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How to follow the rest of the NFL season if you're a Jets fan

Sam Darnold of the New York Jets on

Sam Darnold of the New York Jets on the ground after throwing a pass against the San Francisco 49ers at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 20, 2020. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Jets are terrible, of course, and most well-rounded people have sought other things to do when they play this season — or at least watch other NFL games.

ESPN pays nearly $2 billion a year to carry "Monday Night Football," which seems at least for Week 9 like a bad investment, given that the matchup features the winless Jets against the fast-fading 2-5 Patriots.

Most Jets fans will root for their team to lose to Bill Belichick’s Tom Brady-free squad, as always with an eye on the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and a shot at Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

But that kind of thinking already has gotten really old, especially since the 0-8 Jets are so bad they do not even make games interesting enough to make fans rooting against them sweat things out.

They have not lost a game by fewer than eight points, which in the NFL is extraordinarily difficult to do over half a season.

So here is a modest proposal to get through the second half of another lost year, one that applies to Jets fans but also Giants fans, whose team has been competitive and yet loses most weeks anyway:

Look over the 2020 schedule, memorize the Jets’ 13 opponents and root against them every week (unless they are playing against each other, or the Jets).

The reason is simple. One longtime quirk of the draft order is that ties are broken by strength of schedule, with the team whose strength of schedule is strongest picking last.

At present, the .593 winning percentage of Jets’ opponents is the best in the NFL, according to Tankathon.com. Eight of their past or future games are against teams that currently have five or more victories.

That will be irrelevant as long as the Jets avoid winning, because there is no other team with a zero in its win column. But the margin for error is narrow.

Three teams — the Giants, Jaguars and Texans — have one victory. Another seven have two, which seems like a reach for Adam Gase, Sam Darnold and friends in 2020, but hey, you never know.

No team has been as creative in losing this season (and potentially useful to the Jets) as the Chargers, who are 2-5 and who lost three in a row to NFC teams the Jets don’t play — the Panthers, Buccaneers and Saints.

That is helpful, as long as the Chargers do not lose so much the Jets catch up to them in the AFC standings. That is where this kind of thing starts getting complicated.

But much of the time it is not complicated at all. For example, on Sunday, the Panthers play Kansas City. Jets fans should cheer for Carolina, which could be more interesting than watching their own team play on Monday.

Then there are games worth bonus points, for example when the Giants visit the Seahawks on Dec. 6.

A Giants victory would hurt their chances at the No. 1 pick, and a Seahawks loss would hurt the Jets’ strength of schedule. Win-win for the Jets!

Even Giants fans might not mind that outcome, given how relatively well they have played for a 1-7 team, and that coach Joe Judge and quarterback Daniel Jones both are potential keepers — more so than their Jets counterparts, at least.

If all of the above sounds like a twisted way to approach watching football and rooting for certain outcomes, it certainly is.

But it seems fitting as Jets fans mark the retirement on Friday of one of their most prominent and passionate representatives, WFAN host Joe Benigno, for whom this sort of twisted fan logic comes with a handy catchphrase: Oh, the pain.

New York Sports