The New York Jets head into the 2016 NFL season as an underrated team that isn’t getting an overwhelming amount of attention nationally from American football aficionados.
However, now that the tumultuous saga that played out between the Jets and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is nothing more than a fading memory, “Gang Green” firmly believes it has a chance to make noise in the new campaign.
Many NFL analysts see the Jets as nothing more than an 8-8, 9-7 team that will narrowly miss the playoffs once again. But there’s also a feeling building among a pocket of experts that Todd Bowles’ bunch deserves far more respect and will be no pushover in a weak AFC.
Now that we’re a week away from the start of the regular season, it’s time to look ahead to what’s in store for New York in 2016. With that in mind, here’s a look at five bold predictions for the Jets.
Ryan Fitzpatrick Throws For Over 4,000 Yards, 35 TDs
In his first season with the Jets in 2015, Ryan Fitzpatrick shocked the masses with 3,905 passing yards and 31 TDs (just 15 INTs). It was the best statistical showing of his career and although New York missed the playoffs, Fitzpatrick led the team to a surprise 10 wins.
Ryan built a solid rapport with wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker in 2015, so his absence from team activities over the offseason really shouldn’t affect the Jets pass attack.
Now with running back Matt Forte in the mix and Bilal Powell’s emergence as a weapon on passing downs, Fitzpatrick should easily exceed 4,000 yards this season. And if the Jets play to their potential in the red zone, 35 TDs isn’t out of the question for the former Harvard standout.
Matt Forte Electrifies
Matt Forte was a symbol of consistency throughout his tenure with the Chicago Bears, but that hasn’t stopped critics from saying he’s “just too old to get it done” or “cooked.”
With extra motivation to prove his haters and naysayers wrong, expect Forte to put forth a sensational effort in 2016, ultimately finishing with over 65 receptions, 1,500 total yards, and 10 total TDs.
Muhammad Wilkerson Tallies A Minimum Of 15 Sacks
Despite his reputation for making life miserable for opposing quarterbacks, Jets DL Muhammad Wilkerson has only reached double-digit sacks twice in his career. While Wilkerson’s sack totals have been somewhat disappointing thus far, he’s coming off a 12-sack season in 2015 and appears to be headed in the right direction.
As Darryl Slater of NJ.com reported back in July, New York finally gave in and paid Wilkerson over the offseason, so it’s fair to assume he’ll reciprocate with a phenomenal showing.
Nick Mangold Makes Fourth-Straight Pro Bowl Appearance
D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s retirement undoubtedly caught the Jets off guard (pun intended) over the offseason, but Jets GM Mike Maccagnan did a solid job replacing him with the oft-injured yet incredibly talented left tackle Ryan Clady. And don’t forget New York still has one of the NFL’s premier centers in Nick Mangold running roughshod over fools in the trenches.
While I’m not in love with the right side of the Jets offensive line, Mangold is a force to be reckoned with and should help mask its weakness with another Pro Bowl effort for New York in 2016.
Let’s be honest: Thanks to the Denver Broncos’ failure to land an adequate quarterback, the AFC is up for grabs in 2016. While the Jets will likely finish second in the AFC East to the New England Patriots for the umpteenth time, New York shouldn’t have an especially difficult time cementing a wild card spot.
There simply aren’t many AFC teams that are as balanced on both sides of the ball as the Jets. Thus, as long as they get in, the Jets will have a chance to make a run all the way to the AFC Championship game.
[Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images]