Call it Darnold's Home Debut, Take Two.
Rookie QB Sam Darnold's regular-season introduction to his new fan base in Week 2 didn't go as planned as the Jets fell to the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium, 20-12. So now after that trying September schedule, Sammy and the Jets come home again, this time for the start of a three-game homestand against the Denver Broncos at MetLife.
The affection is still there, the fans for Sam and Sam for the fans.
"Yeah, it's really cool to know that for the next three games we're playing in front of our fans," Darnold said. "It's always such a pleasure to be able to come out there and know that the fans have got our backs and we're just going to continue to play our ball, but it's awesome to be able to do it at home."
Of course, affection has its limits. After an opening-night win at Detroit followed by three losses, the Jets don't need to extend that streak to four losses, which would equal the longest under head coach Todd Bowles. Much better for all involved to get a one-game winning streak going, and to extend the Broncos' losing skid to three following their late home fall-from-ahead on Monday night against the Chiefs.
It won't be easy, said Bowles.
"They run the ball very well, they've got two explosive backs, two huge receivers, one quick receiver, quarterback is playing good, offensive line is blocking, obviously they have premier pass rushers, great corners, Brandon Marshall is playing good ball in the middle, they have smart safeties and very solid, disciplined D-linemen," Bowles said. Conclusion: "Well-coached team."
Maybe he's biased? The two head coaches in this game are former DBs — Bowles was a Redskins safety, Vance Joseph the one-time Jets rookie free agent cornerback.
Here are seven more points of interest on Sunday's Jets-Broncos game (1 p.m. ET kickoff):
1. Rivalry Reversal
This original AFL rivalry hasn't gone the Green & White's way of late. The Broncos hold a 19-15-1 edge overall after winning five of the last six, including last year's home shutout. And the Jets could even things up at their place at 8-8-1 if they take this one after dropping three of the last four in the Meadowlands. Their last home win, by 19-13, came in '02, with Laveranues Coles catching the go-ahead TD pass from Chad Pennington and Marvin Jones notching 19 tackles. Another trend in need of reversing: The last time the Jets registered at least two wins in a three-game homestand was 1998. In four three-game stands since then, they've won zero or one game.
2. Road Woes
While the Jets, after three of four on the road to start the season, are happy to be home. Denver, after three of four at home to start the season, has to be leery about the road ahead. Since 2017, the Broncos have a 1-8 away record, better than only the Browns' 0-10, and other road rankings aren't much better:
Also FWIW, the Broncs, a little beat up after their Monday night loss to the Chiefs, were 0-4 last year in games after primetime appearances.
3. Rookie Rushers Rising
Who is Phillip Lindsay? you might ask. The Jets need to know because Lindsay, the wild-haired 5'8", 190-pound Denver native, Colorado back and undrafted rookie free agent has been an NFL sensation. He leads the Broncos with 267 rushing yards and his 5.9 yards/carry is fourth-best in the NFL. And he and third-round rookie Royce Freeman spearhead the Broncos rushing attack that is third in the NFL in yards/game and second with 5.6 yards/carry. The Avery Williamson-led run defense is allowing a decent 3.8 yards/carry. Something closer to the latter than the former is recommended for the Green & White on Sunday.
4. The Von and Only
Sam Darnold has been pressured by some top sackers already in his young career — Miami's Cameron Wake, Cleveland's Myles Garrett, Jacksonville's Calais Campbell. This week, said Bowles, "We've got our hands full." Denver LB Von Miller has 87.5 career sacks, most in the NFL in the last eight seasons. Four of those sacks have come this year. And 4.5 have come in his three career meetings with Jets QBs. Miller is respectful of the rookie: "I don't know nothin' about drafting quarterbacks but I thought he was the No. 1 pick for sure. ... He's been playing pretty well." But after dropping Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith and Josh McCown, he'd love to hang a Darnold pelt on his wall.
Throwback: Jets-Broncos Through the Years
Best Images from the Series with Denver
5. Those Tasty Turnovers
One consolation prize for the Jets in the loss to the Jaguars was a 3-0 win in the turnover battle. They have six interceptions now, fifth-most in the NFL, and 10 takeaways, tied for third, and New Jack City, a.k.a. the Jets secondary, has produced six of those TAs. The Broncos on the other hand have fumbled only once and are one of four NFL teams not to have lost a fumble. Yet QB Case Keenum, whose only previous outing vs. the Jets was the Los Angeles Rams' 9-6 MetLife win in 2016, is feeling some heat from the Mile High fans and media as one of three NFL QBs to have thrown six picks this season. Darnold has thrown five but had no giveaways vs. the Jags.
6. Maye Day
Darnold pointed out that S Marcus Maye is "really looking forward to getting out there in front of the fans as well." Good point. Maye missed the Dolphins home opener working back from injury. Bowles said of Maye's first action last week at Jacksonville: "He looked good getting his feet wet. He tackled physical, he was in the right place, he didn't get a whole bunch of action but the plays he had to make, he made." If Maye goes (he's listed as questionable), more plays await as Keenum tries to get the ball to his two accomplished wideouts, Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas
7. Flipping the Field
Could this be the big field position game the Jets have been looking for? Former Raiders punter Marquette King signed with the Broncos this year. On Monday night, King and his coverage team yielded a 37-yard return to KC's Tyreek Hill, then he shanked a 35-yarder that started the Chiefs at their 40 for their game-winning TD drive. Joseph's blunt punt assessment: "We have to get better." Either King, with a sore right thigh, listed as doubtful, or first-year practice-squadder Colby Wadman will be kicking to the Jets' Andre Roberts, now No. 2 in the NFL in PR average behind Hill and eager to rip off his first long returns since the opener at Detroit.