Jets Season Win Total Prediction
Both sides can stop reaching for their holsters and start retreating from the saloon. After a months-long standoff, the Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick finally have a deal.
New York on Wednesday came to terms with the quarterback, officially stabilizing the offense on the eve of training camp. Fitzpatrick threw for 31 touchdowns and 3,905 yards last year to lead the squad to the precipice of the playoffs. At 33, though, is the Harvard graduate capable of elevating his game to a higher plane?
Handicappers seem … skeptical. Online sports book Bovada.lv puts Todd Bowles’ club down for 7.5 victories in 2016. Such a total won’t exactly fly in the rough-and-tumble AFC East, where New England, Buffalo and Miami once again figure to jockey for position throughout the fall.
The onus doesn’t fall solely on Fitzpatrick, however, to snap the Jets’ lengthy postseason drought. His primary targets, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, form one of the NFL’s deadliest tandems at wide receiver. Expecting another 12 TDs from Decker could be wishful thinking, but his undeniable command of the slot allows Marshall to establish the tone on the perimeter. If the big-bodied Quincy Enunwa develops into a viable No. 3 threat, New York will get vertical with the best of them.
Watch for a bevy of catches coming out of the backfield, too. Matt Forte, who probably failed to receive enough credit for his extended excellence with the Bears, arrives to offer Bilal Powell some assistance. OC Chan Gailey relishes using his runners’ hands, so foes should prepare for a litany of screen passes.
Nevertheless, are Forte and Powell equipped to slash through the teeth of the opposition? Steve Marshall’s O-line features an aging cast of characters. Center Nick Mangold, 32, still anchors the group with aplomb. The issues primarily pertain to the blind side and right tackle. Former first-round pick Ryan Clady, whom general manager Mike Maccagnan acquired following D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s retirement, rarely stayed in the lineup for the Broncos. As for Breno Giacomini, he belonged on the bench for the majority of 2015.
The defense, naturally, raises very few concerns. Bowles’ specialty area benefits from a luminous front four that includes Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Sheldon Richardson. The second level grabbed a lot of attention during April’s draft, as Ohio State’s Darron Lee was snatched with the 20th overall selection to help in coverage. The coaching staff also anticipates sizable things from Eric Henderson, who assumes Demario Davis’ duties at inside linebacker.
In the secondary, Darrell Revis continues to close off one side of the field. Antonio Cromartie’s release arguably makes the perennial All-Pro’s job as hard as ever, because the Jets’ depth at corner appears iffy. Buster Skrine transitions from the nickel spot to the outside, but he remains a work in progress. Safety Calvin Pryor is clearly on the ascent, though, and could find himself in Orlando by campaign’s end.
Save for several fresh wrinkles, New York looks remarkably similar to the crew that just went 10-6. Yet many of those individuals maxed out, prompting questions as to whether there’s much room to grow for a core whose thirtysomething contingent outnumbers the younger set. If Bowles wants to take the next step, his guys need to fare better than the Tom Brady-less Patriots in the early going. Considering that five of the Jets’ first six adversaries made the playoffs a season ago, however, we’re not sold. Bank on a 9-7 finish.
THURSDAY NFL FREE PICK: NEW YORK JETS OVER 7.5 WINS