For the New York Jets to be contenders in 2013, they’ll have to avoid extended losing streaks and prove capable of playing consistent winning football. The Jets’ schedule softens up after their bye week, but the most daunting stretch of the season runs through the month of October. In four games in October, the Jets will play opponents with a combined 43-16 2012 regular-season record. Three of the four teams are AFC opponents as well. This could easily be a devastating four-loss stretch that severely hinders any playoff hopes. For that reason, the Jets will need to elevate their play and grab a couple of wins.
The first October game will be against the Atlanta Falcons in a Monday night road game. The Jets will have the opportunity to prove on national television that they can compete against a good team in a hostile environment, but it certainly won’t be easy. Matt Ryan and the Falcons are now an experienced team that can put up points in a hurry. Falling behind early could be disastrous for the Jets, and losing the first game of October could put additional pressure on them to win later in the month.
Following a visit to Atlanta, the Jets will return home for two weeks to host the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots. Though the Steelers had a down year in 2012, they’ll be tough to beat with Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu healthy. It could end up being a low-scoring affair and the Jets might have to find a way to grind out a tough victory. The following week against the Patriots will be a difficult test against their AFC East rivals for obvious reasons. At that point, it will be almost one year since the infamous butt-fumble and the Jets will be looking to avenge the 2012 Thanksgiving beat down. The result could be similar, though, if the Jets get careless with the ball like they did in that Thanksgiving game.
To end the tough month of October, the Jets will play the Cincinnati Bengals on the road in a late afternoon game. The Bengals have emerged as one of the better teams in the AFC, and the Jets’ pass defense will need to be stout against Andy Dalton and A.J Green. The Jets have won their last four meetings against the Bengals, including a Wild Card weekend victory in 2009, but the teams have gone in opposite directions since then. To close out the four-game stretch, this game will mark the midway point of the season. The Jets could be desperate for a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The month of October will tell us exactly what type of team the Jets are. They will be battle tested against solid teams for four straight weeks. If they lose all four, their playoff hopes could be crushed by December. However, if the Jets can get a few wins over the toughest period of the season, they could make a real statement and turn some heads around the league.