At this time of year, the fans of every team can come up with a list of reasons for eventually transforming that 0-0 record into enough wins to qualify for the playoffs.
But the NFL is the ultimate zero-sum game. For every good team, there’s a bad team. For every win, there’s a loss.
For the New York Jets, the past two years have seen not enough wins and too many losses to justify an extension of the football season beyond 16 games.
Last season, back-to-back road wins at New England and Tennessee sparked talk of plans for playing both conference championship games at Giants Stadium. Indeed, at 8-3, the Jets looked to be in prime position to secure not only a postseason berth, but also a high seed.
The Jets then collapsed down the stretch, with ugly losses to the Broncos, 49ers, Seahawks, and Dolphins.
The outcome was bad enough to get coach Eric Mangini fired, but to save the job of G.M. Mike Tannenbaum, who foisted Brett Favre on Mangini in the middle of training camp.
This year, Tannenbaum made another big move at the quarterback position, jumping up a dozen spots to select USC signal-caller Mark Sanchez, who was groomed for the NFL by a man who was once fired by the Jets after only one year on the job.
And one more year might be all that Tannenbaum gets. Millions of dollars have been spent in an effort to compete with the Patriots in their own division, and with the Giants in their own backyard.
Some of the money (
Dewayne Robertson Kris Jenkins, Darrelle Revis) was well spent. Some of it (Vernon Gholston, Favre) wasn’t.
But while the roster is generally solid, holes remain. Laveranues Coles was given his freedom, and they now have only one established receiver. The offensive line is good but not great, and an untimely breakdown could prompt Sanchez to mimic Joe Namath, primarily in the knee area.
The team has a glut of quality running backs, arguably too many. It would have been sense to move Thomas Jones for help at receiver. Though it still might happen, it’s far too late for a new wideout to walk in and make a difference.
So while the Jets managed to beat the Giants during their annual preseason encounter, they’ll still be chasing the Patriots — and they likely won’t be catching them this year.
Key Player: Mark Sanchez. He’ll be expected to perform like Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco, without the benefit of the low expectations that come from leading a below-radar team. With little more than a year as a starter in college, the learning curve could be steep.
Rookie to watch: Sanchez. He’s the highest-profile rookie that the Jets have had since Namath, and his ability to thrive in his first year will be critical to the continued employment of Tannenbaum — and to the sale of PSLs at a stadium that opens next year.
Best veteran acquisition: Bart Scott. The former Ravens “mad” ‘backer gives new coach Rex Ryan a rock on which to build the Jets defense. Plus, it’s guaranteed that there will be at least one player who periodically says things more outlandish than the stuff that will come out of his coach’s mouth.
Key game: Week Two, vs. New England. Ryan already has ramped up the rivalry by proclaiming that he won’t be kissing Bill Belichick’s rings. And so Belichick will be looking to kick Ryan’s ass at every opportunity. With games against the Texans and Titans on each side of the first game against the Pats, the Jets could start the Ryan era at 0-3, if they can’t beat New England at home.