A quick glance ahead at the upcoming regular season schedule shows that the New York Jets are in for several intriguing matchups.
The Jets are looking at a tough stretch of games to begin the season but manageable second half of the year following their Week 9 bye. Before its bye, Gang Green is facing opponents who combined for a 68-60 record last season. These teams include the 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers, 13-3 San Francisco 49ers and 13-3 New England Patriots. After the bye week, the level of competition drops, with the Jets playing teams with a combined record of 58-70 (45-67 if you discount the New England Patriots).
With all of the teams early on posing the toughest challenge, the Jets need to establish themselves as contenders by securing a winning record before their Week 6 game against the Indianapolis Colts. The toughest game of the year will no doubt be in this early season stretch. There is one game that rises above the rest and could begin to define what kind of year the Jets will have.
Week 5 Matchup: Houston Texans
This Monday Night Football matchup will speak volumes as to what will happen later in the year. Coming into this game, the Jets will have had two very tough battles against the Steelers Week 2 and the 49ers the previous week. The Green-and-White would be fortunate to escape these two games with a win as well as with their entire team intact. The Steelers have a reputation as a blitz-heavy quad with a hard-hitting defense. Meanwhile, the defending NFC West champions steamrolled over teams en route to the NFC Title game in 2011. With players like Patrick Willis leading the defense, the Jets offense would be fortunate to escape the hard-pounding tackles of the red and gold.
In addition to these two games, the Jets also have a hard battle against the Miami Dolphins. Even though the expectation level is low for the Fins this year, they always seem to give Gang Green a hard time, going 3-1 in their last four meetings with New York. The loss of Brandon Marshall as well as the addition of rookie Ryan Tannenhill should help the Jets, giving them a less-potent offense to defend than they have had in years past, but the Dolphins defense has been getting better year-by-year and could give Mark Sanchez a hard time in the pocket.
It is very possible that the Jets could enter this game with a 1-3 record which makes this matchup very crucial to saving the Jets from a major hole to start the year. The Texans are a team that have learned their strengths and weaknesses through seasons past and have worked to build their team to address their needs as well as capitalize on their strengths. They continue to build on their current team without needing a major change from year-to-year.
It is their system that allowed the Texans to keep their playoff hopes alive when Matt Schaub went down with an injury last year and T.J. Yates had to take over under center. It is the well-balanced Texans that will prove to be a tough test for the Jets. They may not have a top tier defense like the 49ers or Steelers but their players they can get the job done. Meanwhile,
the Jets will have a tough time overcoming the Texans offense that ranked in the top five in both passing and rushing yards last season.
This game could prove to be the most important one in defining the direction for the Jets. In order for them to continue on their mission for success they will need to overcome the new team to beat in the AFC South.