Why you’re probably overreacting to the ‘difficult’ NY Jets schedule


The true difficulty level of the New York Jets’ 2022 schedule remains an unknown

Ever since the New York Jets’ 2021 season concluded in early January, we had known all 17 games that the team would play in the 2022 season. Regardless, it wasn’t until the NFL’s full schedule was released in May that fans began to intensely fixate on exactly who the Jets will be playing.

For many fans, the hype that stemmed from the team’s offseason moves was promptly squashed by the unveiling of a daunting schedule that looked like it would feature one “L” after the next for a young Jets team.

New York’s schedule certainly has some intimidating aspects. The start of the season looks particularly rough. The Jets will begin with four consecutive games against the AFC North. After that, the next five games include the Packers, Broncos, and one matchup against each AFC East rival. This leads into a Week 10 bye.

Things soften up after the bye. Enticing matchups against teams like the Bears, Jaguars, Lions, and Seahawks loom over the final nine weeks.

Altogether, the combined 2021 win percentage of the Jets’ 2022 opponents is actually not that bad. The number comes out to .495, giving New York the league’s 17th-most difficult 2022 schedule based on 2021 records. That certainly makes the schedule look much less tough than many have made it out to be.

But that number doesn’t really mean anything at all – and it wouldn’t mean anything if it were significantly higher or lower, either. That brings us to the main point I want to make with this article.

Ultimately, regardless of whether you think the Jets’ schedule is easy, hard, or average, you have no idea how difficult it is truly going to be until the season plays out. Previous-year records tell us very little about how difficult a schedule will end up being. There is so much year-over-year change in the NFL that we can never be certain whether a particular game will be “easy” or “hard” before the season starts.

To exemplify this, let’s examine the accuracy of projected schedule difficulties entering the 2021 NFL season.

The table below showcases the following things:

  • Projected SOS: Each team’s projected strength-of-schedule (SOS) in 2021 based on their opponents’ records from the 2020 regular season
  • Update SOS: The SOS that each team actually ended up with – based on the combined records of their 2021 opponents in the 2021 regular season (final records after Week 18, not records at the time the opponent was faced)
  • Ranks: Each team’s rank in projected SOS compared to their rank in actual SOS

Here’s the data.

Team Project SOS Actual SOS SOS Diff. Proj Rank Actual Rank Rank Diff.
Steelers 0.574 0.521 -0.053 1 7 -6
Ravens 0.563 0.531 -0.032 2 3 -1
Bears 0.550 0.524 -0.026 3 6 -3
Packers 0.542 0.479 -0.063 4 25 -21
vikings 0.531 0.507 -0.024 5 16 -11
bengals 0.529 0.472 -0.057 6 26 -20
lions 0.529 0.528 -0.001 6 5 1
Raiders 0.526 0.510 -0.016 8 14 -6
browns 0.518 0.514 -0.004 9 9 0
rams 0.515 0.483 -0.032 10 23 -13
Seahawks 0.511 0.519 0.008 11 8 3
Chiefs 0.511 0.538 0.027 11 1 10
Titans 0.507 0.472 -0.035 13 29 -16
Cardinals 0.507 0.490 -0.017 13 20 -7
Texas 0.504 0.498 -0.006 15 18 -3
Washington 0.504 0.529 0.025 15 4 11
Chargers 0.493 0.510 0.017 17 13 4
Jaguars 0.491 0.512 0.021 18 11 7
Patriots 0.489 0.481 -0.008 19 24 -5
49ers 0.489 0.500 0.011 19 17 2
Jets 0.489 0.512 0.023 19 12 7
Saints 0.483 0.512 0.029 22 10 12
bills 0.478 0.472 -0.006 23 28 -5
Colts 0.478 0.495 0.017 23 19 4
Giants 0.474 0.536 0.062 25 2 23
Panthers 0.472 0.509 0.037 26 15 11
Dolphins 0.471 0.464 -0.007 27 32 -5
Broncos 0.471 0.484 0.013 27 22 5
Buccaneers 0.465 0.467 0.002 29 31 -2
Falcons 0.454 0.472 0.018 30 27 3
Cowboys 0.452 0.488 0.036 31 21 10
Eagles 0.430 0.469 0.039 32 30 2

There’s a ton of variance in there. While some teams ended up facing a schedule that was about as difficult as expected, many ended up facing a much different schedule than the one their fans thought they would.

On average, teams saw a difference of 0.024 between their projected SOS and their actual SOS. That’s far more significant than it might seem at first glance, as it’s equal to the difference between a perfectly average .500 SOS and Chicago’s .524 SOS that ranked 6th-hardest in the NFL.

The average team saw a 7.5-spot difference between their projected SOS rank and their actual SOS rank. There were 11 teams that saw their rank change by at least 10 spots – that’s about one-third of the league.

Of the 16 teams that had a projected SOS over .500, six of them ended up having an SOS below .500. Additionally, of the 16 teams that had a projected SOS below .500, seven of them ended up having an SOS of .500 or higher.

Just sit back and enjoy the ride

Here’s the moral of the story: At this point of the year, we don’t know how difficult any NFL team’s schedule is going to be. There’s little purpose in sitting here right now and trying to pretend we know with complete certainty which games on the Jets’ schedule will be the “hard” ones and which will be the “easy” ones.

Going into the 2021 season, if I said that the Jets would play one game against the AFC’s future No. 1 seed and another game against a future Super Bowl team, there is not a soul in the world who would predict the Titans and Bengals to be those teams; let alone that the Jets would beat both of them. Crazy stuff happens in the NFL.

We don’t know how difficult the Jets’ schedule is going to turn out to be. It could absolutely be the treacherous gauntlet that many are labeling it as. It could be as league-average as their current projected SOS suggests it will be. However, some of their seemingly elite opponents could take unexpected nosedives and present the Jets with a surprising cakewalk of a schedule.

Let’s just wait and see how it all plays out.



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