By: Eric Gonzalez
The 2012 NFL strength of schedule has the New York Jets looking good, on paper that is. Although the strength of schedule can have some merit, it really means a whole lot of nothing, because the strength of schedules percentage is based on the previous years records. By merit, it gives credit to successful teams from the previous year, and that’s about it.
Looking at the 2012 strength of schedule (based on 2011 NFL records), the Jets are tied for 10th place, with a .492 opponents winning percentage. The other teams with the same percentage are the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears & Detroit Lions. The New England Patriots have the league best percentage of .453, while the Buffalo Bills are ranked 3rd with .473 & the Miami Dolphins are 14th with .496.
The answer to why all AFC East teams have such favorable schedules is simple. The two divisions the AFC East plays are the AFC South & the NFC West. Both divisions, minus the Houston Texans & San Francisco 49ers, were miserable and don’t appear to have improved much. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans & Indianapolis Colts are all in the midst of transitions. Though, the Jaguars seem to be in more of a depression than transition in recent years. The NFC West fields the 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks & St.Louis Rams. The division, outside of San Fran, have major problems of their own. It appears all six teams will fare poorly, with inexperienced or aging quarterback situations.
The rest of the Jets schedule is comprised of the divisional games & the Pittsburgh Steelers & San Diego Chargers.
Looking at the 16 games the Jets play in the 2012 season, my opinion is that anything less than 10 wins is a disappointment.
Buffalo fields a very talented but thin roster. The team failed to protect QB Ryan Fitzpatrick last season, and with the current O-Line nothing will change. He will take a beating and will start hot and fade by late October. Their Defensive line is absolutely ridiculous. Kyle Williams (not “that guy” in San Francisco) is a 4-3 nose tackle that resembles the monster that is Aaron Smith (also in San Francisco). Then there is defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. If he improves upon year 1, this will easily be the best inside duo of any 4-3 line in the NFL. On the ends are newly signed DE’s Mario Williams (new $100 Million man who is a sack machine, 53 sacks in 6 years) & Mark Anderson, who had 10 sacks in New England last year. All four men deserve double teams at all times. If healthy this team will have a very impressive Defense if Fred Jackson and Fitzpatrick don’t hold up. Jets don’t bring their A-game this will be an ugly loss to start to the season.
Week 2: At Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers haven’t replaced the mediocre running back Rashard Mendenhall, and have a young O-line to go with it. Big Ben is in for a long year and Mike Wallace hasn’t received a new deal. Instead, receiver Antonio Brown received the big money on the cash strapped Steelers. Wallace will most likely stage a hold out and miss time deep into training camp, if not longer. Wallace also didn’t attend any of the Steelers offseason program. The Defense is finally going to feel its age; Casey Hampton, 35, tore his ACL January and probably won’t be ready for week 2. Outside Linebacker James Harrison is now 34, lets see what he still has after a 9 sack 2011 campaign. OLB Lamarr Woodley, Inside Linebacker Lawrence Timmons & Safety Troy Polamalu are the three guys that defense will lean heavily on this year. I expect Rex & the Jets to go into Pittsburgh and bully them with the ground & pound.
Week 3: At Miami Dolphins
This Dolphins team will not fare well in 2012. I have lived in Miami for the last 3 years & the Dolphins fans that know what’s going on are pretty mum this year. The Offensive Line will provide consistent lanes in the running game, but the receiving options are miniscule. The Fins will either start Moore or Garrard & cut the other while grooming first round QB Ryan Tannenhill. As of now Garrard has the inside track, but let’s wait until they put on the pads to crown the starter. Their Defense is switching to a 4-3 this year. With the players they have, this has me scratching my head. Expect a 7-9 record from Miami this year. The Jets have been flip-flopping with the Dolphins in Miami in recent years, and this year is no different. Jets win outright & I can stick my head out in Miami again.
Week 4: Vs. San Francisco 49ers.
This game reminds me of the Jets-Ravens game in 2011. Crazy good defense & an offense on paper that would make any offensive coordinator blush (and Randy Moss is happy). Jets fans won’t forget Aaron Smith, Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman & Vernon Davis for a long time. Jets better hope the 49ers have jetlag that Sunday, after all it will be 10 a.m. in San Fran when the game kicks off. Expect a loss at the hands of the other Harbaugh.
Week 5: Vs. Houston Texans
The Jets play on Monday Night at home against a team that has never beat them. Ok, if that doesn’t sound like a Jets jinx, I don’t know what is. The Texans and the 49ers had two of the best defenses in the NFL last year and that doesn’t bode well for Sanchez & Co. Revis on Andre Johnson is always a treat, for Revis Island that is. Revis is 2-0 Vs. Johnson and that’s not just the score of their personal battles. Expect the Jets to rebound from the 49ers loss with a big win.
Week 6: Vs. Indianapolis Colts
The 3rd straight home game should be a good day for the Jets. Rex Ryan’s Defense should feast on Rookie 1st overall pick, QB Andrew Luck & 1st year Head Coach Chuck Pagano (also a former Baltimore Ravens Defensive Coordinator). Pagano should receive a lesson from Rex & Tony Sparano with his new 3-4 look in Indy. The Colts are in a very big transition with a new GM, new HC & new QB. Look for the Colts to be drafting very high in the 2013 NFL draft. Jets have no excuse and should win by a 10-point margin Vs. Colts.
Week 7: At New England
The Patriots are loaded in 2012. The offense has an inexperience backfield, but boasts the most consistent passing game under Tom Brady, who Darrelle Revis calls “the best quarterback in the NFL.” Their defense will not do well statistically this year, because the Patriots will put up a ton of points offensively, forcing opponents to throw early and often to stay in games. Don’t expect the defense to be as bad in reality, boasting young talent at all levels.
Playing at 4:25, the Jets better hope for a clear weather game, because only Bill Belichick knows how to win in Foxboro when the weather gets tricky. Just ask Jeff Fisher about the 59-0 loss in the snow in October 2009, or watch the Jets 45-3 loss in New England December 2010. I expect the Jets to beat the Patriots once this season, and I believe it will not be this week. Expect Belichick to have a flawless game plan with new OC Josh McDaniels at the helm. Jets lose by 10.
Week 8: Vs Miami Dolphins
Playing the Dolphins at Metlife should be a good game. Miami is coming off their bye week and will have had two weeks to prepare for Rex and co. The Jets coming off a probable Patriots loss will be out for blood against a third tier Miami Dolphins team. Jets win by large margin and sweep Miami, reminiscent of the late 1990’s early 2000’s under Parcells, Groh & Edwards.