Jets Fans: Don’t Hit the Panic Button Just Yet
April 24th marks two weeks until the NFL Draft. That’s 19 weeks until the season kicks off featuring two of the league’s best teams in Green Bay and Seattle. There’s a whole offseason of workouts, minicamps and actual training camps ahead of these 32 teams, but already many Jets fans have marked the season as over.
But why? The Jets, after albeit an extremely slow start to free agency, have picked up a few key pieces. Michael Vick, Chris Johnson, Eric Decker are all upgrades to the 25th ranked offense in the NFL last season. The draft, which many consider general manager John Idzik’s bread and butter, hasn’t even taken place yet. It’s also only April.
Still, the release of the Jets’ 2014 schedule has crushed the hearts of many because it is one of the toughest in the league. They play the AFC West, which sent three teams to the playoffs last season. They also have the NFC North, an always-difficult division especially when the Jets have to travel there in the middle of winter – Minnesota on Dec. 9th, I’m looking at you.
Gang Green starts 2014 at home on September 7th, against Oakland. Then right away, the intensity increases with a September 14th game against Aaron Rodgers and his Packers. The Jets do luck out in making this trip to Lambeau early enough in the season, before the temperatures turn frigid. Then sticking with the NFC North, Jay Cutler and Matt Forte bring the Bears to the Meadowlands for the Jets first night game of the season, a Monday night primetime one at that. Calvin Johnson and the Lions visit the Jets on September 28th. This is extremely rare as this is the first time since 1998 the Jets have opened the season with 3 of their first four games at home.
Then comes probably the worst stretch of the season for the team. The Jets head west to face the Chargers, before hosting the AFC champion Broncos the following week. Just four days later, four days after facing Peyton Manning, the Jets head north to face Tom Brady and his Patriots at home on Thursday night. If the team makes it out of the stretch, they host the Bills, travel to Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs and then host Pittsburgh on November 9th before their bye which comes Week 11.
After the bye, it should get a hair easier for the Jets. The team travels to Buffalo and then kicks off December with their third night game of the year – a Monday night matchup at home with Miami. On a short week, the Jets will take off for a probably frozen Minnesota and then head south for Tennessee. The team returns home on December 21st for their final home game and sees their division rival Patriots once more. For the second year in a row, Gang Green closes out their season in Miami.
It’s not the toughest schedule in the league. Based on their opponents’ winning percentage from 2013, Oakland has the toughest, while the Jets’ rank ninth. Still, in the 11 weeks before the bye the Jets see arguably 7 of the top 12 quarterbacks in the league when they face off against Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, and Ben Roethlisberger. Right now, about two weeks before the draft, the secondary is the glaring hole for this team. Going up against the best in the business at airing it out isn’t exactly what Rex Ryan dreamed up with his current roster.
But that’s the thing. The teams haven’t drafted yet. There are still free agents left to be signed, trades to be made, and unfortunate injuries that will occur. The schedule looks arduous and it will be a challenge without a doubt for the Jets and whoever their starting quarterback may be. But it’s April. No need to panic, not yet anyway.