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Why I Don’t Agree With New York Banning DraftKings and FanDuel

On Tuesday, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman ordered daily fantasy sports (DFS) operators DraftKings and FanDuel to stop accepting bets by state residents, arguing that the companies’ games are considered illegal gambling, according to state law. I disagree with the decision, which affects me as a New York resident who has been playing in NFL contests on DraftKings this season. The companies plan to appeal the decision.

For some background, DFS companies are legal under federal law; a 2006 federal law exempted fantasy sports from a prohibition that was instituted on online gaming, under the guidance that it is a game of skill as opposed to luck. Schneiderman apparently doesn’t agree that DFS is legal under that law, saying “it is clear that DraftKings and FanDuel are the leaders of a massive, multibillion-dollar scheme intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country.”

In his letter to DraftKings, Scheiderman stressed some of the differences between DFS and traditional, seasonlong fantasy sports that makes DFS illegal while the seasonlong variety is legal, including that the “instant gratification” makes it easy to play DFS, which has “no long-term strategy.” He also argues that DFS is closer to poker — in that a small number of pros profit at the expense of more-casual players — than a lottery. According to Schneiderman’s investigation of the site’s data, the top one percent of winners get the majority of the winnings.

Let me address the points made by Schneiderman. First, I think comparing DFS to poker hurts his argument because I have long argued that poker is a game of skill that, like DFS, should be exempt from that 2006 ban on online gambling. Schneiderman seems to think that because the outcome of the contests relies on outside forces that the DFS players cannot control — namely the athletes — there’s no skill involved in winning at DFS. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, DFS participants have no control over the performance of the players they select, but there is skill involved in choosing which players you want on your team. The people who do it right study stats of previous games and the players’ matchups in the coming games to determine who to select — you’re not randomly selecting players with no basis for your choices.

This also goes into my counterargument to Schneiderman’s point that the top one percent of DraftKings players win the most money. Many of them are DFS professionals who do it full-time. They spend hours, and even days, to select their lineups each week. Conversely, a casual player like me often spends some time on Sunday morning choosing players before the kickoff the 1:00 games. Naturally, you would expect the people who are able to put more time and research into it to win more often — and that would kind of indicate there’s some skill involved in DFS, not that it’s a “multibillion-dollar scheme,” which was the conclusion that Schneiderman jumped to.

Further, those DFS pros are wagering a lot of money, with the possibility of a large payout. So, of course, they’re going to get the majority of the winnings when most DFS players are probably closer to me; I play in one $3 contest a week, and sometimes add a second, similarly priced contest. I don’t expect to win thousands of dollars when I’m wagering so little. I’ve won $10 each of the past two weeks, which is a decent return on my small investment.

Going back to Schneiderman’s letter, he charges that DraftKings promotes its games as “a path to easy riches that anyone can win,” enticing player with claims of becoming a millionaire. That scenario sounds familiar. Where have I previously heard claims of easy riches and becoming a millionaire? Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m thinking of New York Lottery commercials. Of course, that’s it.

So how do DraftKings’ and FanDuel’s claims of winning big differ from the New York Lottery’s? Simple. New York runs its lottery and profits from the people who gamble on it, hoping to win millions in contests in which they have no control over the outcome. Which is pretty much the argument Schneiderman makes for banning DFS — which, I should point out, New York doesn’t make any money off of. And that, in my opinion, is why Schneiderman is going after the DFS companies — he wants his share of the pie from the more than 500,000 New Yorkers who play DFS, according to DraftKings spokeswoman Sabrina Macias.

The fact that Schneiderman only banned DraftKings and FanDuel — by far the two largest and most successful DFS operations — and not the other, smaller sites that run DFS games seems to confirm my suspicion that it’s about money. He is going after the two sites that make the most money off of DFS becasue the state stands to gain the most by going after those two sites.

