The New York Jets are a team with question marks and areas that need addressing, as are most teams at this time of the year. The offensive line remains an area of major concern. Yes, the Jets drafted the rangy Stephen Hill in the second round, but can a rookie come into the league and replace the forty-five catches, 612 yards and eight touchdowns Plaxico Burress contributed? The retirement of LaDainian Tomlinson opens a void at running back that the team hopes will be filled by Joe McKnight. The Jets addressed concerns at safety via the draft with a skill player like Josh Bush from Wake Forest, as well as acquiring Yeremiah Bell, who is looking like a solid pickup by GM Mike Tannenbaum. Another solid, but more controversial pick up is quarterback Tim Tebow, who will see time on the field at as many positions as the coaching staff can dream up.
As the team works toward the opening of training camp July 26th, let’s take a look at who the New York Jets will face in the first eight games of the 2012 regular season.
WEEK 1: Gang Green opens the season at MetLife Stadium against the Buffalo Bills, a team with expectations to succeed in 2012. They gave Ryan Fitzpatrick a starter’s contract and have put the offense in is hands.
If the Fitzpatrick that played in the first six weeks of 2011 shows up, the QB that earned the six-year and $59 million extension, the Jets will have their hands full Week 1. The Bills added highly-sought free agent Mario Williams to the defensive line, and look ready to make a run at the AFC East. Step one for them will be opening strong and making a statement by taking a road game at a division rival, setting the tone for their season.
WEEK 2: The first of back-to-back road games takes the Jets to Pittsburgh, to take on a Steelers team that opened the season on the road against Peyton Manning and the new-look Broncos in primetime. The Jets will make their first 4:25pm start of the season, and are the only home game for the Steelers in September as they go Denver, home, Oakland, bye in their first four weeks. Hard for a team with two west coast trips in three games, not to look at that game in Week 2 as a must-win on the early schedule.
WEEK 3: The second of back-to-back roadies takes the Jets, and their talents, south to Miami and the Dolphins. New head coach Joe Philbin will have an opportunity to show former head man Tony Sparano he can handle the reigns just fine as Sparano will be working the opposite sideline as offensive coordinator for the Jets. As of today, the Dolphins are still deciding who will start under center in 2012. Will it be last year’s starter Matt Moore, rookie Ryan Tannehill or free agent David Garrard who was unceremoniously dumped by the Jaguars last season? After the game with the Jets, Miami will go on the road for two-straight (at Arizona, then at Cincinnati). After starting out at Houston, then home for Oakland, the division-rival Jets may be the familiar foe they are looking forward to …and notching their first win of the season against.
WEEK 4: After two tough road games, the Jets come home for three in a row! Nice time for the team to make a stand, however the next two games are against teams with playoff wins last post-season. The San Francisco 49ers travel east to conclude a brutal four-game stretch to open the season for them. The Niners open at Green Bay, home for the Lions, at Minnesota, at New York, before they go home for three straight. For a team that was a play or two from an appearance in the Super bowl, they would like nothing more than to come into MetLife and continue their outstanding road play from last season.
WEEK 5: The Houston Texans are a team with soaring expectations after winning their first playoff game in team history against the Bengals last season, and are hungry for more. They go into the game against the Jets after a home tussle against the Titans, with two home games (Packers and Ravens) awaiting them after their trip to New York. A playoff-bound team like Houston could look at the Jets as a speed bump, as their true challenges awaits them in Week 6 & Week 7. If the Texans are looking ahead, they may be surprised by a team looking to remind AFC foes of the team that played in back-to-back Championship games. This should be a great game!
WEEK 6: The last team to come into MetLife on the Jets three-game home stand is the Indianapolis Colts, led by number-one overall pick Andrew Luck. The Colts were miserable last year, mainly because of the loss of Peyton Manning for the entire season. We will see if an infusion of Luck will change the fortunes of the Colts, as the Jets will look to flatten a lesser opponent. Will the Jets be caught looking-ahead to their first matchup of the season with the Patriots? The Colts hope so.
WEEK 7: The New England Patriots… at Gillette Stadium. Neither team needs much to get up for the other. The Pats will be coming in from a west coast trip to Seattle, and will be off to the rapidly-improving St. Louis Rams after the Week 7 matchup. I can see the Pats going 13-3 again, but I also see this as their first loss of the season. Jets coming off an easier opponent in the Colts, and ending the first half of the season with their second game against the Dolphins, I can see Gang Green going into enemy territory and coming out with a win.
WEEK 8: Watching and waiting will be the aforementioned Dolphins for their second matchup with the Jets this season. Fresh off a bye, the Dolphins will come into MetLife and face a team smarting from a battle with a divisional foe, and sworn enemy the week before. The Dolphins open the second half of their season at the Jets, then at Indianapolis. Miami may sneak out of New York with a win after having two weeks to prepare, and as the weary Jets look forward to their bye, which will come when the replacement referee whistles this game over.
New York Jets Training Camp in Cortland, NY: Players report July 26th.
Pictured: Hayden Smith with hands and helmet! Photo credit to Jake Steinberg of SNY’s TheJetsBlog.com; Follow him on twitter @Steiny31
Follow & contact Joseph Haas on twitter @jerseyhaas