Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Schedule, Trade
Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Getty Images

Picking the best prime-time matchups for the New York Jets

The NFL will officially release its full 2022 schedule tonight (Thursday, May 12) at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network.

Some games have already been confirmed – namely the league’s international contests and a few select prime-time matchups – but none of those games included the New York Jets. The Gang Green faithful are still waiting to see the dates and times of all 17 games on the team’s schedule.

One of the highlights of a schedule release is seeing how many times your team plays a night game under the national spotlight. Each NFL team is guaranteed at least one prime-time game, although the more marketable/successful teams will get a greater total of those games than the less marketable/successful ones.

Without further ado, here are five prime-time matchups I would love to see the Jets participate in this year. (I know they are not getting five prime-time games; these are just ideas.)

Home game vs. New England Patriots (September)

There are rumors circulating that the Jets might play the Patriots at home on Sunday Night Football in Week 1, but they originated from a random person on Twitter, so it seems unlikely that they’re true.

Nevertheless, I think an early-season home game against the Pats under the prime-time spotlight would be fantastic for the Jets. It doesn’t have to be on Sunday night (a spotlight the Jets haven’t graced since a 2011 loss to the Patriots) or even in Week 1, but any time within the first three weeks would be a great spot for this matchup.

I know what a lot of you are thinking: “Please no. Do we really need to kill the offseason positivity by getting embarrassed by Bill Belichick on national TV? What if Zach Wilson throws 4 picks in front of the nation? Why can’t we just start the season with some easy teams?”

Destroying that mindset is the exact reason why I would like to see the Jets take on the Patriots in a big-stage game early in the year. It’s time for this defeatist mentality to cease. If the Jets are going to get anywhere under Robert Saleh and Zach Wilson, they need to be able to win these high-stakes games. New York must embrace these challenges, not fear them.

Yeah, sure, everything could go haywire and the Patriots could embarrass the Jets in front of America yet again. But what if the Jets finally confront their demons and give the Pats a national-TV beatdown? The hype surrounding the organization would soar to levels we have not seen since the early Rex Ryan days.

I would love to see the Jets take on this monumental test early in the year.

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Road game vs. Denver Broncos (December or January)

Just like the Patriots game, I include this matchup because it would be a golden opportunity for this new-look Jets team to prove itself in a huge way. A road prime-time game against a great team late in the season? Bring it on.

In the past, the Jets have typically been demolished whenever they travel to face a good team under the spotlight. The 2021 Colts game and the 2019 Ravens game come to mind. These David-versus-Goliath matchups are usually a showcase to remind the nation how bad the Jets are.

Once again – it’s time for the Jets to change the narrative.

Playing the title-contending Broncos during a frigid winter night in Colorado would be a tremendous measuring-stick game for these young Jets. While I do not expect the Jets to win this game (regardless of when it is played), I think they can prove a lot by playing the Broncos competitively in these playoff-type conditions.

Previous Jets teams are usually out of the game by halftime in these types of scenarios. How about the Jets go out and prove they can actually play with the big boys for once?

Personally, I think Jets fans should also be rooting for the schedule to include challenging prime-time matchups like these first two I’ve mentioned. Let’s see what these guys are really made of. If this Jets team is truly different than the ones that came before, then it will rise to the occasion in situations where its predecessors would have folded.

Road game vs. Miami Dolphins (First of the 2 meetings)

The Jets-Dolphins rivalry received an enormous injection of juice this offseason when Miami beat out New York in the Tyreek Hill sweepstakes. The former Kansas City Chiefs star reportedly had a choice between the Dolphins and the Jets after each team agreed on a trade package with Kansas City, and Hill elected to join Miami.

Hill escalated things further by retorting “Who?” when asked about how close he was to choosing the Jets.

Throw in the fact that the two rivals are simultaneously developing a high-potential young quarterback, and this is about as heated as the Jets-Fins rivalry has been in a long time.

A prime-time game between these two teams would have a ton of tension, especially if it were the first meeting between the two teams.

I would like to see this matchup occur in Miami rather than New York. From the Jets’ perspective, what better way to stick it to Hill than to beat him in his own house with the whole world watching?

Home game vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

After choosing three fairly difficult opponents, let’s dial it back a little bit and highlight a couple of potential prime-time games the Jets would have a better chance of winning.

I think it would be a lot of fun to watch Zach Wilson and Trevor Lawrence go at it on a random Thursday night. Wilson and Lawrence had a fun battle near the end of their rookie seasons in 2021. A rematch on prime time would allow the country to compare Wilson and Lawrence’s progress head-to-head, giving Wilson a chance to overtake Lawrence as the average NFL fan’s preferred quarterback from the 2021 class.

Home game vs. Chicago Bears

Lawrence vs. Wilson would be stellar, but how about Justin Fields vs. Wilson?

When the Jets took themselves out of the lead for Lawrence’s services with their win over the Raiders in late-2020, fans turned their attention to not only Wilson but Fields as well. This conversation was a 50-50 battle between the BYU product and the Ohio State product when it was in its infant stages.

As the draft process trudged onward, Wilson eventually emerged as the heavy favorite to be selected by New York with the second overall pick, while Fields’ stock slipped. Fields eventually landed in Chicago with the 11th overall pick.

But it cannot be forgotten that there was a point in time where many Jets fans were all-in on Fields as their Plan B after the team failed to “Tank for Trevor”.

Even I was torn between Wilson and Fields. The Jets’ eventual hiring of offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur solidified that Wilson was the better fit for New York’s offense, but before we knew what New York’s offense would look like, I had a tough time making up my mind between the two uber-talented passers. Heck, I still had moments where Fields was my guy even after the LaFleur hire.

Fields and Wilson had similar rookie seasons individually, but the youngsters are going into their second years with much different supporting casts around them. Wilson’s Jets have received unanimous national praise for the work they have done to support their franchise player. The Bears have been universally panned for their lack of effort in supporting Fields.

Just like Lawrence, it would be fascinating to compare the progress of these draft classmates on the same field with the whole nation pouring in its opinions.

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Michael Nania is the best analytical New York Jets mind in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania

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