So the solution is simple. Rather than banning DFS, New York should regulate and tax it. By regulating it, the state can control how DraftKIngs and FanDuel run their games, to make sure it’s not the “scheme” that Schneiderman thinks the sites are running. By taxing it, New York gets its share of the millions of dollars that the sites take in from New York residents. New York is obviously not opposed to gambling; in addition to the lottery, the state regulates the New York Racing Association, which runs several horse racing tracks across the state, and a couple years ago legalized casino gaming other than the Indian casinos that have long operated on Indian reservations in the state.

Thoughts?

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Kansas City Chiefs

The AFC West previews continue as we are nearing the end of our looks at all 32 NFL teams, continuing with the Kansas City Chiefs, who finished in second place in the division last season.

The Chiefs finished just a game behind the Broncos in the division this season, and with the Broncos potentially taking a step backwards after the departure of QBs Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, the division may be opened up for the Chiefs to possibly win. On the injury front, they get back RB Jamaal Charles, who was limited to just five games last season, but they could be without LB Justin Houston for much — or all — of the season as he recovers from a torn ACL.

QB Alex Smith had a typical season for him, not throwing many interceptions but not having overly impressive numbers either. He threw for 3,486 yards with 20 touchdowns while throwing just 7 interceptions. WR Jeremy Maclin was the only receiver to really stand out, totaling 87 receptions for 1,088 yards and 8 touchdowns. The only other pass-catcher to put up good numbers was TE Travis Kelce, who grabbed 72 passes for 875 yards and 5 touchdowns. With Charles limited by injury — 71 rushes, 364 yards, 4 touchdowns in five games — RB Charcandrick West the team’s leading rusher; he started nine games, carrying the ball 160 times for 634 yards and 4 touchdowns. Smith was actually the team’s second-best rusher, scrambling for 498 yards and 2 touchdowns on 84 attempts. The defense helped keep the team in games with the unspectacular offense, allowing the third-fewest points in the league (287) and the nabbing the second-most interceptions (22).

The receiving core is the biggest concern for the Chiefs on offense, especially if Charles can come close to returning to his pre-injury form. RB Spencer Ware appears to be on track to potentially land the No. 2 running-back spot on the depth chart, which would put him in line to fill-in if Charles misses time. The team didn’t do much to help the lack of depth at receiver, without much to speak of after Maclin and Kelce. They did draft WR Demarcus Robinson in the fourth round, but you can’t expect much production out of a rookie. It looks like the Chiefs will again have to rely on their defense to win games, which is where the Houston injury could be troubling. Even if he is out for an extended period, their defense should still be above average with the likes of LB Tamba Hali and S Eric Berry on the field.

The Chiefs’ schedule gets underway with a home game against the Chargers before heading to Houston in Week 2 to take on the Texans in a rematch from the first round of last season’s playoffs. They have a Sunday night game at the Steelers in Week 4 before a Week 5 bye. They have a road game against the Raiders coming out of the bye and later take on the Panthers on the road in Week 10. Their first game against the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos comes in Denver in Week 12. They host the Raiders for a Thursday night game in Week 14, and they conclude their season with back-to-back divisional games; in Week 16, they host the Broncos on Christmas night, then visit the Chargers in Week 17.

Source: http://www.kcchiefs.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Denver Broncos

The AFC West is the next division up in our preview of all 32 NFL teams, beginning with the Denver Broncos, the team that won the division — and Super Bowl 50 — last season.

The Broncos were in a weird position this offseason coming off a Super Bowl title. Their veteran QB Peyton Manning retired, while young QB Brock Osweiler was a free agent, eventually signing a big contract with the Texans, forcing the Broncos to enter the 2016 season without the two quarterbacks who played snaps for the team in 2015. The news was better when trying to keep their best defensive player, eventually inking LB Von Miller to a six-year extension that made him the highest paid defensive player in league history.

Manning and Osweiler split quarterback duties pretty evenly last season, putting up decent numbers — 4,216 yards, 19 touchdowns, 23 interceptions. WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders put up good numbers; Thomas had 105 receptions for 1,304 yards and 6 touchdowns while Sanders grabbed 76 catches for 1,135 yards and 6 touchdowns. RB Ronnie Hillman had 863 yards and 7 touchdowns on 207 rushes, and RB C.J. Anderson carried the ball 152 times for 720 yards and 5 touchdowns. But it was the defense that really carried the team to its first Super Bowl title since 1998, allowing 296 points — the fourth-fewest in the league — with 14 interceptions.

