Three-game stretch will determine if Jets are legit contenders ... for 0-16

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Starting Sunday, the New York Jets will begin a 14-day period that will determine the narrative for the remainder of the season.

It's the softest stretch on their schedule -- relatively speaking, of course. If they fall to 0-5 by losing to the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns, they will stamp themselves as legitimate contenders for 0-16.

Which, of course, would be just fine and dandy for the card-carrying members of the "Suck for Sam" movement. The Jets players want no part of that conversation. They want to win -- soon -- to avoid becoming a national punchline, if they aren't already.

"For us, [we have to] continue to show the improvement and the signs of improvement, so at some point -- and we hope it’s this week -- we start playing the kind of football that we know we’re capable of playing," quarterback Josh McCown said.

Prediction: The Jets will win at least one of the next three, and I'm thinking the Jaguars are the most likely victim. The Oct. 1 game will be played at MetLife Stadium, and the Jaguars have dropped 23 of their last 26 on the road. They'll be playing with no bye week after a trip to London. Plus, they have Blake Bortles at quarterback. If he's benched -- certainly a possibility -- it'll be Chad Henne. Either way, it could be the most winnable game on the Jets' schedule.

The Jets actually showed some progress against the Oakland Raiders even if the scoreboard was as ugly as some of the costumes in the Black Hole -- 45-20. To validate the baby-step talk, they need to play a strong game in their home opener against the Dolphins, who were lucky to escape Los Angeles with a win in their hurricane-delayed opener.

With back-to-back home games, the Jets -- 0-2 for the first time since 2007 -- have a chance to make a statement. How they handle the homestand will tell us if this will be a historically bad year or if the roster assembled by general manager Mike Maccagnan has any hope.

"I think we’re learning a lot," coach Todd Bowles said of his team. "We learned a lot as the two weeks went by the past two weeks, but we’ll learn a lot more these next two weeks whether we can correct these mistakes, which I’m pretty sure we can."

The Dolphins, Jaguars and Browns are a combined 2-3, and none of their quarterbacks should scare the Jets. The Browns are starting rookie DeShone Kizer, a second-round pick whom the Jets passed on twice. It's one thing to lose to Derek Carr on the road, but the Jets should be able to deal with the mistake-prone Kizer in the Dawg Pound.

But you know the Browns are looking at the Jets as the one game on their schedule they can't lose. The winner will salvage some pride, but hurt their chances in the "race" for the No. 1 pick.

In the latest ESPN Power Rankings, the Jets are 32nd, with the Browns (29th) and Jaguars (25th) close behind -- or ahead, depending on your perspective.

"I know my team. I know the locker room. I’ve seen a lot, I’ve been around these guys quite a bit, and I have every confidence in the world in them," said Bowles. "We have a lot of fight in us."

If they lose the next three, they'll return home in Week 6.

Against the New England Patriots, who will show no mercy.