On July 12, 2021, we broke down the New York Jets road schedule this season ranking them from most challenging to winnable.
Now I want to take a look at the flip side of things at MetLife Stadium.
Based on the new NFL agreement between the owners and players, all AFC teams will have one extra home game in 2021. The NFC would then get the extra home matchup in 2022.
All this stems from the additional 17th game, which was basically taken from the preseason period. With the nine-game home slate set in stone, let’s dive into the troubling contests and must-win bouts for Robert Saleh’s Jets.
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Trial by Fire
9. Week 17 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Ah, yes. The old bitter rival returns to MetLife, but this time in burgundy and pewter. Tom Brady has no problem playing in the northeast during winter. In fact, he probably revels at the opportunity to try and beat all of his old AFC East foes one last time.
While I’d love for the Jets to stick it to Brady in Week 17, it’s more likely that the Buccaneers will be battling for playoff seeding and hungry for a win. This roster is stacked from top-to-bottom, didn’t lose a single player from the 2020 championship roster, and actually may have gotten slightly better when you consider their 2021 draft class.
8. Week 10 vs. Buffalo Bills
As I mentioned in the road article, Gang Green may have a better chance of stealing one from the Bills in Buffalo Week 18, with the possibility that the rivals have less to play for by then. Week 10 is a different story altogether. It’s hard to see the Jets’ secondary keeping up with this dynamic group of playmakers from Stefon Diggs to Cole Beasley, especially when you factor in that Josh Allen is a tough quarterback to get pressure on.
This team is well-built and they are a few seasons ahead of Joe Douglas and Saleh in the process. The Jets also don’t match up great with Sean McDermott’s squad on paper. New York was swept by Buffalo last season but split the two years prior, ironically winning the road game each time. The Jets have not beaten the Bills at MetLife since November of 2017.
7. Week 2 vs. New England Patriots
Even with Cam Newton at the helm, this is a formidable Patriots roster with an all-time head coach in Bill Belichick. New England’s defense looks dangerous and it doesn’t help that this will be Zach Wilson’s second career NFL start.
This could be a grind-it-out type of game where both offenses try to run the ball and limit their mistakes, but this will not be an easy one for Saleh’s young group. The turnover margin will be all-important. Newton is prone to fumbles and interceptions, so the Jets’ best chance is to play mistake-free and force a few errors out of Cam.
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Tough, but Achievable
6. Week 4 vs. Tennessee Titans
Up until the draft and the Julio Jones acquisition, the Titans had one of the worst-graded offseasons in my opinion. They lost a plethora of top talent from Jadeveon Clowney and DaQuan Jones to Jonnu Smith and Jets’ Corey Davis, not to mention most of their secondary.
Bud Dupree and Janoris Jenkins were the only replacements in free agency at the time but Julio Jones at wide receiver and a solid draft class does change things dramatically. There are still some likely question marks in Week 4 like right tackle, which could start rookie Dillon Radunz, and cornerback, which is almost as inexperienced as the Jets after Jenkins.
5. Week 14 vs. New Orleans Saints
This is a tough one to gauge at this point in the season. New Orleans forfeited a ton of talent this free agency after the NFL cap took a significant drop at a very unfortunate time for the Saints franchise. Drew Brees also retired.
NOLA’s greatest strengths are still a forceful offensive line and playmakers like Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas, but there are way more weaknesses than in years past. If Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill were taking over the exact same roster that Brees had, you could see them being a playoff contender. This is not the same team, however, and it could be a messy transition for whoever takes the wheel.
4. Week 11 vs. Miami Dolphins
I’m relatively confident that the Dolphins are a prime candidate to take a step back in 2021. They capitalized on a favorable fourth-place schedule with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick bailing them out numerous times last season. Now all the pressure lies on Tua Tagovailoa’s shoulders and he did not appear to be ready in 2020.
This is still an aggressive defense under Brian Flores and a divisional game, but this is the AFC East contest that the Jets have to win this season. No excuses, Saleh has to win at least one against Miami and home turf could be the difference.
Defend the Homeland!
3. Week 8 vs. Cincinnati Bengals
These three are the games the Jets should win at home. The Bengals could make for an explosive offense in 2021 between Joe Burrow, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, but their fatal flaw is still their offensive line which is one of the worst in the NFL. That’s a clear advantage for Saleh and Jeff Ulbrich to attack with their stout 4-3 front.
This Cincinnati defense isn’t a top-half unit either, although it did improve mildly over the offseason. There’s a chance this is a high-scoring affair but it’s also a revenge game for Jets edge rusher Carl Lawson. Look for him and the Jets to eat against this lackluster blocking unit.
2. Week 16 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
I’m surprised they waited till Week 16 to pit Trevor Lawrence versus Wilson, the top two quarterbacks drafted in 2021. It’s also a bit of a shocker that this isn’t a primetime showdown. Having said all that, the Jets have to win this game.
For starters, it would prove to the world that Wilson could indeed outperform Lawrence. That’s not the reason I’m taking New York in this head-to-head though. The Jets just have the better all-around roster. Their defense is miles ahead of Jacksonville’s and many believe that the Gang Green playmakers are deeper than the Jags’ group. The offensive line is about even — the Jets have better tackles but Jacksonville is stronger up the gut. Lastly, give me the NFL-savvy Saleh over college recruiter Urban Meyer any day.
1. Week 13 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The Super Bowl backbone of this franchise that led them over Brady and the Pats has aged dramatically, from their former top-tier offensive line to stars like Zach Ertz and Fletcher Cox. There’s still talent on this roster, but under a new regime who knows what this team may look like by Week 13.
Jalen Hurts’ passing ability is also a question mark at the NFL level, although his prior relationship with rookie DeVonta Smith should help. The cap-strapped Eagles did very little to supplement this roster in free agency after a 4-11-1 season, outside of adding safety Anthony Harris. This is a franchise at the early stages of a rebuild and the Jets will get a sneak preview of what they’re running on offense in Week 3 of the preseason, making this the number one must-win in 2021.