It is always difficult to predict this because a lot of it is based on injuries both for the Jets and their opponents, which are impossible to know at this point.
My pick would probably be a repeat of last year's 11-5 performance. Any defense with Rex Ryan is probably going to be near the top of the league. Another year of development of Mark Sanchez should make the passing game better. With tests like Philadelphia, San Diego, Baltimore, and two games against New England on the schdule, I will not be bold enough to pick a better record, although it is entirely possible.
Best Game On The Schedule
Week 5 at New England.
A lot of bitter rivalries are mainly about fans. Players, coaches, and members of the opposing front offices are often friendly and have respect for each other. That is not the case in this rivalry. There is no respect on either side, and it permeates both organizations.
Over the past fifteen years, we have seen players and coaches frequently switch sides under suspicious circumstances, incredible pettiness, and one team even getting caught videotaping the other's signals from the sidelines (I won't tell you which one).
The Patriots had dominated the rivalry after Bill Belichick left the Jets at the altar for the Pats until last year. Then the Jets went up to Foxborough in the Playoffs, and eliminated the Pats on their home field. This game will be the first meeting since then. It is sure to be a war.
Breakout Player Candidates
Kyle Wilson: A lot of smart people thought Wilson was the best corner in the 2010 Draft at the time. He struggled as a rookie. Rex Ryan's defense leaves corners without much help. Wilson was tentative and seemed to lose confidence after some rough early games. He spent the offseason training with Darrelle Revis and has looked good early in preseason.
Jamaal Westerman: For all of the talk about their pass rush, the Jets have lacked any consistent edge rusher in the Rex Ryan Era. Their success has come by schematic design. The third year undrafted Rutgers product has been reportedly playing well in camp.
Ropati Pitoitua: 6'8", 315 guys are usually not as athletic as he is. He is another guy who has received raves from the coaching staff in camp. The coaching staff has been developing him, and his technique has become consistent. He has shown no signs of any lingering effects from the Achilles injury he suffered last preseason. Muhammad Wilkerson is the nominal favorite to take Shaun Ellis' starting job, but Pitoitua has a great shot at the job if he finishes the preseason strong.
Mark Sanchez: He got better from year one to year two. He has all the talent in the world. This could be the year he breaks out.
Best Player On The Jets No One Has Heard Of
All he has done is lead a top ten run defense in tackles two straight years. His fellow inside linebacker, Bart Scott, is better known because he is more vocal, but Harris is a better player. He's great working in traffic to shut down the run game.
Underrated: Mark Sanchez
It is funny because he was probably overrated at one point. It has gotten to the point now where everybody says he is overrated to the point where he is underrated.
He has shown some very promising signs. He has a 95 quarterback rating in 6 Playoff games. He threw 3 touchdowns in Foxborough in the Playoffs last year. How many quarterbacks, let alone ones as young as Sanchez, have outplayed Tom Brady in a Playoff game? He led 5 scoring drives to win games in the last 2:00 of the fourth quarter or overtime last season. One was in the Playoffs.
When Sanchez has needed to step up, he has answered the call. He is also probably going to get a lot better and more consistent as he matures.
It is important to keep things in perspective. Sanchez came out of USC with only 16 starts under his belt. That is much less than your average highly regarded rookie. Most rookies are raw and struggle. They just fly under the radar because they play on lousy teams that have time to deal with growing pains. Sanchez struggled on a team built to win now in the nation's biggest media market with a head coach who draws plenty of attention.
Sanchez surely needs to improve for the Jets to get to the next level, but it is crazy to just assume he is as good at age 24 as he is ever going to get.
Overrated: Brian Schottenheimer
He is highly regarded as an offensive coordinator, but I think that is largely because of his last name. He has never even had a top fifteen offense. He makes things needlessly complicated at times and seems to confuse his own players more than the defense. He relies too much on gadgets. He also tends to focus more on trying to trick defenses than playing to his own strengths.
If his name was Brian Jones, I find it tough to believe any team would even consider hiring a guy with his resume as a head coach.
Just Right: Darrelle Revis
There is a tendency to play Devil's Advocate when a guy gets a lot of good publicity and be skeptical a guy really is that good. Revis is as good as advertised.
There is no weakness in his game. He can be successful playing any kind of coverage lined up anywhere on the field. He is strong enough to jam guys at the line and take them out of plays. He has insticts to do great work in zone coverage. He is fast enough to run down the field with anybody. He has ball skills to break up passes.
The Jets had the top pass defense in the league in 2009, and Revis was matched up against the other team's number one receiver more than any corner in the league. Look at the numbers Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Randy Moss, Chad Ochocinco/Johnson, and other big names have put up against the Jets the past two years. Normally you need to double an elite wideout to take him away, which opens things up for other players. The Jets can take away your best receiver with one guy and roll coverage to the other side of the field.
Revis does not just compete against the best. He dominates them.
Fantasy Football Outlook
Mark Sanchez might be a good sleeper candidate. He is not highly rated, but he improved a lot from his first to his second year. With more experience, he could do that again. At worst, he is a decent spot starter because he had some huge games last season.
Shonn Greene is going to take the bulk of the carries this season. He might be this season's Matt Forte Memorial fantasy bust from last year that people get irrationally low on. The reason he was a fantasy bust a year ago was LaDainian Tomlinson took a lot of the carries Greene was supposed to get after his fast start. Greene is the guy this year and might be good value. Beware Tomlinson and his patented leap might take some goal line carries away.
Santonio Holmes was Sanchez's favorite target when he returned from suspension last year. With Sanchez a year better, he could benefit. Just keep in mind the Jets also have Dustin Keller, Plaxico Burress, and Derrick Mason to throw the ball to.
A pair of sleepers might be Keller and Jeff Cumberland. The Jets brought in Tom Moore as an offensive consultant from the Colts, and he has been working to include Keller in the offense as the Colts did with Dallas Clark. Keller is a matchup problem, too fast for most linebackers. Many feel he has been underutilized. If the Jets actually make an effort to exploit him, he could have a big year. Do be aware of the other receivers who will spread out targets, though.
Cumberland is one of Keller's backup. He is having a good preseason and is similarly very fast and athletic. I would not use a pick on him, but jump on him on the waiver wire if Keller sustains an injury.
Best Media Personality In New York
If you want straightforward, insightful analysis, Manish Mehta of the NY Daily News is your man. He has good sources, keeps a level head, and comes up with some great angles on stories. He also reportedly watches game film to better his understanding of the team.
If you want the emotional tortured fan's perspective, go for Joe Beningo, co-host of the WFAN midday show. He wears his fandom on his sleeve.
Best Player To Follow On Twitter
I'll go with Nick Mangold. He interacts with fans, has some funny comments, and entertaining banter with his teammates.