Stephen A. Smith
Tallahassee Democrat

ESPN NFL analyst Marcus Spears believes the Patriots are in jeopardy of finishing last in the AFC East.

Stephen A. Smith thinks that spot belongs to a different team, however. So he launched into an epic Jets takedown on Tuesday’s edition of First Take:

The New York Jets are in this division and you’re talking about the Patriots having to worry about being in last place in the AFC East?

[The Jets] have regressed to a point where Fireman Ed said ‘let me retire from putting out fires.’ Because that’s how bad the New York Jets are … the New York Jets? You mean Zach Wilson, the quarterback who had nine touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and didn’t even throw for 3,000 yards? You mean the New York Jets with coach Robert Saleh? This brother was a big-time defensive coordinator in San Francisco. He got the job with the New York Jets and they ranked dead last in points allowed, dead last in yards allowed, bottom three against the pass…and defense is your signature.

I know it was [Wilson’s] rookie year, but don’t get me started with them offensively. I see they’ve got some weapons. I know they could play [Denzel] Mims and the crew, they could play Corey Davis, I get all of that. But the point is, at the end of the day, the New England Patriots got to worry about being in last place? When the last time the New York Jets were relevant from a championship perspective was when Broadway Joe was their quarterback walking around in tight shorts in 1969? Are you kidding me? I know Bill Parcells got them to a couple of AFC Championship Games and Rex Ryan did as well. But the bottom line is the New England Patriots don’t have to worry about last place — that’s reserved for the New York Jets.

It all comes back to the Jets’ schedule. This team must face Josh Allen and the Bills and Bill Belichick and the Pats twice. And then the Bengals, Broncos, Packers, Ravens, and Steelers. They also need to play the Browns in Week 2, although it’s unclear what Deshaun Watson’s status will be.

That’s a daunting task for any NFL team, but especially one with a young quarterback who missed four games last year and unproven rookies expected to assume significant roles on either side of the ball.

This defense needs to take a major leap from its disastrous 2021 campaign and Wilson must prove to be a franchise quarterback. Will either development come to fruition in 2022?

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