The NFL schedule makers did Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets no favors this season. Even with the future Hall of Famer at quarterback, the Jets face an uphill battle to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.

New York has the sixth-hardest strength of schedule (.547) and Pro Football Focus ranks their schedule through other factors as ninth-hardest.

Of course, Rodgers could — and in their view, should — be the great equalizer for the Jets. Coming off a 4-13 record in 2021, the Jets jumped out to a 7-4 start last season before losing their final six games. Injuries and some terrible play by quarterback Zach Wilson were the main culprits in the collapse.

This is why Rodgers was the Jets’ No. 1 target to replace Wilson. A Super Bowl champion and four-time MVP, Rodgers is already transforming the Jets. At 39, he’s still only two years removed from consecutive MVPs.

Plus, Rodgers is super motivated and has “fire in his eyes,” per Jets coach Robert Saleh. Mix in talented playmakers like Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, Mecole Hardman and Allen Lazard, plus a top-flight defense led by Quinnen Williams and Sauce Gardner, and the Jets should be very good in 2023.

But it’s not going to be easy. The Jets play five primetime games and the first-ever Black Friday game. They’ll be in the NFL spotlight a lot, but New York hasn’t won a primetime game since Week 1 against the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football in 2018. That was Sam Darnold’s first game in the NFL. Yeah, it has been that long.

Of course, Rodgers will be a big help. He has been a Super Bowl MVP and is 17-6 in primetime games the past four seasons.

But let’s examine the biggest challenge the Jets must overcome in the 2023 NFL schedule.

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The Jets have a brutally difficult first 11 games on 2023 NFL schedule

As if breaking in a new quarterback and offensive coordinator (who do know each other quite well, it should be noted) won’t be difficult enough, the Jets play eight teams that made the playoffs in 2022 in their first 11 games this season. Coupled with increased expectations after landing Rodgers, that’s a tough way to start out.

The Jets host the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 on Monday Night Football, on 9/11, no less. That’s some way to begin the Rodgers era. All eyes will be on him and the Jets to see if they’re going to be able to compete with the AFC East heavyweights.

Then in a three-week span, they’ll host both teams that played in the Super Bowl last season. First Patrick Mahomes and the champion Kansas City Chiefs in Week 4, and then Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6. Yikes.

We’ll know a lot about the Jets after those steep challenges.

As much a key as Rodgers is, the Jets’ defense will really be put to the test right from the first kickoff this season. A top-five defense last season, New York will face these quarterbacks in the first 11 weeks: Josh Allen (twice), Dak Prescott, Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Hurts and Justin Herbert. The others are not too shabby either: Tua Tagovailoa, Jimmy Garoppolo, Daniel Jones and Mac Jones.

Last season, the Jets survived a tough gauntlet with a lesser quarterback and were 6-3 before the schedule eased up. Of course, they fell flat down the stretch against the easier portion of their schedule.

In 2023, New York again has an easier road the final six games, facing teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans and Washington Commanders. No guarantees, but with Rodgers running the show, these are more winnable games.

So, a 6-5 start through the toughest games of the season should put the Jets on solid footing for the rest of 2023. And according to our Jets 2023 game-by-game predictions, they should earn their first postseason berth since 2010.