Sam Darnold (14) throws a pass against the Atlanta Falcons during a preseason game on Aug. 10, 2018, at MetLife Stadium.

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Lichtenstein: Jets 2019 Home Schedule Could Be Turbulent

Steve Lichtenstein
April 18, 2019 - 8:29 am
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The Jets haven’t captured an AFC East flag since the 2002 season. The Patriots have won 15 of the last 16 division titles, including the last ten.

So when I heard that the Jets’ expensive free agent linebacker C.J. Mosley mentioned in a media conference call on Wednesday that new coach Adam Gase’s initial message to his team during the offseason workout period was that he was gunning for New England this year, I couldn’t help but chuckle.

Of course, that’s what every team is supposed to believe at this time of the year. However, I wouldn’t consider the season a failure if the Jets, who are coming off a disastrous 4-12 campaign, got within sniffing distance of the mighty Patriots.

Or, how about going for a more realistic goal, like finishing the season with more home wins than losses?

You’d think that wouldn’t be a high hurdle, but Gang Green has done it just once (in 2015) in the last five seasons.

Remember when some fans trotted out the excuse that having the Jets play in a venue named “Giants Stadium” was a built-in handicap? Well, MetLife Stadium opened in 2010.  It’s adorned entirely in green on Jets Game Days, with nary a mention of anything Big Blue.

Related: Jets To Open Regular Season Against Bills On Sept. 8

The Jets’ home record in these last nine seasons? 36-36.

We all knew who the Jets’ 2019 opponents would be when last season mercifully ended on December 31.  The league released the specifics on Wednesday.  There are some interesting home dates, like the Week 2 return to the area of former Giants star receiver Odell Beckham Jr as a member of the Browns.  That matchup, on Monday night September 16, will also feature Round 2 of the Battle of the 2018 QBs, Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield versus New York’s Sam Darnold.  The Jets only other prime-time home game (they travel to Baltimore for a Thursday night affair on December 12) will be when they face the Pats on Monday October 21.  On November 10, the Jets will renew their rivalry with their co-tenants. And in the home finale on December 22, Jets free agent running back Le’Veon Bell will have his opportunity at a revenge game when the Steelers come to town.  Bell sat out all of last season rather than accepting the Steelers’ offer before signing with New York as a free agent in March.       

By finishing in last place, New York assured themselves some scheduling perks this season.  The early (Week 4) bye is suboptimal, but only five of their 16 games (counting New England twice) will be played against a team that qualified for last season’s NFL playoffs.  Only one will be played after the New England game in Week 7.  

Per ESPN’s Rich Cimini, the team will only need to jet (pun intended, since many trips can be taken by bus) 6,668 air miles this season, the fewest in franchise history. There are no trips west of Cincinnati.

But it will be at home where the Jets need to make some hay this season to get the Gase program headed in the right direction. If you’ve been to a Jets game in the last few years, you’d have noticed an increasing percentage of the crowds cheering on the visitors, especially late in these lost seasons.

With the exception of NBA Nets games in Brooklyn, this is pretty much unique to football. As a Jets fan growing up in suburban New York many moons ago, I was surrounded by supporters of the Cowboys, the Steelers, the Raiders, and the Dolphins, not just the Giants.  Those were the teams who annually challenged for Super Bowls.  I wanted them all to be branded on their arms with a giant “C” for “Coward.”

I know, the Jets and Giants were as lousy then as they are now. This was the decade pre-Bill Parcells. Jets home games were often blacked out. The weak-minded just couldn’t take it.

When the Patriots began their run of titles, bandwagoners made a mad dash to hop aboard. Their legions now invade stadiums across the country. Funny, I never saw anyone wearing a Steve Grogan jersey in my old neighborhood.

So, as Gase attempts Jets Rebuild 14.0, who has he found on his home schedule?

The Cowboys, Steelers, Raiders, and Giants, in addition to divisional rivals Patriots, Dolphins and Bills. The Browns, Gang Green’s eighth home opponent, have the potential to be the NFL’s woke equivalent in 2019 after adding Beckham Jr. to Mayfield’s weaponry.

If the Jets don’t establish a home presence starting in the season’s first two weeks with Buffalo and Cleveland, this season has the potential to quickly move from merely disappointing to outright irritating.

For a FAN’s perspective of the Nets, Devils and Jets, follow Steve on Twitter @SteveLichtenst1.