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If the Jets want to reach the Super Bowl, they’ll have to escape the AFC East first

The acquisition of Aaron Rodgers has the Jets dreaming of the Super Bowl.

Rodgers added to that over the weekend with the video of him at the Taylor Swift concert, saying “The Jets win the Super Bowl” as confetti rained down on him at MetLife Stadium.

While it is nice that the Jets can think big with Rodgers now in the fold, the road to Las Vegas and Super Bowl LVII is not an easy one.

Let’s start with the AFC East.

This could be the toughest this division has ever been. The Bills are one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl, trailing just the Chiefs in the AFC with the Vegas oddsmakers. The Jets with Rodgers and Dolphins are not far behind the Bills. The Patriots are the clear-cut fourth choice in the division, but if you dropped them in the NFC South, they would be the second favorite to win the division behind the Saints.

Every one of the AFC East quarterbacks has a strong résumé.

Rodgers is a four-time MVP who has won a Super Bowl.

Josh Allen looks like a future MVP and has led his team to the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.

Mac Jones made the Pro Bowl as a rookie before falling off last season with a questionable offensive coaching staff that has now been replaced.

Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills throws a pass against the New York Jets at Highmark Stadium on December 11, 2022 in Orchard Park, New York.
Getty Images

Tua Tagovailoa was having a breakout season last year before concussions ended his year.

All of it adds up to what looks like will be an amazing year in a division that has not been known for parity through the years.

After the leagues merged in 1970, the Dolphins controlled the AFC East for much of the decade. There was some back and forth in the 1980s between the teams before the Bills began to dominate in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Then, Tom Brady arrived in 2001 and ran the division for much of the next two decades. The Bills have been in control since Brady went to Tampa Bay, winning the last three division titles.

The division has featured some great teams through the years but not many at the same time.

The Patriots dynasty largely benefitted from the Jets, Bills and Dolphins struggling to get out of their own way.

Buffalo had a 17-year playoff drought before breaking through in 2017.

The Dolphins have just three playoff appearances between 2002-22, suffering a post-Dan Marino hangover that has lasted a long time.

The Jets have the longest active playoff drought in all of the major sports at 12 and counting.

The last time the AFC East had three playoff teams was in 2001, when it was still a five-team division with the Colts. The Patriots, Dolphins and Jets all made it that year, but it was not a sign of things to come other than Brady and the Pats dominating.

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots during the Pats 17-16 victory over the New York Jets at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The division’s best year might have been 1985.

The Dolphins, Jets and Patriots all made the playoffs that year and all had at least 11 wins. Miami had the biggest win of the year when it knocked off the undefeated Bears. It was New England, though, who beat the Jets and the Dolphins in the playoffs to make it to Super Bowl XX. The Patriots had never beaten the Dolphins in the Orange Bowl but managed six takeaways to move on to New Orleans.

Teams from the AFC East have met in the AFC Championship Game on four occasions, including that one in 1985. The last time came after the 1992 season, when the Bills beat the Dolphins to make their third straight Super Bowl.

The other contender for best year in AFC East history is 1998, when there were four playoff teams from the division. The Jets made it to the AFC title game before losing to the Broncos.

The Jets hope that Rodgers’ season does not end like that one did for Vinny Testaverde, finishing just shy of the Super Bowl. Testaverde might be the last quarterback who had Jets fans thinking they would win the Super Bowl when the 1999 season started. We won’t talk about what happened next.

Rodgers and the Jets have their sights set on a Lombardi Trophy, but their division foes could have something to say about that in what looks like could be a memorable year in the AFC East.

Want to catch a game? The Jets schedule with links to buy tickets can be found here.

Is DeAndre Hopkins a fit?

DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Arizona Cardinals catches the ball for a touchdown as Harrison Smith #22 of the Minnesota Vikings defends during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 30, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Getty Images

The Jets’ flirtation with Odell Beckham in free agency is going to lead to speculation that they are interested in any big-name receivers who become available. That means there is a question whether the Jets should pursue DeAndre Hopkins, who was cut by the Cardinals.

The Jets clearly felt they need more at receiver, which is why they pursued Beckham, but I’m not sure Hopkins makes sense for them. He might be more name than game at this point. Hopkins’ production has dipped in the last two years in Arizona. He turns 31 in June and I don’t think he fits what the Jets still need at receiver.

Garrett Wilson is the No. 1 receiver on the Jets and the team has to do everything they can to foster that. Wilson should have a monster year with the arrival of Rodgers for his second season.

Is Hopkins going to be willing to accept a complementary role after years of being the man?

I would be skeptical.

Hopkins is also more of a technician than a speedster at receiver. If the Jets need one more piece at wide receiver, I think it is someone who can stretch the field and create some openings for Wilson and Allen Lazard underneath. Beckham, when healthy, can do that. I’m not sure that is who Hopkins is at this point in his career.

Garrett Wilson #17 of the New York Jets runs the ball dragging Kaiir Elam #24 of the Buffalo Bills during the third quarter. The New York Jets defeat the Buffalo Bills 20-17.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Then, there is salary. It is unclear what Hopkins is looking for, but it’s probably going to be more than what the Jets are willing to pay. That is what happened with Beckham when the Ravens came along with $15 million. The Jets still have to figure out a reworked contract with Rodgers and are going to need cash and cap space to do so. Hopkins feels like he may be too costly for the Jets right now.

Stat’s so

Joe Namath turns 80 on Wednesday. In honor of the big day, here is a look at how Namath still remains at or near the top of every career passing category in Jets history.

New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath #12 throws a deep pass during a game circa 1970's.
Focus on Sport via Getty Images

Passing yards
1. Joe Namath: 27,057
2. Ken O’Brien: 24,386
3. Richard Todd: 18,241

Passing touchdowns
1. Joe Namath: 170
2. Ken O’Brien: 124
3. Richard Todd: 110

1. Ken O’Brien: 2,039
2. Joe Namath: 1,836
3. Richard Todd: 1,433

1. Joe Namath: 3,655
2. Ken O’Brien: 3,465
3. Richard Todd: 2,623

1. Joe Namath: 215
2. Richard Todd: 138
3. Ken O’Brien: 95

SOURCE: Pro Football Reference