With the playoffs underway and the Jets sadly watching from their couches at home, it is time to think about the future of the Jets. This season, despite missing the playoffs, the Jets took a huge step forward winning six more games than they did during their futile 4-12 campaign last season. Naturally, a fan base expects a team to continually improve and be competitive for the playoffs, especially after a promising season. The question on everyone’s mind going into 2016: will the Jets regress next season rather than improve?
The first important aspect that will change next year is strength of schedule. This year, the opponents the Jets played combined for a 113-143 record (counting the AFC East twice).
This shows that this year the Jets had a very easy schedule, which makes sense since the main divisions the Jets played were the AFC South and NFC East. Additionally, the last place finish in the AFC East for the Jets last year had them playing the Browns and Raiders this year. Next year, the Jets will not be playing these divisions and will still have to contend with the AFC East as they do every year. The AFC East was one of the stronger divisions in football with the teams other than Jets combining for a 26-22 record. Next year, the Jets play the AFC East twice, the AFC North, the NFC West, and the 2nd place finishers of the AFC South and AFC West. In total, (counting the AFC East twice) these teams combined for a 136-120 record this year. Additionally, some teams, such as the Ravens and Colts, were heavily injured and can be expected to improve. Overall, what this means is that the quality of competition will improve greatly next year. The Jets will have to similarly improve if they want to match or improve upon this season’s record. However, improving as much as they did last year is going to prove very difficult.
Last summer, the Jets added a ton of key pieces including, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, James Carpenter, Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine, Marcus Gilchrist, and Leonard Williams. The Jets were able to add a piece like Leonard Williams because they had a high draft pick in the 1st round. This year, the Jets hold the 20th overall pick in the first round, making it more unlikely to find a player that will have the same kind of impact that Leonard Williams did in his first year. Additionally, the reason the Jets could sign so many high profile free agents was because they had $52,290,074 of cap room to work with. This year, the Jets only have $11,378,518 to work with, which is in large part due to the spending spree of last summer. The Jets have some key expiring contracts including Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. If the Jets pay Wilkerson and Fitzpatrick, their contracts alone could take up much of the money the Jets have available. Taken together, this means that the Jets aren’t going to improve much in free agency. In order for the Jets to improve their roster, Mike Maccagnan will have to draft well, especially in the later rounds.
With an increased strength of schedule and a projected roster that mirrors this year’s team in talent, I predict the Jets are going to regress. At best, I see the Jets going 9-7. I hope that the Jets can prove me wrong with a great draft and pragmatic moves in free agency.