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New York Jets have tough early schedule, putting QB change in play

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Perhaps trying to endear themselves to the pro-tanking crowd, some so-called experts have predicted a 1-15 or 0-16 record for the New York Jets this season. They won't be that bad, but I've dropped them to 3-13 after forecasting a 5-11 record in mid-April.

Why? Since then, they've lost two wide receivers -- Quincy Enunwa (injury) and Eric Decker (released) -- and defensive leader David Harris (released). There are some promising young players on the roster, and that's what this rebuilding season is all about. Jets fans should try to focus on that and not the record. Otherwise, you'll drive yourself mad.

Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 10, at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. ET

New Bills coach Sean McDermott has no track record, which adds a mystery element to the game. What he does have is a pair of playmakers on offense in quarterback Tyrod Taylor (if healthy) and running back LeSean McCoy. That'll be enough to outlast Josh McCown & Co. Record: 0-1.

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17, at Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m. ET

This is Oakland's home opener, so the crazies in the Black Hole will be in rare form. This is just a bad matchup for the Jets, who will have a hard time dealing with Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. Frankly, this could get ugly. Record: 0-2.

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24, vs. Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

Former Chicago Bears teammates Jay Cutler and McCown are slated to meet in a battle of the graybeard quarterbacks. Cutler will throw a couple of picks, keeping the Jets in the game, but Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake will be too much to handle. Record: 0-3.

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1, vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. ET

On paper, the Jaguars are better than the Jets, but let's face it: Blake Bortles stinks. The Jets are strong enough up front to neutralize Leonard Fournette, so ... a win! A win! Record: 1-3.

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 8, at Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m. ET

This could be billed as the Sam Darnold Bowl. The final quarterback stats from this game won't make it to the Hall of Fame, that's for sure, but the Jets will have enough on defense to topple rookie DeShone Kizer, if he's still starting for the Browns. Record: 2-3.

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 15, vs. New England Patriots, 1 p.m. ET

Not a lot of hard-hitting analysis needed here. The Jets were outscored 63-20 in the two meetings with the Patriots last season, and the gap between them is wider than ever. Jets owner/U.S. ambassador Woody Johnson will be glad he's in the United Kingdom, watching on TV instead of listening to the vitriol in his own stadium. Record: 2-4.

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22, at Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m. ET

Welcome to the Christian Hackenberg era. After weeks of speculation, Jets coach Todd Bowles finally turns to his second-year quarterback, giving the fans their first glimpse of the future (or not). May the growing pains begin. Record: 2-5.

Week 8: Sunday, Oct.29, vs. Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET

The Jets defense will struggle against elite quarterbacks because of the issues at cornerback, and Matt Ryan most certainly is an elite quarterback. This won't be pretty. Record: 2-6.

Week 9: Thursday, Nov. 2, vs. Buffalo Bills, 8:25 p.m. ET

Maybe former Jets and Bills coach Rex Ryan can make a cameo appearance at the game to add some spice. In their one and only prime-time appearance, the Jets will stun the nation with an upset, as Hackenberg gets his first win as an NFL starter. Record: 3-6.

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12, at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. ET

The Jets' eight-game winning streak against the Bucs, their longest active streak against any opponent, will end with a last-second field goal by former Jets kicker Nick Folk. And every Jets reporter will make a "Folk hero" reference (an old Rex-ism) in their lede. Record: 3-7.

Week 11: Bye

Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 26, vs. Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m. ET

By this point in the season, Cam Newton's surgically repaired shoulder will have rounded into form -- bad news for the Jets. Record: 3-8.

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3, vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m. ET

Mismatch of the year: Hackenberg versus the Chiefs' ball-hawking secondary, featuring Eric Berry and Marcus Peters. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw six interceptions last season against the Chiefs, so that means Hackenberg will have ... ugh, let's not go there. Record: 3-9.

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10, at Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m. ET

Mismatch of the year, part II: Hackenberg versus one of the best defenses in the league. Von Miller will spend more time in the Jets' backfield than Bilal Powell. What's the over/under on the number of times the Jets cross midfield? I'd say two.

Record: 3-10.

Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 17, at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m. ET

After several months of Brees withdrawal, Jets offensive coordinator John Morton returns to the Big Easy to face his former team and his old quarterback, Drew Brees. It won't be a happy homecoming. Record: 3-11.

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 24, vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m. ET

This is the middle game in a Hall-of-Fame three-pack for the Jets, who face three Canton-bound quarterbacks in a row: Brees, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady. Bah, humbug. Record: 3-12.

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31, at New England Patriots, 1 p.m. ET

This could be interesting if Bill Belichick, who will likely clinch the division by Thanksgiving, decides to rest his starters. Could the Jets steal this game, hurting their chances of landing the No. 1 overall pick in '18? Nah. Record: 3-13.