Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg, Olivia Landis and Randy Lange will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: Which quarter of the Jets' schedule is most difficult on paper?
EA: If you break the 16-game season into quarters, I believe the Jets' first quartet of contests appear to be the most difficult. The Green & White kick off the season in Buffalo against a Bills team that won 10 games last year and had the NFL's No. 2-ranked defense. Then they come home for an opener against a 49ers club that captured 13 regular-season contests in 2019, had a fourth-quarter lead in the Super Bowl and sported the NFL's No. 3-ranked defense. The Jets have gotten better up front in front of Sam Darnold, but they'll have a number of new starters around their franchise signal-caller not only along the offensive line but on the outside at receiver. Then in Week 3, the Green & White are scheduled to take on a Colts team in Indianapolis that arguably has the most talented roster in the AFC South. Philip Rivers, who has thrown for more than 59,000 yards, walks into a perfect situation in Indianapolis with a team that is ready to win now and he'll challenge a secondary featuring All-Pro safety Jamal Adams. Then after that trifecta of matchups with physical clubs, the Green & White will have a short week to prepare for a Thursday-nighter against the Broncos and their vaunted pass rush. It's only May and things will change, but the Jets can set themselves up to be in the postseason conversation late if they can get out of the gate quickly against these formidable foes.
EG: The final quarter is the biggest challenge on paper. I think there's a case to be made for both the first quarter (at BUF, SF, at IND and DEN on TNF) and second quarter (AZ, at LAC, vs. BUF, at KC). The Jets will open up their season against two playoff teams, including the NFC Super Bowl representative, and a Colts team that made the playoffs in 2018. Those are teams that have been together and without spring football, that could make for a difficult slate. The second quarter features more travel with trips to LA and KC with Bills game at MetLife Stadium in between. That's two playoff teams from '19, including the SB Champs, and a team that made the playoffs in '18. With all of that being said, I think the final four games present the biggest challenge for the Jets. Three of those games are on the road and include back-to-back West Coast games. There's also potential cold-weather implications at SEA, home vs. CLE and at NE. Adam Gase said in a perfect world the team would stay out West between Week 14 at SEA and Week 15 at LAR, but that's uncertain given the pandemic. Seattle is a difficult place to play and the Rams are one year removed from representing the NFC in the SB. The Jets then come back East to host a Browns team that has a very talented roster on paper and New England, even without Tom Brady, is a tough place to play.
RL: I'm going to say the Jets' second quarter of their just-released schedule could be their toughest stretch in 2020, but then I'm going to cheat and slide the part of the sked in question from Games 5-8 to Games 6-9. This stretch begins with the Jets' first trip to Los Angeles since 1993 and their first trip to La-La Land to play the Chargers since 1960. West Coast trips haven't always gone well for the Jets so they'll need to show they've put that part of their past behind in their first game out of two this year at new SoFi Stadium. Then comes the return match with the Bills at MetLife, followed by their first meeting vs. Patrick Mahomes on the road at the Super Bowl champion Chiefs. Last, Game 9 is the return home for their Monday night against the Patriots, who were tough at MetLife last year with Tom Brady and will be tough again on MNF this year without him. The Games 6-9 schedule strength is .609, tied for the Jets' toughest four-game stretch with Games 7-10. But Game 10 is at Miami, not the WC, so I'll stay with my thought that 6-9 will be the most telling fourpack of games the Green & White will face in the season ahead.
OL: I'm going to go out of the box here and argue that the third quarter of the Jets' upcoming season is the difficult on paper. Yes, this is the quarter of the 2020 season that includes the team's Week 11 BYE, however, that doesn't necessarily equal an "easier" route on the schedule. In the past four seasons (2017-2020) the Jets have had a Week 11 Bye three times, accumulating just one win coming off the Week 11 break both in 2017 & '18, proving that even after a rest winning is still difficult in the NFL. During this quarter, the Green and White will also be facing divisional opponents three times (Patriots, @Dolphins, Dolphins) in a matter of a month. Every game has importance in the league, but divisional games carry more weight, especially when piled on towards the end of the season. With the Dolphins in heavy rebuild mode, the Patriots under the direction of HC Bill Belichick, and an always-tough Raiders team coming to MetLife, I think this part of the schedule will present the most significant challenge for the Jets.