In all the off-season hullabaloo about the Jets and from the Jets, it was easy to miss just how difficult the team’s early season schedule really was. (Our colleague Adam Sternbergh, in his magazine story this week, didn’t miss it, but most did, including us.) A season-opening loss would put the Jets in a series of increasingly vital games against daunting opponents, often on the road. And here, here they are.
The Jets get the hated Patriots at the new Meadowlands on Sunday, and it’s difficult to overstate the game’s singular importance. Losing the first two games at home would lead the Jets into a brutal stretch: at Miami, at Buffalo, vs. Minnesota, at Denver, vs. Green Bay. The Bills and Broncos are hardly powerhouses, but they will be at home and eager to justify rebuilding efforts by taking down the big loud Jets. If Rex Ryan’s charges don’t win this week, they’ll need to win four of those next five just to be above .500 at mid-season. This is getting serious quickly.
The Jets aren’t facing ideal circumstances this weekend. Darrelle Revis missed practice yesterday with hamstring trouble, an issue that he’s struggled with before and one that might have been avoided had he not been hiding in disguises for a month rather than sweating through training camp. (But let us not cry over pulled hammies and spilled two-a-days.) The importance of Revis is amplified because of his historical dominance of Randy Moss, who has been talking so much in the last week that you almost wonder if he wants to be traded to the Jets.
The real issue, of course, is Mark Sanchez: If he doesn’t look more alert and engaged than he did last week against Baltimore, Revis will be the least of the Jets’ concerns. Sanchez’s problems — confidence, calm, smart decision-making — are not the sort that are solved by Rex Ryan fire-’em-up speeches; convincing Sanchez to run through a wall will not help him play quarterback better. The Jets are up against everything this week in a game few expect them to win. It’s unfortunate, too, that it’s the Patriots, a team salivating to knock the Jets’ block off. But maybe that’s what they need: Maybe the Jets need to beat a team like the Patriots to remind themselves of their swagger. (One would think you wouldn’t forget swagger, but we suppose football players are different than you and us.) But this is all just more talk. The Jets have three hours Sunday to turn this around, or to be in danger of this all going away, right fast quick.