2017 Jets schedule analysis: Taking the good with the bad

The New York Jets now know their 2017 regular season schedule. Although we’re almost five months out from Week 1, let’s do a quick but thorough breakdown of this slate’s benefits and pitfalls.

What we already knew: Top-10 toughest schedule

We’ve known the Jets’ 2017 opponents since the 2016 regular season ended, and despite finishing at the bottom of the AFC East, they were destined for one of the toughest schedules next year. It’s tied for eighth most difficult with the crosstown rival Giants, based on the combined 2016 winning percentages of their 16 opponents (.535). This is due to the presence of the AFC West, which had two 12-4 teams and a 9-7 team, and the NFC South, which had three teams with at least seven wins last season.

We’ll learn early how bad the Jets might be

Some of the Jets’ weakest opponents appear on the schedule in the first five weeks. After opening at Buffalo and at the playoff-caliber Raiders in consecutive weeks, New York will play Miami for their home opener, then Jacksonville. Week 5 likely will see Josh McCown face his old team, the Cleveland Browns.

Jacksonville and Cleveland finished last in their respective divisions in 2016, like the Jets, and both teams are ahead of the Jets in next week’s draft. Only one playoff team appears in the first five weeks. All this just means if the Jets start 3-2 or even, jeez, 4-1, it could be a setup to a long and painful punchline the rest of the year. On the other hand, if they lose three or four of these games, at least fans will get a sure sense of how bad their favorite team is.

A good rotation of home and away

Not having your home opener until Week 3 is a bit odd, but it happens to a few teams every year (last time that happened to the Jets was in 1992). It’s better to look at the long game and realize that the Jets never have a stretch away from home longer than two games, and it only happens once more, in December. Meanwhile, they’ll have three separate two-game home stands and only take one road trip in the six-week stretch from Week 8 to 13.

Do we get a week off at some point?

Nobody has a later bye week than the Jets – unlike in recent years, when byes ranged from disgustingly early Week 4 to disgustingly late Week 13, the schedulers capped off the byes at Week 11 this year. The Jets will join the Dolphins, Colts, Panthers, Buccaneers and 49ers watching football from their couches that week.

For how soft Weeks 1 to 5 look, Weeks 6 to 10 may provide a crash-landing back to reality. In Week 6 and Week 8, fans can head to MetLife to see not one, but both Super Bowl LI participants beat up on the Jets – first New England, then the Atlanta Falcons. Four days after hosting the Falcons, the Jets have to suit up again for – WOO! – Color Rush Night against Buffalo! Why the NFL insists on pitting New York and Buffalo for a Color Rush Thursday game for the third straight season beats me. The saving grace, though, is that the Jets can sleep in their own beds. They’re home for both Weeks 8 and 9; it’d be worse if they had to fly off somewhere on short rest. Long story short, Gang Green will savor that bye week when it finally arrives.

AFC East foes crammed in early

These schedule-makers are weird, guys. Last season, the Jets played a grand total of one AFC East game in the first half of the season, then their other five in November and December. This year is the opposite. New York will play five games against divisional foes in the first nine weeks. Heck, they’ll be done seeing the Bills and Phins before their bye.

What does that leave the Jets to wrap up the year? Nothing either traumatic or super simple. They will come out of the bye to host consecutive games against Carolina and Kansas City, followed by trips to Denver and New Orleans – four teams with more playoff potential than the Jets at this point in time.

On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, don’t expect the games to be flexed out of the 1 p.m. slot to muck up your holiday plans. The Jets will host their final home game against the Los Angeles Chargers, then head to Foxboro for their final date with New England as 2017 closes out. Note that, whether in New Jersey, Denver or New England, five of these six games will be played outdoors in cold weather.

Prediction

You think I’m honestly going to do that this year? Let the hot-takers across the media landscape give their hot takes. I’m just confident that this team will finish somewhere between one and 15 wins. You know that as well as I do.

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