Well, You’ve Signed Ryan Fitzpatrick…Now What?
First, let’s give all the Jets fans a chance to exhale as you’re not going into the season with Geno Smith as your presumptive starter.
There, good (though some of you could use a mint).
This is great news for the Jets and their supporters as the signing of Fitzpatrick (a one year, $12 million deal that could reach $15 million if Fitzpatrick hits his incentives) immediately launches the team into the conversation for at least having a chance! Do they really have a chance, though? And if so, how much of a chance do they realistically have in a very top-heavy AFC?
First, let’s get the love-fest out of the way. The Jets are good. They had one really glaring crack in the dam that they were able to at least put a wet rag in to prevent any further leakage. Fitzpatrick is not a guy that will lead them to the playoffs, but he is not a guy that will get in the way of them getting to the playoffs…even though that’s kind of what he did in the season finale last year…hmmm…that might be a red flag. There is no doubt though that without Fitzpatrick, the Jets were done. Geno is not the answer to any question except for “who can’t take a punch”, while Petty and Hackenberg may be the quarterbacks of the future for the Jets, just not the near future, and the rest of the team is ready to win now. The Jets are loaded on defense, and another year with Todd Bowles at the helm will only help this team improve on that side of the ball. The Jets have a good receiver duo in Marshall and Decker, savvy veterans who will only help Fitzpatrick earn his money this year. Add Matt Forte in the backfield as a dual threat to replace fairly one-dimensional (yet still effective) Chris Ivory from last year’s team, and the offense looks like it can survive the retirement of D’Brickashaw Ferguson before this season. Here’s the deal though, the guys the Jets are relying heavily on are pretty damn old, as in, the window to win a championship with these guys on the right side of the curve is closing faster than a fist to Geno’s face. For example, did you know that Muhammad Wilkerson and Jarvis Jenkins are in their sixth season already? I know, time is flying by, and for an NFL player, and an NFL franchise, that’s not a good thing. A good majority of the Jets major contributors are around that age 30 season where it all starts to go downhill.
So, the Jets are good, we’ve established that. What’s stopping them from steamrolling their way to a title then?
How about the rest of the AFC. Yes, there will still be the bottom feeders (sorry Cleveland), but the top of the conference is scary good. Personally, I’m not ready to put the Jets up there yet with the likes of Pittsburgh (the presumptive favorite to get to the Superbowl this year), Cincinnati or New England (Brady’s four game suspension be damned). Not only are these three teams still the cream of the crop, some of the other teams in the conference are creeping up to give the Jets a run for their money. If we were to draft up a possible AFC playoff bracket right now, not taking seeding into account, you could safely place:
AFC North: Pittsburgh
AFC East: New England
AFC West: Kansas City
AFC South: Hell, someone has to take it…let’s go with Jacksonville
Wild Card 1: Cincinnati (if they don’t win the North, which would just switch their position here with Pittsburgh)
Wild Card 2: Oakland (if they don’t win the West, which would just switch their position here with Kansas City)
See, the Jets may just be on the outside looking in despite the addition of Fitzpatrick (unless they make a quick migration to the AFC South). This doesn’t even take Denver into account, which should regress, but maybe not as much as everyone expects because Wade Phillips is a goddamn wizard. It looks like, if the Jets are unable to win the AFC East (something they have not done since Tom Brady’s first full year under center in 2002) they look to be fighting it out with at least two other teams for one wild card spot (not good odds).
You know what could doom Gang Green in the race for that last playoff spot? A shitty opening half of the season. You know who is set to have a shitty opening half of their season? The Jets. Here’s their first eight games:
@ Kansas City
Holy loaded schedule Batman! I find it hard to believe the Jets will be favored in any game until the week seven contest with the Ravens, and with five of the first eight games on the road, it’s going to be tough. Now, hope is not lost, because if the Jets can come out of this stretch at 4-4, or even 5-3, they look really good in terms of making the playoffs as their second half (despite two games against the Patriots) is considerably easier. The problem is, can they get to 4-4? That means winning the three games you would think they would win (Buffalo, Baltimore and Cleveland) while “stealing” one that they shouldn’t (if it happens, I’m guessing week three in KC). Buffalo is not a guarantee, and if they lose one to the Bills this year, I would assume it would be on the road. So worst case scenario, they reach midseason at 2-6. I know they play the Patriots tough every single time, but I can see New England rolling over most everyone once Brady gets back in week five. So that’s eight losses right there, which puts the Jets at 8-8 at best this year. I don’t see 8-8 getting into the playoffs in the AFC (except for the winner of the South). 10-6? Maybe. If the Jets can eke out two more wins (either in the first half of the year, or sweep Buffalo and split with New England) then they can edge the AFC West runner up.
So, you’re saying there’s a chance!?
Yes, but they need Fitzpatrick to play like the Fitzpatrick that set all those team records last year, not the Fitzpatrick that was outplayed by Tyrod Freaking Taylor with the playoffs on the line in last year’s finale. With Fitzpatrick betting on himself with a one-year contract, I can see them squeaking in as a six seed in the playoffs this year. At that point, it’s anyone’s game.