Are the Jets the Kings of the East?

Yesterday’s late-night trade of Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets has all of the pundits now proclaiming that the Jets are the new “team to beat” in the AFC East. The addition of the now former Steelers star receiver to the Jets’ roster has Jets fans flying high and many Pats fans down in the dumps. The Jets have certainly had an active offseason. They started free agency by trading for CB Antonio Cromartie, signed RB LaDanian Tomlinson, and are now making a big push to sign OLB Jason Taylor. This added to their #1 ranked defense from last year and two other quality receivers on offense, Braylon Edwards and Jericho Cotchery. They also have a pretty good tight end in Dustin Keller. Did I mention yet that they were in the AFC Championship Game last season?

Is there something else that I’m missing?

Oh yeah. The Jets released ultra-productive RB Thomas Jones and replaced him with L.T., a downgrade in my opinion in talent and locker room personality. They also traded away Kerry Rhodes, an excellent safety. They have invited the HBO “Hard Knocks” cameras into training camp. While I don’t buy into the “Belichick is going to steal secrets” claim, having a major cable TV show following your every move while you’re preparing for the season has to be a distraction. Add to that the fact that the Jets have a head coach who doesn’t shy away from the camera and will most certainly add some bulletin board material to some NFL team’s locker room at least once per episode. Their quarterback is only in his second year and threw 20 interceptions to 12 touchdowns last season and is now relying on a rundown RB and another who showed flashes last season but hasn’t proven he can carry the load. The Jets also backed into the playoffs when the Colts and Bengals chose to nap the last few weeks of the regular season.

Now, I don’t want to take anything away from the Jets for what they did once they reached the playoffs. They had a remarkable run. However, they never would have gotten there were it not for two teams packing it up early. When the Patriots played the Jets the second time late in the season, they walloped the Jets 31 – 14. That’s the same Pats team with all of the flaws it currently has. The Jets will also be playing the first four games of the season without their newest acquisition due to a suspension.

Both ESPNBoston and ESPNNewYork weigh in on the issue of Jets supremacy, with Mike Reiss from ESPNBoston saying slow down while Johnette Howard from ESPNNewYork has just crowned the Jets AFC East champs. Champions are never crowned in March and April, and teams that look good on paper don’t always live up to expectations. Just ask the Washington Redskins from years past. There are some players with questionable characters in that locker room now, and that will be a storyline heading into the season.

So are the New York Jets the “team to beat” in the AFC East. You bet they are. They are going into the 2010 season with the highest expectations in the East and big targets on their backs due to their playoff success, addition of big names, and the propensity of their head coach to say something stupid. The spotlight is squarely off the Patriots and now on the Jets, right where Rex Ryan likes it. Can they take it?

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