3 reasons why the first 6 NY Jets games are so important
By Ryan Shafer
With the NFL schedule being released this past Thursday, all eyes were on the NY Jets and their multitude of primetime games. After only having one primetime game each of the past two seasons, the Jets were thrust into the spotlight this year with a staggering five, and depending on who's counting, six with the first-ever Black Friday game.
More important, though, was the way the schedule shook out. Who were the Jets playing at home? Who were they playing on the road? When did they get tough matchups such as the Chiefs and Eagles? As the games were being released, one thing became clear: the Jets have a gauntlet of opponents to start the year.
In order, the Jets play the Bills, Cowboys, Patriots, Chiefs, Broncos, and Eagles before the bye week. Even the game against the Broncos, who were lackluster last year, is on the road, and everyone knows how difficult winning at Mile High can be.
With that said the Jets must get off to a good start this year, as falling behind early can be difficult to overcome. Below are three reasons why a good start is a must this year for the Jets.
NY Jets: Alleviate pressure
The Jets are under more pressure than ever this year. Since 2010, the Jets have been a bottom-tier franchise, routinely projected as one of the worst teams in the league. Since 2010, the Jets have been 8-8, 6-10, 8-8, 4-12, 10-6, 5-11, 5-11, 4-12, 7-9, 2-14, 4-13, 7-10. That's a combined record of 68-124. It would be an understatement to say they have been underachieving for the last 12 years.
With last year's surprise 6-3 start, fresh off a surprise upset of the Buffalo Bills and heading into the bye week, the Jets faced their first pressure in over a decade. They then threw up an all-time stinker against the Patriots in a 10-3 loss before beating the Bears 31-10 in Mike White's first start. They then proceeded to lose the last 6 games of the season, including embarrassing performances against Jacksonville, Seattle, and Miami to end the year.
With the acquisition of Aaron Rodgers, there is no more flying under the radar for the first half of the season anymore. There is pressure and expectations around the team to succeed and win a lot of games this year. Missing the playoffs would be a failure of the highest order. Not winning a playoff game might get everyone fired this year. The team expects to play for a Super Bowl.
With every loss in these first six games, the pressure around Rodgers and the Jets will only grow. Getting off to a good start will make everyone relax, including fans, coaches, owners, and players. Imagine if the Jets start 2-4 heading into the bye week. The next five or six games might be considered "must-win". Winning enough games early will be crucial for this team.
NY Jets: The post-bye schedule is much easier
Following the difficult first six games, the Jets' schedule does get much easier. They get to play an "away" game against the Giants, home against the Chargers, and then two division games against the Bills and Dolphins.
The next four games are then the Falcons with Desmond Ridder at quarterback, the Texans with CJ Stroud at quarterback, the Dolphins on the road, and the Commanders at home with whoever is still playing quarterback for them by Week 16. Going 4-0 in that stretch is a very reasonable assumption.
If the Jets are able to just go 3-3 before the bye week, it is easy to map out the path to 11 or 12 wins this season. The Giants, Dolphins (twice), Falcons, Texans, and Commanders are all winnable games. Include a win against the Patriots to end the season and winning one of the Bills, Browns, and Chargers games gets the team to 11 wins.
Now, if the Jets falter and get off to only a 2-4 start out of the gates makes things much more difficult. That would mean going 2-1 against the Bills, Browns, and Chargers in the back half to get to 11 wins. That might be a tall order, especially if there is added pressure as mentioned above.
NY Jets: The AFC is loaded
This is a really important point. The AFC is absolutely loaded going into the 2023 season. The Chiefs, Bills, Jets, and Bengals are all legitimate championship contenders. The Jaguars, Dolphins, Chargers, Browns, and Ravens are all really good teams. That's nine really good teams competing for seven playoff spots.
If the Jets lose games to the Chiefs and Bills early that could be a really big swing in playoff positioning by the end of the year. The Jets also play seven games against those top nine AFC teams. Even though games against the Dolphins and Browns might be considered wins with Rodgers under center, those are not easy games by any stretch.
Yes, having Rodgers changes expectations for the team and there is no reason with Rodgers and a loaded defense the Jets should not be expected to win those games. However, with a slow start and added pressure, imagine the Jets losing a game to the Dolphins and Browns late in the season. That would put them right around the 10-win mark, which many believe might be the benchmark for the playoffs this year.