Baker Mayfield
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Which New York Jets opponents will be far better than most expect? Which ones will take a major step back from 2019? Michael Nania breaks it all down.

Check out rankings of every positional group on the Jets’ 2020 schedule here:

Let’s rank all 13 opponents on the Jets’ schedule according to their likelihood of outperforming expectations – from least likely to improve off of 2019 to most likely.

13. Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles failed to improve an offensive line that I had ranked 27th in 2019, heading into the year with five returning players set to start. That group was the main reason that the Rams declined from their record-setting offensive performance in 2018 to 17th in offensive DVOA in 2019, and now, the same bunch of liabilities is back.

It was the defense – ranked ninth in DVOA – that carried the Rams in 2019, and that unit suffered heavy losses over the past few months. Top-tier slot corner Nickell Robey-Coleman, elite tackling and coverage linebacker Cory Littleton, and solid edge rusher Dante Fowler all found new homes, while the Rams added no comparable talent to replace them. In addition, veteran coordinator Wade Phillips is out.

Sean McVay may be enough of a genius to keep the Rams from hitting rock bottom, but on paper, Los Angeles quietly has the potential to take one of the biggest steps backward in the league.

12. New England Patriots

The world will learn a lot about the roles that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick each played in New England’s otherworldly two-decade run of dominance. Will Belichick prove that his well-oiled machine can function without Brady? Or will the loss of arguably the greatest quarterback in history be an insurmountable one?

We have very limited data to go off of regarding New England’s performance without Brady. He missed 15 games in 2008, but the Patriots still went 11-5 and ranked seventh in offensive DVOA. However, the Pats ranked No. 1 in offensive DVOA in 2007 and 2009, so there was a sizable decline without him even though they were still strong.

In 2016, the Patriots went 3-1 without Brady, but they averaged only 20.3 points without him versus 30.5 points with him (including the playoffs).

Things may be different if Cam Newton (or Jarrett Stidham) were inheriting one of the dominant offenses of New England’s past, but this is a unit that ranked 11th in offensive DVOA and 17th in points per drive this past season with a healthy Brady for all 16 games. The offense is probably going to take a huge step back.

New England’s amazing defense thrashed the NFL with a league-best 14.1 points per game allowed in 2019, but three of its key pieces will not be returning: LB Jamie Collins signed with Detriot and EDGE Kyle Van Noy signed with Miami, while LB D’Onta Hightower and S Patrick Chung opted out of the season.

The Patriots should be a respectable football team in 2020. They are too well-coached and too talented on defense not to be. However, there are many signs pointing to New England winning single-digit games for the first time since 2002.

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