Michael Carter II, Joe Burrow, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, 2021, 2022
Michael Carter II, Joe Burrow, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Getty Images

The New York Jets could steal these seemingly difficult games in 2022

It’s no secret that the New York Jets have an exceedingly tough schedule this season. Starting out of the gate with four games against the AFC North is brutal. The Jets received no favors from the schedule-makers with their first nine games.

Still, if they can survive those, the rest of the slate has a soft underbelly that can propel them forward just when other teams have it the toughest. For example, the Patriots’ final six games of the season feature the Bills (2x), Cardinals, Raiders, Bengals, and Dolphins. The Dolphins’ last six games include the 49ers, Chargers, Bills, Packers, Patriots, and Jets.

There are a few games in this schedule that Jets fans look at and say, “Oof.” We’re talking about the Bills, Broncos, and Packers. To win those might be too much to expect, although anything is possible.

Still, there are other intermediate games in which the Jets will most certainly be underdogs but may have a chance to win. They beat Tennessee and Cincinnati last year in games that were not particularly pretty, but those teams looked through the Jets. They got trapped.

Why can’t that happen again this year?

Let’s go through the top five underdog games that the Jets can win if the dice fall their way.

(Note: I am not including Cleveland on this list due to the uncertainty regarding Deshaun Watson’s status in this game. If Jacoby Brissett is the starter, which seems likely, that changes the tenor of the game.)

5. Week 1 vs. Baltimore Ravens

Yes, it’s Week 1. Yes, the Ravens are coming off a disappointing, injury-riddled campaign. Lamar Jackson is playing to become a billionaire. The Jets did not address their interior run defense.

Still, the Ravens’ run-heavy offense has a weakness that teams have begun to recognize. Alex Rollins, whose YouTube channel demonstrates advanced film study, breaks this down thoroughly in his video from August 2021. He discusses Jackson’s struggles in the playoffs during his first three seasons. In 2020, Jackson’s MVP season, the Titans stifled the Ravens’ offense in the playoffs with quarters coverage that brought the safeties down aggressively to defend the run game.

Since the Ravens do not have legitimate deep threats, they are unable to capitalize on the aggressive run focus to beat the coverage over the top. Rashod Bateman may be a popular breakout candidate, but offensive coordinator Greg Roman has not proven that he can deploy his receivers to take advantage of the holes in the defense.

Fortunately, the Jets have the personnel to run this same coverage. Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed can hold their own in quarters, while Jordan Whitehead and Jason Pinnock or Lamarcus Joyner can be aggressive in the run game.

Meanwhile, the Jets may have a chance to do something on offense. The Ravens uncharacteristically struggled with pass rush last season. The Jets’ offensive line ranked 11th-best in the NFL, per PFF, even without their top guns for large parts of the year. Give Zach Wilson time to go through his reads, and with the weapons he has, good things will happen.

4. Week 4 vs. Cincinnati Bengals

After a team unexpectedly makes a run or wins more games than predicted, many analysts take that run to mean that the team is now elite. History has shown that those teams often underwhelm the following season (see: 2016 Panthers, 2018 Jaguars, 2020 Bears, 2019 and 2021 Browns).

The Cincinnati Bengals capitalized on an easy schedule last season, including the injured and aging quarterbacks in their division. It will be difficult for them to sustain that success with the big red X over their jerseys.

Joe Burrow had a fantastic year, no doubt about that. He appears to be part of the young crop of superstar quarterbacks in the AFC. Still, if Burrow has an Achilles heel, it is holding on to the ball too long.

The Bengals’ offensive line woes have been well-documented. Cincinnati did a lot to address that this offseason. But if Burrow continues to hold the ball, he will end up with Zach Wilson-level sacks even with a good offensive line, not to mention the injury risk.

The Jets are in a great position to make Burrow hold the ball too long. Gardner, Reed, Bryce Hall, and Michael Carter II can blanket Ja’Marr Chase and the Bengals’ wide receivers. C.J. Uzomah is now with the Jets, taking away Burrow’s big safety net and red zone target from last season.

If the secondary can make Burrow hold the ball just a second longer, Carl Lawson, Jermaine Johnson, John Franklin-Myers, Quinnen Williams, and Jacob Martin have the potential to get to Burrow and wreak havoc.

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3. Week 12 at Minnesota Vikings

This is the kind of game that the Jets often lose historically – a road game against a mediocre team whom they don’t face that often.

Still, the last time a Robert Saleh-led defense played against Kirk Cousins & Co., the Vikings were held to 147 yards of total offense in the NFC Divisional Round in 2019. The Vikings managed just 21 rushing yards on the day. Despite taking only two sacks against a ferocious 49ers pass rush, Kirk Cousins managed 126 total passing yards with one TD and one INT.

Now, obviously the Jets’ defense is nowhere near the level of the 49ers’. Dalvin Cook is going to be an issue. But if the Jets can pressure Kirk Cousins and contain Justin Jefferson with their top corners, this could be a ballgame.

2. Week 3 at Pittsburgh Steelers

It is surprising that many analysts have the Jets so clearly losing this game. Perhaps they forget that quarterback is still the most important position in football.

Frankly, Mitchell Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett should not scare anyone. Pittsburgh has a solid running game and a swarming defense, but the Jets should be able to contain the pass rush with George Fant, their best pass protector from last season. Tyler Conklin and Jeremy Ruckert can help out as blocking tight ends.

While Pittsburgh managed to make the playoffs with the ancient Ben Roethlisberger at QB, that does not necessarily translate into a huge leap simply due to changing the quarterback. The last time Trubisky started, he was benched for Nick Foles.

1. Week 5 vs. Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins’ over-under in Vegas is 8.5 wins, which largely reflects a lack of confidence in Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins won nine games last season with a lesser roster, and adding Terron Armstead, Tyreek Hill, Cedrick Wilson, Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel, and Chase Edmonds should only increase their chances of winning.

It’s because of Tua that this game is winnable for the Jets. Despite Miami’s offensive firepower, Tua simply cannot be trusted to push the ball down the field. With the cornerbacks the Jets have, they should be able to force Tua into underthrown passes and have opportunities for picks. This home game is one I believe the Jets can and will win.

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Rivka Boord has followed the Jets since the age of five. She is known locally for her in-depth knowledge of football. She hopes to empower young women to follow their dreams and join the sports conversation. Boord's background in analytics infuses her articles with unique insights into the state of the Jets' franchise and the NFL as a whole.
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1 year ago

Well I would agree with all those games and Im even going out there further by saying that the Jets can probably steal one against the Bills and possibly Green Bay.

Jonathan Richter
Jonathan Richter
1 year ago
Reply to  Azuma76

Green Bay will be coming back from Munich, Germany the week before. They could have a bit of a hangover.

1 year ago

Agreed. Only thing – Minnesota plays inside a heated dome.