Zach Wilson
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in a long time, there is a bit of optimism surrounding the Jets.

General manager Joe Douglas had a great NFL draft. Head coach Robert Saleh has shown signs of promise. So too has quarterback Zach Wilson. And the roster has improved.

No one is predicting a playoff appearance yet. But the idea does not seem all that far-fetched if everything falls into place. Or is it? Here is a closer look at the Jets’ 2022 schedule, and what many be possible:

How many wins for the playoffs? At least 10. Even if you concede the AFC East to the Bills and focus on a wild card bid, the Jets would likely still need to hit a double-digit win total. That is how loaded the AFC is.

QB play. Star quarterback play trumps all and the conference is saturated with it. Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Derek Carr, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson all reside in the AFC. Mac Jones could also improve and the same goes for Trevor Lawrence. The Titans should also be in the mix again with Ryan Tannehill.

And look at the schedule:

  • Week 1: vs. Ravens
  • Week 2: at Browns
  • Week 3: vs. Bengals
  • Week 4: at Steelers
  • Week 5: vs. Dolphins
  • Week 6: at Packers
  • Week 7: at Broncos
  • Week 8: vs. Patriots
  • Week 9: vs. Bills
  • Week 10: BYE
  • Week 11: at Patriots
  • Week 12: vs. Bears
  • Week 13: at Vikings
  • Week 14: at Bills
  • Week 15: vs. Lions
  • Week 16: vs. Jaguars
  • Week 17: at Seahawks
  • Week 18: at Dolphins

The Jets do not appear to have the superior signal-caller in many of these games.

Where do the victories come from? The Jets may catch a break right out of the gate if Watson is suspended for the Week 2 game. We’ll give them a win there.

Mike McDaniel and Tyreek Hill are supposed to immensely improve the Dolphins offense. But a great deal of the jury is out on Tua Tagovailoa. The Jets will split the season series. So two wins.

Justin Fields could turn out to be a bust. The Bears also don’t seem to be on the up-and-up entering his second season. Chicago had a horrible offseason and didn’t add offensive weapons with premium draft picks. The Lions don’t have a long-term answer at quarterback and that defense might struggle even with Aidan Hutchinson, the Jaguars aren’t as far into their own rebuild as the Jets are, and the Seahawks are in over their heads moving forward with Drew Lock/Geno Smith.

Those are three more wins right there. That’s five.

As for the other five they’ll need … A victory over the Steelers is possible, but unlikely. Mitch Trubisky isn’t a legitimate NFL starter and who knows if Kenny Pickett will be ready by that point. But Mike Tomlin is still Mike Tomlin. This is a coach who nearly made the 2019 playoffs with Duck Hodges and Mason Rudolph.

And as for the Pats, Bill Belichick owns the Jets and hasn’t lost to them since 2015. Plus they’re coming off a playoff appearance with a rookie quarterback. Belichick will outcoach Saleh twice.

Other than that, you have Jackson and Baltimore, Burrow and Cincinnati, Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, Wilson and Denver, Allen and Buffalo (twice), and Cousins and Minnesota.

So six victories seem realistic at the end of the day (five if Watson plays).

That won’t get Gang Green anywhere close to playoff football.

Better luck in 2023?

Listen to ESNY’s Wide Right Podcast on Apple here or on Spotify here.

Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.