It’s a good thing the Broncos signed Miller to the long-term extension because they’re likely going to have to rely on their defense again this year, with a quarterback corps that includes the likes of veteran Mark Sanchez, rookie Paxton Lynch — the team’s first-round pick in this year’s draft, and Trevor Siemian, who was the team’s seventh-round selection in the 2015 draft. Siemian, who started the team’s third preseason game, has been named the starter to begin the season. Sanchez — the only one of the three who has experience in the league, appears to be third on the depth chart. Whoever ends up getting the bulk of the work under center has Thomas and Sanders to throw to. In addition to Hillman and Anderson, RB Devontae Booker joins the team’s running game this season after being selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft.

The Broncos start their season with the Thursday night Opening Kickoff game that the Super Bowl champion traditionally gets, this time hosting the Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 rematch. After a home game with the Colts, the Broncos hit the road for the first time in Week 3 to take on the Bengals. Week 7 is likely circled on the Broncos’ calendar; that’s when they host the Texans — and Osweiler — on Monday night. That game is followed by divisional contests, hosting the Chargers in Week 8 and visiting the Raiders in Week 9. The Broncos’ bye comes in Week 11, leading into a home game with the division-rival Chiefs. Week 15 has the Patriots coming into Denver, followed by a visit to the Chiefs on Christmas night in Week 16. The Broncos then end their season at home against the Raiders. The Broncos won the AFC West and, eventually, the Super Bowl last season without a big statistical season out of the quarterback position because the defense was that good. With the trio they have at quarterback this season, they’ll likely have to get another big season out of Miller and his defensive mates to find success this season. I don’t think it’ll work out for them. I think they’ll take a step back this season, and I’m projecting a 8-8 record.

Source: http://www.denverbroncos.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Washington Redskins

We conclude our NFC East previews, part of our previews of all 32 NFL teams, with the Washington Redskins, who won the division last season.

Coming off their first division title since 2012, the Redskins enter their third season under head coach Jay Gruden having made a couple key additions in free agency, particularly on the defensive side of the ball after signing CB Josh Norman away from the Super Bowl champion Panthers, inking him to a five-year deal worth $75 million, $50 million of which is guaranteed. The team is hoping he will shore up a defense that was below average last season. On offense, they signed veteran TE Vernon Davis to a one-year deal to serve as a No. 2 to TE Jordan Reed and, potentially, start some games if Reed misses time with injury, as he has done in each of his three seasons in the league.

In his first full season as a starter, QB Kirk Cousins threw for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns, with just 11 interceptions. Reed, who started nine games, was the team’s leading receiver with 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. WR Pierre Garcon had 72 receptions for 777 yards and 6 touchdowns was next in receiving totals. WR DeSean Jackson had a disappointing season, with 30 receptions for 528 yards and 4 touchdowns in nine starts. The team’s leading rusher from last season, RB Alfred Morris, is now with the Cowboys, leaving RB Matt Jones as the presumed starter. In 13 games last season — no starts — he had 144 carries for 490 yards and 3 touchdowns. RB Chris Thompson, who is expected to be the No. 2 this season, had 216 yards on 35 carries in limited playing time last season. With the Panthers last season, Norman had 4 touchdowns, which represents more than one-third of the 11 interceptions that the entire Redskins defense had.

With a full season under his belt, Cousins looks to put up similar numbers to last season, if not do better. If Jackson can stay healthy and improve upon his stats from last season, it would be a boon to the quarterback. The addition of Davis also should help out Cousins. The offense will likely rely on the passing game, with the lack of an experienced starter in the backfield, particularly with Jones dealing with a shoulder injury this preseason. And, of course, Norman should help lift the defense, taking some of the pressure off of the offense.

