo, Miami, New England, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Seattle