Predicting the New York Jets' Most Important Games of 2014-15 Season
The New York Jets enter the 2014 season as sleepers to compete in an AFC full of parity.
With the additions of Michael Vick, Chris Johnson and Eric Decker, the team's offense has been reinvigorated and is expected to vastly improve.
Gang Green's defense, which was solid last year, is also expected to be a strong unit, despite questions in the secondary.
So can the Jets surprise everyone and really emerge as a playoff team?
That's up to how Rex Ryan's team responds early to a schedule full of challenges.
Click through to see which games on the 2014 slate are the most important for the Jets.
Week 3 vs. Chicago Bears
Why is a game so early against a nonconference opponent important?
Because the contest will give Jets fans the first glimpse of how much this team can accomplish in 2014.
That likely means Gang Green will enter this one with a 1-1 record.
The Jets defense, especially the secondary, will see one of its first major challenges of the year against Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett, which together make up one of the best receiving corps in the league. And Matt Forte won't be easy to contain either.
On the other hand, New York's offense will be matched up with an abysmal Chicago secondary, so it'll be interesting to see if Marty Mornhinweg and his reinvigorated troops can expose such a weak unit.
The Jets have three home games in the season's opening month. To win all three would be huge for the team's confidence, but it certainly won't be easy.
Week 6 vs. Denver Broncos
After several tough but winnable games to begin the year, the Jets run into their biggest challenge of the season in Week 6. Although the game is at home, it's hard to envision New York coming into the game as anything other than big underdogs.
The Denver Broncos are the reigning AFC champions, and they vastly improved their roster this offseason, acquiring Pro Bowlers T.J. Ward, Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware.
Denver's biggest strength, the passing game, will also be matched up with the Jets' greatest weakness, the secondary.
So if this game is basically a surefire loss, why is it so important?
Firstly, it'll serve as a benchmark for where the Jets are in relation to the powerhouses of the AFC. If New York can manage to compete in this one, it would give the locker room and the fanbase confidence heading into the second half of the season.
The home contest is also part of a brutal four-day slate in which New York must play the pair of teams who faced off in the AFC Championship last year.
For Rex Ryan and Co. to win 10 games and qualify for the postseason, they may need to win one of those games.
Week 9 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Gang Green has suffered a heartbreaking AFC Championship loss and two more regular-season defeats at the hands of Pittsburgh in the last four seasons.
For the Jets to emerge as a true playoff contender in 2014, they need to show an ability to beat some of the AFC's best. While Pittsburgh is far from a powerhouse anymore, they're still a force to be reckoned with on any given Sunday.
There's also several other reasons why this game stands out as a big one on New York's schedule.
First, it comes one week before the Jets' bye, so it marks the end of the first half of the season. Secondly, the game comes after a very difficult two-month span in which the Jets play road games at Green Bay, San Diego, New England and Kansas City and at home against the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Broncos.
To put it simply, the Jets may need this win to keep their hopes of a postseason berth alive, as well as to gain some confidence heading into the second half of the year.
Week 16 vs. New England Patriots
New York hasn't played their archrival this late in the season in quite some time, so expect there to be some serious tension heading into this one.
The New England Patriots are almost a lock to have a playoff berth wrapped up by this point in the year, but the divisional race could still be up for grabs if either the Jets or the Miami Dolphins prove legitimate.
And if this game couldn't get any more intense, Darrelle Revis will be making his return to MetLife Stadium for just the second time since leaving the team two years ago.
Except this time, he's wearing a Patriots jersey.
The atmosphere is sure to be electric in this one, especially if the Jets are in position to snag a playoff spot.
So can new additions Vick, Decker and Johnson lead New York to a home victory over Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Co.?
We'll have to wait and see.
Week 17 vs. Miami Dolphins
Stop me if this sounds familiar: The New York Jets head down to South Beach in the final week of the regular season to square off with the divisional-rival Miami Dolphins in a game with significant playoff implications.
This will be the third time in four years that Gang Green finishes its season in Miami. In 2011, the Jets suffered a gut-wrenching loss that eliminated them from the postseason and caused rifts in the locker room. Last season, though, the team ended its year on a high note by beating the Dolphins and knocking them out of the postseason.
There's no doubt that this game will have playoff implications. But will it be for the Jets? the Dolphins? or both?
Either way, expect this to be a hard-fought, entertaining game between two of the oldest divisional rivals in the NFL.
If Ryan and company can end the season by beating the Dolphins in their home stadium, two things might happen.
1. The Jets may be in the playoffs for the first time in four years.
2. Ryan's job will undoubtedly be safe for at least another year.