The N.Y. Jets finished the 2010 season 11-5 which earned them a trip to the playoffs. Rex Ryan’s bold Super Bowl predictions prior to the 2011 season, set the bar a bit too high for the over-achieving Jets and the pressure seemed to get the best of them as Mark Sanchez and his band of merry men regressed and finished with an 8-8 season, keeping them out of the playoffs. However, and just hear me out on this, their 2012 schedule is really a Jet-friendly one, if you were to analyze some of it’s components. It’s one that I feel will surely get them another playoff birth at season’s end.

[caption id="attachment_3689" align="alignright" width="400" caption="With the way the N.Y. Jets schedule is set up, they should be 'flying high' come playoff time. Photo: Dave Campbell"][/caption]

Here is how the schedule helps them and also what they must do in order to increase their chances for success in 2012.

For starters, after looking at the quarterbacks on their opposing teams, there are only five Pro-Bowl caliber QB’s to be found: Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers, Matt Schaub, and Alex Smith. Although not a perennial Pro-Bowl type quarterback, I threw Smith into the mix by virtue of last season’s  performance where he led the 49ers to a 13-3 season; one very much improved over the previous campaign when they were 6-10.

Of course, this does not guarantee that the Jets will win all the other games because the quality of their opponent’s quarterbacks are not as good; it just means their chances of success increases. Especially if they hope to return to the days when rushing the passer was their number one priority on defense. In 2010, when the Jets went 11-5, they had 40 sacks, just 7 behind the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers who led the league that year.

[caption id="attachment_3691" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Ben Roethlisberger getting sacked by a group of Jets defenders at Heinz Field in a 24-19 loss to the Steelers in the AFC Championship game on January 23, 2011. Photo: UPI/Kevin Dietsch"][/caption]

The other glaring note of interest in the Jets 2012 schedule is that they will only face two teams on the road that made it to the playoffs last year. The Jets went 6-2 on the road in 2010 and 2-6 last season. The two playoff teams that they’ll face on the road this season are the Steelers and the Patriots.

Putting their schedule aside, the first thing that the Jets need to consider doing as they prepare for the NFL draft that begins on Thursday, is to find a way to trade up and get a shot at the best RB in the draft-Trent Richardson. Before you shake you head and roll your eyes, consider this..the Jets have had a marked propensity for and a history of trading up in order to grab top notch players in drafts. They traded up in order  to get Darrelle Revis, Dustin Keller, and Mark Sanchez, for example, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for them to go after Richardson.. Improbable? Maybe. Impossible? No.

They need someone to compliment their very pedestrian RB Shonn Greene. Now that Schottenheimer is gone, Rex has said that he will return to the days of his ground and pound offense. Having Tim Tebow will help as Denver, thanks in part to Tebow, had more rushing yards than any team in the league last year. But they need to go after someone else. If Richardson is off the board, LaMichael James, who led the Oregon Ducks with 2,000 all purpose yards and 19 TD last season is probably one of the best of the rest. Although it wouldn’t be disappointing if the speedster Lamar Miller out of Miami or even the very strong, and agile Doug Martin out of Boise St. who has also been adept in returning kicks with blazing speed, were also on the Jets short list next week.

[caption id="attachment_3692" align="alignright" width="224" caption="#21Oregon RB LaMichael James would be one of the best running backs to grab after Trent Richardson. Photo: GoDucks.com"][/caption]

Besides adding another running back, they also need to explore the draft in search of another WR and pass rusher. If they can score some decent players at these positions, if Tim Tebow’s presence is not an overwhelming distraction, if Mark Sanchez can learn to coexist with Tebow, and if Rex Ryan can duct tape his mouth shut, I think the Jets, mainly because of their schedule, will have a season that will surprise most.

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