**The New York Jets' 2011 schedule** was announced by the NFL tonight and it contains more than its share of surprises for fans, reporters and league observers, not to mention one Jets head coach.
"I think it's a great schedule," said Rex Ryan today after looking over the order of his team's opponents that was officially unveiled at 7 p.m. ET. "Obviously, we're excited about the entire season. We think it's going to be a great season for us."
For starters, the season is set to start on Sunday night, Sept. 11, at New Meadowlands Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys in a game that is sure to stoke the emotions.
"That stadium is going to be full of emotion and things like that, not only the people from the area but in the entire country," said Ryan. "The fact that it is 9/11 and we'll be in our stadium, that's really a huge deal for us, for sure."
For finishers, the Jets are scheduled to spend New Year's Day playing the Dolphins at Miami (which means New Year's Eve on South Beach for more than a few wearers of the green and white).
In between, there are plenty of fireworks to keep us all oohing and aahing for a few months until the schedule kicks off for real.
The Jets, for instance, are scheduled for the second consecutive season to play five primetime games. After the Cowboys opener, they will play Sunday night games at Baltimore (Oct. 2), home for New England (Nov. 13). Immediately after the Patriots game, they'll hurry up to play the Broncos at Denver on Nov. 17 — their fourth straight year playing on NFL Network on a Thursday night.
For their one Monday night bow this season, they'll take on the Dolphins at home on Oct. 17.
"The fact that we're playing five primetime games again, I think that really speaks volumes about our team, where our franchise is at, and how the league and everybody else in the league basically sees us the same way," Ryan said. "They know we're an elite team."
Then there's that aforementioned Jets-Giants game, which will be in a prominent platform — Saturday afternoon, Dec. 24, with the Jets the home team. It's the Green & White's fifth Christmas Eve day game (all but three Week 16 games this year are on the 24th) and only its second at home.
■ For the second straight season — and only the third in franchise history — the Jets are slated to open with two games at home. After Dallas, the Jacksonville Jaguars are next into NMS on Sept. 18.
■ The Jets play Games 3-5 away from the Meadowlands, at Oakland, Baltimore and New England, marking the first scheduled regular-season three-game road trip since the end of the 1982 season (although including playoff games, the Jets have played three in a row on the road in 2004, '09 and '10).
■ That Patriots game on Oct. 9 marks the first time in six seasons that the Jets will not open at home vs. their archrivals in the first two weeks of the season. And that game also marks the start of the Green & White's all-important beefiest division stretch of the season, when they play five of seven games against AFC East foes.
Rex's bottom line: "It's a tough schedule but we look forward to the challenge."
Here are more details of today's freshly pressed 2011 schedule:
Sept. 11 — vs. DALLAS COWBOYS, 8:20 p.m.
Another date circled on the Ryan family calendar as Rex gets to meet twin brother Rob Ryan on the 100-yard battlefield for the second straight season. Last year Rob was Cleveland's defensive coordinator; this year he's the Cowboys' DC. And as Rex has said, Rob "probably breaks down an opponent better than anybody I've ever been around. He's probably the most creative guy in the league." Not helpful when the Jets are 2-7 all-time vs. the 'Pokes, but on the other hand, at coordinator level or higher, Rex is now 3-0 vs. Rob in the NFL.
Sept. 18 — vs. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS, 1 p.m.
It's been mostly Jaguars recently in this series. The Jags have taken five of the last six, including the 41-0 shellacking in Jacksonville in '06 and the 24-22 win in the Meadowlands in '09 when Maurice Jones-Drew went down at the Jets 1 rather than scoring a TD with 1½ minutes to play to set up Josh Scobee's game-winning field goal as time expired. "We're going to be challenged at home right away," Ryan said. "And I think that's good for us. We say we want to get better at defending our home turf and you've got one of the preseason favorites to represent the NFC in Dallas and then a team that was just on the outside of making the AFC playoffs last year in Jacksonville."
Sept. 25 — at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m.
