OK, not quite, but when Sports Illustrated released its first round of 2010 power rankings with the Jets atop the list, it was the proverbial cherry on top of "Jets are overrated" sundae that has been force-fed to football fans all summer long.
That's not to say the Jets aren't Super Bowl contenders. There's a very good chance that they are the best team in the AFC East … but the best team in the entire National Football League? That's a bit premature, to say the very least.
"Normally I'm not the type to buy the hype," veteran NFL writer Don Banks explained, "but with the Jets so clearly going all-in when it comes to their 2010 season, why not play along and add to the self-created pressure on which Rex Ryan and his players seem to thrive?"
Why not? Where should we begin?
Let's start with the pressure that Banks mentions. Last year, there was absolutely no pressure to be one of the better teams in the league. With a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach, expectations were low. A 3-0 start temporarily changed that before the Jets lost six of their next seven games. Remember, after a Week 15 loss, Ryan addressed the media, telling them he was disappointed that his team was eliminated from the playoffs. Despite Ryan's white towel, they quietly made it into the playoffs with a 9-7 record and went on an improbable run to the AFC Chapionship Game.
This year, nothing will be quiet, and that's true from the very outset of the season, when HBO's Hard Knocks cameras capture every single training camp event on camera. Adding to the difficulty of that pressure is the seemingly impossible task of ego-juggling that Ryan will have to do. With Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Cromartie and Bart Scott all in the fold, the chances are rather strong that at least one has some sort of incident that brings unwanted attention to the team. In the New York market, the smallest thing can be made out to be the end of the world, and distractions grow quickly. Focus is going to be a constant challenge.
Their schedule doesn't make things easy either. They play three of their first five and four of their first seven games against 2009 playoff teams (Ravens, Patriots, Vikings, Packers), and they'll be up against the Dolphins in Week 3 in what will likely be a crucial game in determining the AFC East. If the Jets hit their Week 7 bye week with a record of 4-2 or better, then we can talk. Until they make it through that gauntlet, it's best to hold off on crowning them.
Outside of the Jets themselves, there are even more reasons that they need to be further down the list. The Saints have not gotten worse, and neither have the Vikings. The Colts have averaged roughly 13 wins per season since 2003; the Jets have never won 13 games.
Perhaps the rankings were created solely to generate some debate, and if that's the case, then mission accomplished. But if the ranking is real, and if the writer who doesn't normally buy into the hype is actually going so, Jets fans might want to start adjusting their expectations.
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