Much of the off-season talk among Jets fans, politicians and residents of the West Side of Manhattan has centered on one thing – the proposed $1.4 billion New York Sports and Convention Center. While Cablevision (the parent company of Madison Square Garden) has led a high-budget campaign for public opinion, while the team has recently started its counterstrike with legend Joe Namath extolling the potential of the project, of which the city would cover $600 million (and team owner Woody Johnson paying the remaining $800 million). Mayor Bloomberg and company are pushing for the project heavily, ostensibly as a boon to the city’s hopes of landing the 2012 Olympic Summer Games.

As you might expect, the team’s website features one-sided coverage of the issue, but a Daily News editorial written last week is among the first third-party opinions that both supports the proposal and belittles Cablevision.

While Namath is indeed the team’s greatest legend (apologies to Mark Gastineau and Freeman McNeil), Gothamist believes an endorsement from him would have gone a lot further about a year ago, before he drunkenly hit on (admittedly adorable) ESPN reporter Suzy Kolber during a game broadcast last season.

But modern-day sports are business first and foremost, and the standard ‘What have you done for me lately?’ attitude of fans and citizens places a higher than usual amount of pressure on the franchise to deliver something of higher quality (or risk losing any momentum for public support of the stadium).

Though universally respected by players, colleagues, fans and the media for his positive attitude and approachability, Head Coach Herman Edwards will be on very thin ice with all of the above if the team does not show improvement in the only truly important category at the end of the day - wins.

Gothamist’s Predictions? What, you mean on the record? 9-7, with a playoff berth seems fair, unless Pennington falls to injury – in which case it’s probably bad news for Edwards, who hired new defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson while retaining offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, a longtime favorite target for second-guessing among most Jets fans.

It’s official. With Vinny Testaverde having said his last goodbye to the Jets before being named as the starter in Dallas, Pennington is the franchise. Injuries over his first two seasons have prevented him from piloting the team for an entire 16-game slate. A preseason competition for the backup job between Brooks Bollinger and rookie Ricky Ray took a sudden turn when Bollinger slightly injured his knee and Gang Green soon signed former Cowboys starter Quincy Carter (who was suddenly cut by Bill Parcells and company for unnamed circumstances) to be the No. 2 man. Bollinger has fallen to third, while Ray was subsequently cut.

Offensive Line:
Potentially the offense’s biggest problem area, although center Kevin Mawae is a stalwart in the middle while Jason Fabini looks solid at the all-important left tackle (which protects the right-handed QB’s blind side). Like Carter, guard Pete Kendall was cast off by his former team (Arizona Cardinals), before immediately being grabbed by the Jets, and Kendall looks to contribute immediately. Kareem McKenzie starts at right tackle, with Brandon Moore next to him.

Running Backs:
Even after ten years, Curtis Martin is still the man here, while Lamont Jordan’s status as his heir apparent may be in question, after a pre-season that saw him complain vocally after losing reps to youngster Johnathan Reese, a Columbia graduate who is one of the few Ivy Leaguers to have made it into the NFL. Veteran Jerald Sowell will lead the way at fullback, with B.J. Askew behind.

Pennington has to be pleased with the off-season acquisition of Justin McCareins, which will give him big target that will stretch defenses even more than the speedy, but diminutive Santana Moss. Meanwhile, Wayne Chrebet hopes to shine in the twilight of his career while rookie Jericho Cotchery and third-year player Jonathan Carter will see time. Anthony Becht and Chris Baker may see big numbers at tight end, if Hackett elects to keep the passing game short.

Defensive Line:
Headlining the defensive stat categories will likely be John Abraham and Shaun Ellis will start at the ends, while Bryan Thomas will be worked in the rotation. Jason Ferguson and Dewayne Robertson should continue to improve and shore up the middle.

One of the team’s areas of improvement over the off-season, as the Jets increased the quality of their linebacking corps with the selection of Jonathan Vilma and the addition of free agent Eric Barton (formerly of the Oakland Raiders). Victor Hobson and Sam Cowart return, while Jason Glenn, Mark Brown and Kenyatta Wright will see time.

Already thought to be the team’s Achilles’ Heel, the Jets secondary took an ill-timed hit on the eve of the season this week, when nickleback Ray Mickens fell to a torn anterior cruciate ligament (a knee injury that nearly always means the end of a player’s season). Mickens’ spot was filled by veteran Terrell Buckley, who had been released by the New England only last Sunday. Pundits aren’t optimistic about the man-to-man ability of starting cornerbacks Donnie Abraham and David Barrett, but Barrett is considered a step up from the man he replaced, the released Aaron Beasley. Rookie Derrick Strait should have some impact in the secondary.

Erik Coleman will start at strong safety, while Jon McGraw (although out for the opener) will be the usual starter at free safety, ahead of Reggie Tongue.

Special Teams:
Doug Brien, who scored 105 points last season, including, going a perfect 24-for-24 on point after tries, returns as the place kicker, while Toby Gowin (who arrived from Dallas) will be the punter. Santana Moss has proven to be as explosive of a punt returner as there is in the league with Jonathan Carter being set back deep for kickoffs. James Dearth is in the lose-lose position of being the team’s deep snapper – a role player who winds up getting more publicity when things go awry than when they go flawlessly.