In one of the most uneven homefield differentials in NFL history, the Jets make their 10th trip to Oakland in 13 seasons and their third trip in three years to the city by the bay. This old American Football League rivalry hasn't always gone the Jets' way but you can color it green lately as the Jets have won four of their last five overall and two of their last three at Oakland Coliseum, including the 38-0 whitewash two years ago led by then-rookie Sanchez and swift sacking LB Calvin Pace. Ryan can't wait to get his charges off the plane, put them on an Eastern Time Zone schedule and apply another sleeper hold to the residents of the Black Hole.
Oct. 2 — at Baltimore Ravens, 8:20 p.m.
The Ravens have become a new favorite foe of the J-E-T-S. Do you think it has something to do with Rex? In the 2009 preseason Ryan lost to the Ravens, whom he left to become the Jets' head coach, by one point at Baltimore. Last year the Jets opened their New Meadowlands Stadium era with a Monday night 10-9 loss to the Ravens. This year it's back down to M&T Bank Stadium to try to end the Baltimore hex — six consecutive losses, the last four by 10 points or fewer, since the Jets' only win in the short series, in overtime in 1997.
Oct. 9 — at New England Patriots, 4:15 p.m.
Talk about exorcising any demons. The Jets could have come into this meeting, their first AFC East game of the season, off of last December's 45-3 thumping at Gillette Stadium and feeling a little unsure of themselves. But they took care of that elephant in the room with their 28-21 AFC Divisional Round triumph back at Gillette in January. The Jets have won five of 12 in the Massachusetts countryside since 2000, when Bill Belichick first took the Patriots reins. Has any other team had such success in the Pats' home? Short answer: No.
Oct. 17 — vs. MIAMI DOLPHINS (Monday), 8:30 p.m.
An interesting choice for the Jets' only Monday night appearance of 2011. For sure, the Jets acquitted themselves well at Miami on Sunday night in Week 3 last year with their 31-23 triumph. Just as surely, the Green & White, and mostly their offense, struggled at New Meadowlands Stadium 11 weeks later in a deflating 10-6 loss to the Dolphins. Which offense and team will show up for this one? We choose the Jets team that has gone 7-1 against the 'Fins in prahmtahm since 1998.
Oct. 23 — vs. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS, 1 p.m.
The Chargers have always been a tough out but the Jets have retired them when it's counted a few times in the new millennium, winning four of the last six meetings, including two AFC playoff games at Qualcomm Stadium. San Diego coming east is not as common, with the Chargers playing in the Meadowlands neighborhood only once since 1994, a 31-26 road conquest in 2005. That day the 'Bolts had LaDainian Tomlinson, who scored four touchdowns. This time will mark the first opportunity for him to face his former team since his release after the '09 season.
Oct. 30 — Bye week
Nov. 6 — at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
The Jets offense combined for 10 touchdowns and 832 yards in their two solid triumphs over the Bills a year ago. They didn't trail for one second of clock time and held a 31-point lead in each game, their largest of the season. It's Year 2 of the Chan Gailey plan and Buffalo's head coach will try to turn the tables in this longtime rivalry, but it won't be easy — the Jets have won five of the last six overall and three in a row at Ralph Wilson Stadium in this series.
Nov. 13 — vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, 8:20 p.m.
One of the signal accomplishments of the Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine/Brian Schottenheimer/Mike Westhoff period of Jets football was in putting an end to their drought vs. the Red, White & Blue at home. The Jets lost eight in a row during the Tom Brady starting phase (even though Brady was out and Matt Cassel was in for the 2008 game), from 2001-08. But the Ryan-led Jets prevailed over the Pats, 16-9, in 2009 and did it again last year, winning, 28-14, despite a Randy Moss one-handed catch for the ages. One thing the Jets still want to change in this rivalry, not to mention with their offense in general: They haven't scored in the first quarter in their last five home games vs. the Belichicks.
Nov. 17 — at Denver Broncos (Thursday), 8:20 p.m.
