Lichtenstein: Jets Schedule Fittingly Loaded With Oddities in Strange Times

By WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM/66AM New York

In this golden age of technology, it would be anachronistic to state that the NFL schedule released on Thursday night isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

But you get the gist.

Like with everything else in these strange times, the COVID-19 pandemic will have the final say as to what games get played and where, not NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He was free to orchestrate a three-hour preview spectacle; the spread of the virus will determine whether or not it was a waste of time.

I trust that the NFL will do everything in its considerable power to get the games on TV, even if they have to make “adjustments” to extend the season.  However, few believe that the venues will be packed with unruly fans, significantly diminishing home field advantages.

I guess that means that if you’re a team like the Jets that got slated for three cross-country road games out West, this would be the year you’d want it. Gang Green’s 2020 schedule is the polar opposite from last season, going from the second-easiest to the second-toughest when accounting for their opponents’ aggregate prior year records. Their approximately 6,600 air miles last season was the fewest in franchise history; if general manager Joe Douglas didn’t already indicate that the team plans to stay out West between back-to-back games at the Seahawks and the Rams in December, the Jets would have needed to log over 21,000 air miles, the most in franchise history, per ESPN’s Rich Cimini.

Of course, the Jets’ .533 strength-of-schedule percentage includes two games with New England, who went 12-4 in 2019 with Tom Brady at quarterback. I know Patriots coach Bill Belichick once got to 10-5 with Matt Cassel under center the year Brady was injured, but let’s just say I expect less from current QB Jarrett Stidham. Much less.

The Bills, who host the Jets for the opener on September 13, are now prohibitive favorites to capture the AFC East. The Jets will face their other division rival Miami twice in a back-to-back over three weeks, sandwiched around their Week 11 bye. That’s never happened before either.

Another oddity about this schedule is its potential to create a seasonal points distortion. It is quite conceivable for New York to be outscored significantly this season yet still finish close to .500. The Jets are expected to be big underdogs in games at the Seahawks, Rams, and Chiefs plus the September 20 home opener versus San Francisco. If those results come to fruition, the Jets would still be no worse than 0-4 in those contests. The rest of the slate isn’t all that scary—win enough close games and no one will care about humungous margins in the defeats. Kind of like the Electoral College.

Remember, the goal here isn’t winning the Super Bowl.  C’mon, this is the Jets. There is never a playoff mandate. No, the mission is always “to play meaningful games in December.” In order to accomplish this, they need to make some hay starting in Week 3 after they face the Bills and Niners. In order:

At IndianapolisDenver (Thursday night)ArizonaAt ChargersBuffalo

The Jets don’t want to depend on having to make up ground in the season’s final quarter, which features the aforementioned double whammy at the Seahawks and Rams followed by a home date with Cleveland and the finale at New England.

Forget about forecasting the Jets’ 2020 record, I can’t even predict whether there will be a season. The league is betting that regular testing will get it across the goal line. However, even if we assume that the NFL Machine can procure the thousands of tests needed each week and then manage the PR pushback from a public that has been underserved in this regard since the pandemic began, the tests themselves are not infallible. Per different sources, the false negative error rates can be as high as 15%, depending on the test. Imagine one infected player in huddles, in scrums, and then in the locker room. The risks are real.

We’re a long way away from Thursday September 10, the league’s designated opening night in Kansas City. Maybe a miracle healthcare development will allow the NFL to remain undefeated against all rising tides.

Jets fans, unfortunately, have become accustomed to expecting the worst.

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.