Mark SanchezIn his third season as head coach of the New York Jets, Rex Ryan saw his team take a step back, failing to reach the playoffs for the first time during his tenure. 

How did the Jets respond during the offseason? They added one of the most polarizing figures in the NFL today: Tim Tebow. 

Just having Tebow on the sidelines is reason enough for fans to show up on most Sundays, but New York’s biggest game this season will take place on Thursday.

Following a bye in Week 9, the Jets will face a five-game stretch that could make or break the 2012 campaign.

Four of New York’s five opponents (Week 10 - Seattle, Week 11 - St. Louis, Week 13 - Arizona and Week 14 - Jacksonville) did not make the playoffs in 2011. 

In fact, the Cardinals were the only team with at least a .500 winning percentage. Wedged between the stretch of mediocrity is a Thanksgiving Night match-up with the defending AFC Champion New England Patriots.

There are plenty of reasons why this has to be the top game on the schedule for the Jets this season. These teams OBVIOUSLY do not like each other. The coaches have made public comments about this and the players have echoed the sentiments as well. Any time these two figureheads of the AFC East get together, something special is about to happen.

The Jets will play five games against teams that participated in the playoffs last season (including two against the Patriots). If they can find a way to win seven or eight of the remaining games on the schedule, a Thanksgiving home win could be the momentum boost that carries Ryan’s club into the playoffs.

Now, let’s consider the “Tebow Factor”.  Despite the Jets giving Mark Sanchez a three-year extension this offseason, it will be difficult to keep Tim Tebow on the bench if New York struggles early in the season. 

Could New York fans possibly be giving thanks for having Tim Tebow in the starting lineup when Week 12 rolls around? This certainly would not shock me.