by Mark Kelly

While New York Jets fans are preparing for their much anticipated season opener on Sunday, what is a fair expectation for their demanding early-season schedule?

While Week 1 against the Bills should be a victory to most fans and analysts, the next five games can make or break the first half of the season.

Week 2 finds the Jets hosting the suddenly very formidable Cleveland Browns in primetime. The fact that Browns hadn’t won in 19 straight games and just once in their previous 37 games didn’t stop them from defeating the Jets last season. Cleveland also fell behind 14-0 and a QB that never took a professional snap before rallied them to victory. If the Jets can lose under those circumstances, then I need to see a win before I predict one.

The Jets travel to New England to play their first road game of 2019. I don’t think you will find too many pundits that would assume a Jets win.

Just how awful are the Jets numbers against the reigning Super Bowl Champions?

Since Tom Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe on September 23, 2001 (thank you Mo Lewis), the Jets have lost 29 of 37 games against New England (includes postseason). Patriots own a six-game win streak overall and have won eight straight and 15 of last 19 games at home.

Here are some more numbers

Average score last 37 games vs NE: Patriots 26.1 Jets 16.2

Average score last 19 games at NE: Patriots 26.4 Jets 15.5

TOM BRADY vs. JETS

I researched how much better Tom Brady has been than the Jets since taking over on September 23, 2001. Since it’s unfair to judge the Jets and Brady under the same terms, I reached further back.

I compared the Jets as a team starting with the 1988 season and Brady overall in his career. Both include games in the postseason. Since 1988 the Jets have played 204 more games, won 12 fewer games and thrown just ten more touchdowns more as an organization than Brady has in his entire career.

New York Jets Franchise Since 1988 vs. Tom Brady’s Career (includes postseason)
  New York Jets Tom Brady
Games 511 307
Wins 225 237
Touchdowns Thrown 600 590

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to think the Jets will lose this game.

After a bye in Week 4, the Jets travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in Week 5. Despite the Jets pathetic numbers against New England since Brady’s arrival, the Jets are even worse against the Eagles.

The Jets have never defeated Philadelphia in their ten all-time meetings. They are the only current franchise winless against an opponent they have faced ten or more times. Until Gang Green defeats the Eagles, I can’t give them a win.

The Cowboys travel to Met Life Stadium in Week 6. Historically Gang Green has won two straight against Dallas after losing seven of their first nine matchups. Based on numbers alone, this would appear to be the Jets best chance to win since Week 2. However, Dallas is a hard team to forecast. They have won 32 of 48 games and two NFC East division titles since Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot joined the team in 2016.

The Jets finish this vicious stretch in their early-season schedule in Week 7 when Brady and the Pats come to Met Life Stadium. New England has won three straight and 14 of 18 in the Brady on the road against the Jets. Four of those Patriots wins have been by 20 or more points.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

While winning is the ultimate factor, how the Jets play against what most would say are superior opponents will be another huge factor to pay attention.

Sam Darnold will have all eyes on him when the season starts. If he continues the promise he showed last season, but the Jets aren’t able to win, that would be encouraging. If the defense can consistently force turnovers and put pressure on the opposing quarterbacks is another critical factor.

The Jets could lose as many as all five games after Week 1 and still be better than they were in 2018 when they were 3-3 after six games. The remainder of 2018 saw the Jets win just one more game. The Jets remaining ten games are all games the team could win.

In closing, don’t shut the door on this young team if they don’t see initial success in 2019. The lessons they learn facing such a challenging first six games could pay off in significant ways as the Jets wind down the schedule.

Mark Kelly is a staff writer for the World Wide Sports Radio Network