ORCHARD PARK — To hear the geniuses tell it, the Jets are about to begin a 17-week trip into infamy sprinkled with ineptitude and high comedy.
Cue the Benny Hill music, folks.
Although no sane person would predict a Lombardi Trophy for this wayward outfit — they’re 1,000-to-1 shots to win Super Bowl LII — I’m appalled by the blatant lack of respect for this team.
It’s a flatout disgrace that professional prognosticators have made the Jets a 9 1/2-point underdog to the Buffalo Bills in the season opener Sunday in Western New York.
Nine-and-a-half points?! To the freakin’ Bills?!
“I don’t care,” left tackle Kelvin Beachum said with a smile. “I really don’t. I couldn’t care less.”
Did I sleep through the offseason when Buffalo morphed into the ‘72 Dolphins?
Did I overlook some key personnel addition that magically turned this team with a first-year head coach into the ‘84 Niners?
Is there some secret weapon on first-year head coach Sean McDermott’s squad that transformed them into the ‘85 Bears?
I don’t harbor any delusions of grandeur. It’s going to be a particularly painful path for the 2017 Jets, whose roster deconstruction was lampooned far and wide this spring.
But the Vegas oddsmakers have gone to the extreme with this Week 1 silliness.
The Bills traded away their best wide receiver (Sammy Watkins) and best cornerback (Ronald Darby) this summer. The new brain trust doesn’t even really want their best quarterback (Tyrod Taylor), who is only now coming back from a nasty concussion.
McDermott’s offense has exactly one more dynamic player than the Jets (LeSean McCoy). The rookie coach has three slot/inside/underneath receivers and no formidable outside threat to stretch the field. Taylor’s best attribute as a passer: The deep ball, naturally.
By every objective measure, the Bills aren’t going to be very good this season, either. The Jets’ over/under win total for the season: 3 1/2. The Bills? 6 1/2.
So, it’s patently ridiculous that they’re nearly double-digit favorites against the Jets. If I were on Todd Bowles’ team, I’d be pretty ticked off.
“I think the whole season in general is unpredictable. That’s why I laugh at projections,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “Projections don’t mean anything. They’re not in this locker room with us and out on the field. They’re not in the film room. We know what we have and we trust in everybody that we have right now.”
Now, let’s not get crazy. I’d be floored if the Jets are anywhere close to the playoff conversation this season. Bowles might have some promising young defensive talent, but there aren’t nearly enough horses in this barn to realistically expect anything beyond a handful of wins. (For the record, I believe they’ll go 3-13).
The elephant in every room on One Jets Drive: More losses draw the powers that be (including one particular one across the pond) closer to an elusive franchise quarterback.
The braintrust will have a collective eye on the top college signalcaller prospects for the next few months, but the players and coaches couldn’t care less about Sucking for Sam (USC’s Sam Darnold) or setting their sights on The Rosen One (UCLA’S Josh Rosen).
These Jets employees actually want to win on Sundays.
“Of course it matters,” rookie safety Jamal Adams said about whether there’s any real difference between winning two, four or six games this season. “But at the end of the day, we want to get to that next step. And that next step is making it to the playoffs. Again, we’re going to take it one game at a time. That’s all we can do. We’re not worried about the playoffs right now. We’re worried about Buffalo.”
It’s easy to chuckle at the Jets. I get it. Their offense won’t conjure up images of the 2007 Patriots.
Offensive coordinator John Morton is a colossal unknown. He’s a grinder, who has worked with some creative offensive minds, but we don’t actually know if he’s got the goods. Even if he does, will he be able to successfully transfer that knowledge to a group that isn’t exactly loaded with difference makers?
The Jets added two wide receivers in the past 10 days who might wind up as the top two players at that position on this roster. Morton might be smart, but he’s no miracle worker.
Veteran Josh McCown is a terrific leader, but how much can the new playcaller squeeze out of a 38-year-old quarterback in the twilight of his well-traveled career?
“I don’t worry about what anybody else says,” Morton said. “You start worrying about that stuff, you’ve lost.”
Bowles has promised that his team will “play hard and scrap” in what everyone believes will be a nightmarish season. The coach hopes that “true Jets fans are going to… root like hell for us” even though he’s smart enough to know that a faction will be keeping their fingers crossed that this star-crossed franchise will be in position to snag the most important piece to this annoying puzzle in next year’s draft.
Spoiler alert: For all the Jets’ shortcomings, they still aren’t the ‘76 Buccaneers or 2008 Lions. They will not go winless this season.
And they sure as heck shouldn’t be such huge underdogs to the freakin’ Buffalo Bills.