The Redskins kick off their schedule with a Monday night contest hosting the Steelers in Week 1, followed by a Week 2 home game with the Cowboys, who will likely be without QB Tony Romo. In Week 3, they have their first road game, against the Giants. They have a tough stretch in the middle of the season, facing the Bengals in London in Week 8 before a Week 9 bye, which leads into home games against the Vikings and Packers in Weeks 10 and 11, respectively. A road game at the Cowboys is on tap in Week 12, followed by a visit to the Cardinals for Week 13. Noman gets to face his former team when the Panthers come to FedEx Field for Week 15’s Monday night game. The Redskins end their season at home against the Giants in Week 17. Even before Romo’s injury, I projected the Redskins to win the division and with that setback for the Cowboys, I think it strengthens the Redskins’ chances of winning back-to-back division titles for the first time since the 1982-84 seasons, when they won three straight NFC East championships.

Source: http://www.redskins.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Philadelphia Eagles

The next team up in our NFC East previews, part of our previews of all 32 NFL teams, is the Philadelphia Eagles, who finished in second place in the division last season.

The Eagles enter the season with new head coach Doug Pederson following the somewhat surprising firing of Chip Kelly toward the end of last season. The team on the field looks largely the same as it did last season, except at running back following the offseason trade of RB DeMarco Murray to the Titans, leaving RB Ryan Mathews to be the expected starter.

QB Sam Bradford played in 14 games last season, throwing for 3,725 yards and 19 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. His favorite target was WR Jordan Matthews, who had 85 receptions for 997 yards and 8 touchdowns, while TE Zach Ertz added 75 catches for 853 yards and 2 touchdowns. In 106 carries over six starts last season, Mathews ran for 539 yards and 6 touchdowns. RB Darren Sproles served mostly as a backup for the season, carrying the ball 83 times for 317 yards and 3 touchdowns. As is typical with Sproles, most of his production came in the passing game, with 55 receptions for 388 yards and 1 touchdown.The Eagles were near the bottom of the pack in defense, allowing opponents to score 430 points while, but above average with 15 interceptions.

Bradford remains the starter, but the Eagles drafted QB Carson Wentz in the first round this year, possibly to take over starting duties by the end of the season but he suffered a rib injury in the team’s first preseason game, which could delay his development and eventual timetable for taking over for Bradford if that was the original plan. With Bradford’s injury history, it is likely that a backup — whether it’s Wentz or QB Chase Daniel — will have to start at least one game. There are questions about the running game, as injuries have limited Mathews’ playing time through much of his career — he has never started a full 16 games in a year — and Sproles’ production has been steadily declining in recent years as he gets older, now 33 years old. The receiving game should be all right with Ertz, Matthews and WR Nelson Agholor, if they get decent quarterback play out of that questionable trio.

The Eagles host the Browns in Week 1 to begin their schedule. They face their in-state rivals when the Steelers come to Philadelphia in Week 3, which takes them into their Week 4 bye. The Eagles visit the defending division champion Redskins in Week 6, host the Vikings in Week 7 and visit the Cowboys in Week 8. They have a tough three-game stretch in Weeks 11-13, with a road game against the Seahawks, the Packers at home and the Bengals on the road. The Eagles meet division rivals in Weeks 16 and 17, with home games against the Giants and Cowboys. With some difficult opponents on the schedule and some questions on both sides of the ball, I’m projecting the Eagles to do worse than the 7-9 record they achieved last season, possibly as bad as winning just three games.

Source: http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: New York Giants

Continuing with the NFC East in our previews of all 32 NFL teams, it’s time for the New York Giants, who finished in third place in the division last season.

In Ben McAdoo’s first season as the team’s head coach, the Giants look to improve upon their 6-10 record of a season ago. QB Eli Manning and WR Odell Beckham Jr. are going to lead the offense again, with second-round draft pick WR Sterling Shepard having a possibility to have an impact in his rookie season.