Since 1967, this will be only the second time the Jets have made trips to the Rocky Mountains in back-to-back seasons. Last year they played the Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High in Game 6 and came away with their fifth straight win, the last-minute 24-20 victory built on the 46-yard interference call drawn by Santonio Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson's second TD. It's been an even series through the years for these old AFL foes, with the Jets trailing in the series, 15-17-1, including the loss in the '98 AFC Championship Game. Time for the Jets' first two-game winning streak in this series since 1967?
Nov. 27 — vs. BUFFALO BILLS, 1 p.m.
Last year's regular-season finale was hardly a routine Jets-Bills affair as backups played and rookie Joe McKnight lit it up with his 158-yard rushing game, the most by a Jets rookie since Matt Snell in 1964. One thing is for sure: If the Jets want to make it to that elusive second Super Bowl in franchise history, they would be helped by winning their division. "There's some tough games and of course you've got to expect that with our division games, New England, Miami and Buffalo," the coach said. "Those are always tough."
Dec. 4 — at Washington Redskins, 1 p.m.
The second team in this year's Acela itinerary is also the second-hardest team for the Jets to beat in their history. Their overall record vs. the Redskins is 1-8 (.111 winning percentage, better than only the .000 vs. the Eagles), with the only win coming in the wind by 3-0 in the nation's capital in 1993. Since then Washington has won four straight, including the '03 season-opening game by 16-13 in the Jets' only game at FedEx Field. As if that's not enough of a trend to buck, there's the Green & White track record against Mike Shanahan — the Redskins coach used to be the Broncos boss and topped the Jets in five out of seven meetings.
Dec. 11 — Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m.
The Jets haven't played Kansas City since 2008, back in the ancient days of the Brett Favre era. Now they welcome the Chiefs back to the Meadowlands. And for many on the KC side, it'll be old home week. Consider these former Jets coaches and players on ex-Jets coach Todd Haley's staff: assistant HC Maurice Carthon, DC Romeo Crennel, OC/OL Bill Muir, WRs coach Richie Anderson, TEs coach Bernie Parmalee, DL coach Anthony Pleasant and defensive quality control coach Otis Smith. Scott Pioli is the GM. RB Thomas Jones is still turning out 1,000-yard rushing seasons at 32. The series is dead even at 17-17-1 in all games but the Jets have taken three of the last four in the Meadowlands.
Dec. 18 — at Philadelphia Eagles, 4:15 p.m.
The Jets have done quite well against coach Andy Reid and the Eagles in the preseason, but we all know what that's good for. In the regular season, there is only one NFL team the Jets have never beaten in their history and that's the other green team, the Birds, who have won all eight meetings and all four in the City of Brotherly Love. Compounding that record, the Jets faltered the only other time they ran up against Michael Vick, when he was quarterbacking the Falcons to a 27-14 Monday night win over the Jets in '05.
Dec. 24 — vs. NEW YORK GIANTS (Saturday), 1 p.m.
The Jets and Giants have been stadium mates one way or another forever — actually, since 1984 in the old Meadowlands venue. They are set to play for the 43rd straight preseason. But this will be only the 12th regular-season meeting between these infrequent adversaries. The Giants have won seven of those 11, including the last four. What better time, with the emotions running high the day before the holiday, for the Jets to right themselves against their New York/New Jersey neighbors.
Jan. 1 — at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m.
Who's to say what this game will mean? It could be that last division victory that the Jets need to nail down their long-awaited next division title and playoff bye. On the other hand, the last time these two closed a regular season in New Jersey, the Dolphins prevailed, 24-17, to secure their most recent playoff berth. It will be a festive time, since this will be only the second Jan. 1 game in Jets franchise history and kind of a bookend for the Christmas Night game the teams played at Sun Life Stadium (the stadium formerly known as Dolphin) in 2006. Certainly there will be holiday attitude with the likes of Bart Scott, David Harris and Darrelle Revis on the Jets defense and Channing Crowder, Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake on the Dolphins' D. A perfect way to ring out the old, ring in the new, and ring up the playoffs — preferably for the Jets.
Video: 2011 Jets schedule analysis