The New York Jets are already one step ahead of the New England Patriots when the season opens in September. Unlike their Bill Belichick-lead rivals, they’ve got their starting quarterback ready to go. And because of the Tom Brady suspension, now is the time for Todd Bowles and the Jets to build off last year’s surprising 10-6 finish and win the AFC East.
As reported by ESPN, this line of thinking is shared by many, including NFL Network analyst LaDainian Tomlinson.
“If there’s ever a year to knock off the Patriots, it has to be this year for the Jets or for somebody else to win this division,” Tomlinson said. He continued, pointing to the experienced position players the Jets accumulated in the off season.
“It has to be the Jets. When you think about it, they have enough experience on both sides of the ball. If Ryan [Fitzpatrick] can play at the level he played last year — and maybe just a little bit more — they should do it. They should do it. He’s had his best years under [offensive coordinator] Chan Gailey. That’s why I’m so optimistic.”
In addition to re-signing Fitzpatrick, the team also picked up versatile 30-year-old running back Matt Forte after the Chicago Bears chose to not retain his services after eight years with the team. Tomlinson, who played for the Jets for two seasons under Rex Ryan, also signed with the team in the latter stages of his career so his point of view regarding experienced veterans might be biased.
Standing in the way of the Jets success in 2016 is something far more dangerous than just an angry Tom Brady when he returns (the Jets have the misfortune of not being one of the lucky four to face the Pats without their future hall-of-fame quarterback). Their schedule is one of the toughest in the league, ranking seventh overall, according to the NFL with a win percentage of .531.
In fact, many pundits, including David Steele of Sporting News, think the Jets were hosed by the league.
“Besides the Patriots twice, as well as fellow AFC East opponents the Bills and Dolphins, they get a brutal first six weeks. That includes this bit of cruelty right out of the box: opener at home against the Bengals, then Thursday night in Buffalo. Then they’re at the Chiefs, home against the Seahawks, at Pittsburgh and a West Coast trip for a Monday nighter against the Cardinals. They also have a late bye week, Week 11, in November. Their two Patriots games are in the final six weeks, including Foxborough on Christmas Eve. Someone there made the league mad.”
Regardless, the Jets did get better by simply keeping their full unit together. As mentioned previous, they signed their record-breaking QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to a one-year deal after a months-long contract stalemate. They also managed a deadline-day deal with their best defensive lineman in Muhammad Wilkerson, signing the 26-year-old to a long term contract that helped free up the room to sign Fitzpatrick.
Even when they lost players, like Pro Bowl offensive lineman D’Brickashaw Ferguson, they went out and re-stocked, trading for another Pro Bowler in Ryan Clady from the Denver Broncos, who was out last season due to a knee injury, but looks to have a bounce back 2016 season.
With Miami under a new coaching system and Rex Ryan fighting for his coaching life up in Buffalo (the boisterous Ryan has already admitted he’ll be fired if he doesn’t make the playoffs this year) it falls to the Jets to finally unseat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick from their AFC East throne.
What do you think? Will the New York Jets or anyone else overtake the New England Patriots with Tom Brady suspended?
[Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images]