Manning had some of the best statistics of his career last season, throwing for 4,432 yards with 35 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Beckham had 96 receptions for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns despite missing a game. TE Larry Donnell played just 8 games, catching 29 passes for 223 yards and 2 touchdowns. The running game didn’t do as well as the passing offense, with RB Rashad Jennings leading the way for 195 rushes for 863 yards and 3 touchdowns. Backup RB Shane Vereen didn’t do much carrying the ball but did have 59 receptions out of the backfield for 494 yards and 4 touchdowns. The defense was the third-worst in the league in terms of points allowed, giving up 442, but their 15 interceptions ranked in the top half of the NFL.

If the Giants can get more production out of the running backs than they did last season, that would help take some pressure off of Manning and his receivers, who put up the bulk of the team’s offensive numbers in 2015. Shepard is expected to start opposite Beckham and, while you never know what to expect from a rookie, there are high expectations for the rookie receiver out of Oklahoma. A big question mark for the Giants is if they’ll get anything out of WR Victor Cruz, who hasn’t played in a regular-season game since October 2014. He seems to be ready to start the season, coming off his calf injury, but people felt the same way heading into last season and he didn’t step onto the field in 2015. The Giants used their first-round pick in the draft on CB Eli Apple in an attempt to help the defense.

The Giants’ schedule begins with a road game against the Giants’ biggest rival, the Cowboys. Another division battle awaits the Giants in Week 3 when the defending division champion Redskins come to MetLife Stadium. Following that are back-to-back games at NFC North foes, with the Vikings in Week 4 and the Packers in Week 5. In Week 10, the Giants host the Bengals on Monday night, with a trip to Pittsburgh scheduled in Week 13 to take on the Steelers. The Giants end the season with divisional games in three of their last four contests: hosting the Cowboys in Week 14, then visiting the Eagles and Redskins, respectively, in Weeks 16 and 17. I think te defense will be better than last season, and with potential production coming from Shepard and Cruz, I think the Giants will beat last season’s record; I’m projecting a 9-7 record for Big Blue.

Source: http://www.giants.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Dallas Cowboys UPDATED: Romo’s back injury

The NFC East is up next in our continuing previews of all 32 NFL teams, beginning with the Dallas Cowboys, who finished in last place in the division last season.

Last season didn’t go as planned for the Cowboys, who won just four games after a 12-4 record and division title in 2014. The bulk of the difference can be attributed to a collarbone injury that left QB Tony Romo out of action for the majority of the season, starting just four games. The team got poor quarterback play from a variety of quarterbacks in Romo’s absence, leading to the disappointing season. If Romo can stay on the field this season, you can expect an improvement for the Cowboys.

In his four starts, Romo completed 68% of his passes and threw for 884 yards and 5 touchdowns, in addition to 7 interceptions. Backup QBs Matt Cassell, Brandon Weeden and Kellen Moore combined to throw 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in their 12 starts. Due to a foot injury limiting him to 11 starts, WR Dez Bryant had just 31 receptions for 401 yards and 3 touchdowns. Veteran TE Jason Witten was the team’s leading receiver, catching 77 passes for 713 yards and 3 touchdowns. Bryant’s injury allowed other receivers to step up their games, with WRs Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams taking advantage of it to the tune of 52 catches apiece, with Beasley gaining 536 yards and 5 touchdowns, while Williams had 840 yards and 3 touhdowns on his 52 receptions. RB Darren McFadden was the team’s leading rusher, with 239 rushes for 1,089 yards and 3 touchdowns in 10 starts; he also added 40 receptions for 328 yards through the air. Defensively the team was average, finishing just below the league average with 374 points allowed and finishing tied for the second-fewest interceptions, with 8.

The health of Romo and Bryant is obviously important to the Cowboys’ offensive gameplan. After selecting QB Dak Prescott in this year’s draft, the team seems to have a better backup quarterback situation if Romo does go down with injury. Prescott has shown some positive signs in the preseason, but as a rookie you don’t know how he would handle real game situations if called upon if Romo is sidelined. RB Ezekiel Elliott, the team’s first-round draft pick, is expected to split carries fairly evenly with McFadden — at least to start the season, but if one back has a strong showing early on, he could end up getting the majority of the work in the running game.

