What’s the best thing about the 2021 season opening? It means the 2020 season and Adam Gase is ancient history. New coach, new quarterback and… new hope? Temper that hope. Make that hope stretch. Too much hope in too little time is bound to lead to disappointment. The hope is in the future, just not so much the immediate future. This season shouldn’t be measured in wins and losses. The playoffs can’t be the barometer for this team. Development is the true measure of success this season.
Five wins, seven wins, it doesn’t matter. How did Zach Wilson look? Was the offensive line competent? Did Wilson have any reliable weapons? What about the defense? Is there any positive momentum out of the cornerback group? What about those rookie linebackers? The answers to these questions, and more, are far more important than any one win or loss. This season is step one in a complete and total rebuild, it’s going to be a work in progress. Treat it as such.
As for this week, a trip to Carolina to face off against Sam Darnold means the Jets have a chance. This is a coin flip game, two not very good teams squaring off. So which team can be less bad today?
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Contain Christian McCaffrey – A fairly simple concept, not so simple to execute. You guys know all about Darnold and you know all about his weapons. Anyone that still believes in Darnold has to be leaning on the weapons he has in Carolina. But one thing is still relatively the same, he’s still playing behind a terrible offensive line. Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore have the talent and ability to torch this young Jets secondary, but can the line give Darnold enough time? Can Darnold avoid the awful mistakes? None of that matters much when it comes to McCaffrey though. McCaffrey can make things happen on his own and the Jets defense needs to not let that happen. As a runner or as a passer, the Jets defense needs to keep him bottled up.
No Turnovers – Another simple concept that’s not so easy to achieve with a rookie quarterback. It’s Zach Wilson’s first NFL game, baby steps. Lean on the run game, pick his spots and all that but mostly just avoid soul-crushing mistakes. Trust Corey Davis to be where he needs to be, stretch the field with Elijah Moore when given the opportunity, but mostly no drive-killing mistakes. Outside of Brians Burns, the Panthers don’t have anyone on defense that should scare you. If Wilson stays within the game plan and doesn’t try to extend himself too far beyond that, this game is winnable.
Make Sam Do Sam Things – Jets fans know what Sam things are. Now they’re ready to see their team benefit from those things. The single biggest mismatch in this game is on the interior lines. The Jets interior defensive line should absolutely dominate the Panthers interior offensive line. This would’ve been a mismatch even if the Panthers weren’t missing a starting guard. Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers, Sheldon Rankins and Foley Fatukasi should feast on this unit. They need to apply so much pressure that Darnold simply folds. We’ve seen it before, we should see it again. Darnold will probably have a few excellent throws mixed in, but he’s still Sam Darnold. Make him play like Sam Darnold.
PROP BET/FANTASY PLAY OF THE WEEK:
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PREDICITION – JETS WIN 24-13
I think this game comes down to the matchup inside. The Jets interior defensive line should be too much for the Panthers interior offensive line. As a whole these teams feel pretty even, but this is where the biggest advantage is which should lead to us seeing the Sam Darnold we know so well.