COMMENTARY | Looking ahead to the upcoming 2013 season, ESPN's James Walker set the over/under for the New York Jets' season at 5.5 wins. That would mean a 5-11 season or a 6-10 season, depending on which way we lean (and assuming no ties).
Is that fair or too harsh?
What Does History Say?
If we go by history, then we should go with the over. To find the last time the Jets won less than six games, we would have to look back six years and two quarterbacks to the 2007 season. The Jets have been snugly locked into the number two spot in the AFC East for most of their recent history, sometimes flirting with the third spot. With the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills being two of the teams that most reliably miss the playoffs, and with the New England Patriots still looking strong, the AFC East looks quite similar to how it has looked for the past several years.
Looking at more history, the last four times the Jets lost ten games or more, they bounced back to have a winning season the following year. This is not uncommon in the NFL. It is an up-and-down league, where teams rarely stay on the very top or the very bottom for long. The combination of schedule shifts and simple bounce back from bad luck and injuries tends to shake things up from year to year.
Could this be the first time since 1996 that the Jets put together back-to-back losing seasons? It is possible, but I would not count on it.
Look At The Schedule
One of the aspects of the NFL system that makes it difficult for teams to remain on the bottom is the altering of schedules. Losing teams get dramatically easier schedules than winning teams (relative to division of course).
This year the Jets will face arguably their easiest schedule in quite a long time. In addition to their six in-division games, in which they have done relatively well recently, they get to play games against teams like the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans. Even without winning against a quality opponent all year, the Jets could get six wins just from that schedule.
Without a doubt, there will be speculation of doom and gloom all summer for the Jets, not terribly unlike a year ago. However, if the Jets earned six wins in 2012 (with all the same problems that they have now and more) against a much harder schedule, I fail to see the sense in predicting them to win five or less this year.
Not So Different As You Think
There are few generic and all-purpose ways to be pessimistic as Jets fan. The two most popular ones are to complain about head coach Rex Ryan and quarterback Mark Sanchez. Yet it seems that our memories are too short.
As a combination, the coach and quarterback have made the playoffs twice and had three seasons with at least eight wins in their four years together. Never have they won less than six games. So for them to go 5-11 together would not be the norm, it would be new. In his 14 NFL seasons, Ryan has only once been a part of a team that went 5-11 or worse (the 2007 Baltimore Ravens).
Another thing to keep in mind is that the Jets now have rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Smith brings far more legitimate competition than Sanchez has ever faced in training camp. If Sanchez turns out to be as bad as many fear, then the simple solution is to go with Smith.
Similar logic applies to some of the other fear factors for the Jets. They are without their former best player: Darrelle Revis. Yet they were without him for nearly all of last year as well and still won six games. They are lacking depth at wide receiver, yet their wide receiver group is deeper (or less shallow) and better than it was last year.
In other words, while there are several imperfections on the roster, there is nothing that implies this team will be worse than last year. In fact, an objective look at the roster seems to imply that they should be the same or better.
That does not mean the Jets will go crazy and win the Super Bowl this year. If I were to pick five favorites, the Jets probably would not be in that group. The year could always be a disappointment. 8-8? 7-9? These are definite possibilities.
But 5-11? I think that is setting the mark too low.
Adam Waksman is a Yahoo! contributor in sports. He also covers the New York Jets for Bleacher Report, where he is a Featured Columnist and award-winning blogger.
You can follow Adam on Twitter here.
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