Division rivalries lead off the Cowboys’ schedule, with the Giants coming to Arlington in Week 1, followed by a road game at the reigning NFC East champion Redskins in Week 2. Weeks 5 and 6 have the Cowboys hosting the Bengals, then traveling to Green Bay to take on the Packers leading into a Week 7 bye. After the bye, the Eagles come to town for a Sunday night game in Week 8. A visit to the Steelers is on the docket for Week 10. The Cowboys head to Minnesota to take on the NFC North champion Vikings in Week 13, then visit the Giants to complete that season series. The season wraps up with a Monday night home game against the Lions in Week 16, followed by a road game at the Eagles in Week 17. Assuming a healthy season for Romo, it shouldn’t be hard for the Cowboys to win more than four games this season, especially if Elliott can break out in his rookie season, but with a pretty tough schedule facing them, I don’t see the Cowboys winning more than about 6 games this season.

Update: And two days after I post this saying Romo’s health is important to the team’s success, news comes out that he reportedly fractured a vertebrae in Thursday’s preseason game and could miss at least six weeks and as many as 10. If that is the case, he will likely be out until after the team’s Week 7 bye. Prescott has looked good in the preseason so far, but he’s a rookie so it’s not a guarantee that he’ll keep it up in the regular season. It looks like the Cowboys will start he season with rookies in key offensive positions — quarterback and running back, along with Bryant at receiver. I originally projected a six-win season, which is now probably optimistic for what they’ll actually get if the reports are true and Romo does miss about half the season — or more.

Source: http://www.dallascowboys.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: New York Jets

The New York Jets, who finished second in their division last season, are up next in our previews of all 32 NFL teams as we conclude out look at the AFC East teams

The Jets just missed a playoff appearance last season with a 10-6 record. This offseason, they completed a long, drawn-out negotiation with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to return to the team this season following his career year in 2015. They also signed veteran RB Matt Forte to lead the rushing game, replacing departing RB Chris Ivory.

In his first year with the Jets, Fitzpatrick went 335-for-562 for 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns, with 15 interceptions. WRs Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker each surpassed 1,000 receiving yards last season. Marshall totaled 1,502 yards on 109 receptions and scored 14 touchdowns. Decker had 80 receptions for 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns. With the Bears last season, Forte carried the ball 218 times for 898 yards and 4 touchdowns in 13 games, adding 44 receptions for another 389 yards and 3 receiving touchdowns. The Jets’ defense ranked ninth in the league with 314 points allowed and their 18 interceptions were the fifth-most in the NFL.

Looking ahead to this season, Fitzpatrick is going to be the key to the team’s success or lack of it in 2016. If he can’t repeat the season he had last year, it will be a blow to the offense. With his track record of — for lack of a better word — mediocrity, I don’t know if you can expect another season like 2015. The best thing Fitzpatrick has working for him is having two top-tier receivers like Marshall and Decker. On the other hand, the lack of a proven tight end is an offensive deficiency that the team didn’t address in the offseason. Forte has had good stats for much of his career, but he’s getting into the twilight of his career and could be on the decline.

The Jets’ schedule gets off to a tough start in the first several weeks, with a home game against the Bengals in Week 1, followed by road games at the Bills and Chiefs in Weeks 2 and3, respectively. It doesn’t let up from there, as the Seahawks come to MetLife Stadium in Week 4, then the Jets travel to the Steelers in Week 5 and the Cardinals in Week 6’s Monday night contest — that is five playoff opponents in the Jets’ first six games. Their next game against a reigning playoff team comes in Week 12, following a Week 11 bye,  when the Patriots come to town on Sunday night for the first of the teams’ two matchups. The Jets then host the Colts on Monday night in Week 13. The Jets’ annual visit to Gillette Stadium and the Patriots comes in Week 16 before they conclude their season with the Bills in Week 17. Overall, it’s not an easy schedule for the Jets, who I am projected to have a significant regression from last season. I don’t expect them to come close to matching 2015’s 10-win season.

Source: http://www.newyorkjets.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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