Five wins. Five stinkin' wins.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has released its over-under win totals for the 2017 season, and the New York Jets are among the bottom three teams in the NFL. The folks in Vegas have tabbed the Jets as a five-win team, same as the San Francisco 49ers and slightly ahead of the Cleveland Browns (4.5).
In all my years of covering the Jets, I can't recall a year in which the expectations were this low, not even 1996 -- the year they finished 1-15. Despite a 3-13 record in '95, optimism was high because of an offseason spending spree that included quarterback Neil O'Donnell. As it turned out, they became the worst team money could buy.
Can the 2017 Jets improve upon last season's 5-11 record? Sure, but a lot has to happen. Such as:
1. They need efficient, if not stellar, play from the quarterback position. Whether it's Josh McCown or Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty (or all of the above), the interception total must stay under 15. That's a big ask. Consider the totals from the last six years: 25, 16, 15, 22, 19, 18. That's bad.
2. They have to cover people: The secondary was atrocious last season, finishing with a touchdown-interception ratio of 30-8. Getting rid of Darrelle Revis will help. So will the additions of safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Cornerback Morris Claiborne needs to beat the injury bug. If everything clicks, this will be a younger, faster group than last year.
3. They have to block people: For the first time in 12 years, the Jets will begin a season without Nick Mangold in the middle of the offensive line. The revamped line is filled with veterans, but many of them carry question marks. The unit must gel quickly and become a formidable run-blocking unit. Ball control is vital, especially with the uncertainty at quarterback.
4. Mike Maccagnan's first two drafts must bear fruit: Leonard Williams can't do it alone. Players such as Lorenzo Mauldin, Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins, Juston Burris, Brandon Shell and Hackenberg must develop into core players.
5. The special teams can't stink: Any team with limited offensive firepower must be able to dominate on special teams. It would be unrealistic to expect them to go from one of the worst to one of the best, but it would be a boost if they can settle somewhere in the middle. Every player from the 2017 draft has special-teams ability; that's a good place to start.