It’s back to work for the New York Jets.
After a four-day respite over the bye, they return to practice Monday -- the first day of the rest of the season. At 2-8, there will be no playoff talk, but a favorable schedule over the final six weeks -- they face only one elite quarterback -- could lead to a strong finish. Relatively speaking, of course.
What would it mean to finish 5-11 or 6-10? It certainly would undermine the "Suck for the Duck" movement (Oregon’s Marcus Mariota). It also could complicate some of the decisions owner Woody Johnson has to make.
Would a 5-3 record over the second half be enough to save Rex Ryan? John Idzik? We will know in due time. For now, let’s take a quick look at the remaining games:
Week 12: at Buffalo Bills (5-5)
This much is certain: The Jets won’t make another visit to Dave & Buster’s on the eve of the game. They should be highly motivated after getting embarrassed by the Bills in Week 8, a six-turnover, 43-23 loss. Two things you won’t see in the rematch: Geno Smith and a throwback pass on a kickoff return. Ryan’s career record the week after the bye is 1-4. The Bills have lost two straight after a promising start.
Week 13: Miami Dolphins (6-4)
The first Jets-Dolphins meeting of the season will be on "Monday Night Football." It’s not the sexiest matchup for prime time, but these two longtime AFC East rivals have been known to play wild and crazy games. The Dolphins’ defense is playing exceptionally well, so this will be a difficult challenge for Michael Vick & Co.
Week 14: at Minnesota Vikings (4-6)
The Jets will have to pack their thermals, because this game will be played outdoors at the University of Minnesota. Remember, the Vikings’ new indoor stadium is under construction. Ryan’s defense will face its second rookie quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater. (They beat Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders in Week 1.) The Jets could see Adrian Peterson, who has an appeals hearing Monday to be removed from the commissioner's exempt list.
Week 15: at Tennessee Titans (2-7)
It's another rookie quarterback (Zach Mettenberger) and another winnable game for the Jets. The main storyline will be former Titans star Chris Johnson, who was released last offseason. He hasn’t been shy about saying how much this game means to him. Can revenge allow him to turn back the clock?
Week 16: New England Patriots (7-2, not including Sunday night)
The Jets outplayed the Patriots in the previous meeting, but lost a heartbreaker. Ryan was so angry that he punched a wall after the game. If this turns out to be Ryan's final battle against Bill Belichick, he would love to end with a win against his nemesis. Former Jet Darrelle Revis will return to MetLife Stadium for the first (and probably last) time as a Patriot.
Week 17: at Miami Dolphins (6-4)
For the second straight season, the Jets finish in South Florida, where last December Ryan enjoyed one of his most satisfying victories. This time, it could mark the end of his time with the Jets.