A game of firsts being played Monday night between the Jets and Lions at Ford Field (7:10 p.m. ET kickoff) gives us the chance to present our first Seven Points piece of the 2018 season.
For the MNF visitors, it's no secret that the future is now: Sam Darnold has gotten the nod to make his first pro start in his first pro game at quarterback in the Jets' season opener. Only two others hold that distinction, both coming in the last nine years and both coming away with victories — Mark Sanchez at Houston in 2009 and Geno Smith vs. Tampa Bay in 2013.
The hosts, meanwhile, are starting their own new era as Matt Patricia officially takes the reins as a first-time head coach and the Lions' 27th head coach all-time.
This is old hat for Todd Bowles. He said that as he enters his fourth season as the Jets' head coach, there will be nerves and excitement anew, but the weightiness of being an NFL head coach remains unchanged.
"Same pressure I felt when I came here," Bowles said. "I don't go into every season feeling any less or any more. You get to the Super Bowl from here. That's all I'm here to do. I'm not here to collect a check, I'm not here to go 8-8. I'm here to try and get to the Super Bowl."
Here are seven points of interest for Jets fans looking ahead to Monday night:
1. QBs of Legal Age
The trivia's been out there: Darnold at 21 years, 97 days old, will be the youngest QB to start an NFL opener in the Super Bowl era (Tommy Maddox was 21 years, 81 days old when he started for Denver in 1992, but that start was in December) and the youngest to start any Jets game. He'll be challenging another one-time phenom in Lions QB Matt Stafford, who was 21 years, 218 days old for the Lions' 2009 opener. But Stafford's gotten a nine-year head start on Darnold, having graduated to seven consecutive 4,000-yard passing seasons, most recently last year's 4,446 yards, 29 TDs to 10 INTs and 99.3 passer rating. Something for Sam to shoot for.
2. Powell & Crowell
One of a young QB's best friends is a pile-driving, chains-moving running game. With Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell being used judiciously this preseason, and with the Detroit rush defense 29th in the NFL over the final nine weeks of 2017, the Jets may be able to run. Powell, who last year became the only RB in franchise history with three 50-yard runs in one season, praises "Cro" as a consistent, durable, bruising backfield mate off of which the Green & White can run stretches and misdirections. As for his own state of mind, Bilal tells newyorkjets.com it's the same as always: "Whenever my number is called, whatever you want me to do, I'll do it."
3. Marvin Jones Visits NJC
It would work in the Jets secondary's favor if the Marvin Jones entering "New Jack City" on MNF was the former Jets MLB. Unfortunately, it's Marvin Jones the seventh-year WR, who hung up his first 1,000-yard receiving season last year with the Lions, averaged 18.0 yards/catch — best in the NFL the past two seasons — and nine TDs. He's also the same Jones who torched the Jets for four TD catches as a Bengal in 2013. Jones teams with WR Golden Tate to give Stafford the targets to test the secondary's nickname, keeping in mind the Jets DBs want to improve on their 15 INTs of the previous two seasons.
4. The Rivalry
The Jets are 6-7 all-time against the Lions and 4-4 on the road. Their last meeting was the 24-17 loss at MetLife in 2014, but the last two Ford Field get-togethers were Jets wins — 31-14 in 2002 and 23-20 in OT in 2010. The teams have never met in a season opener, but they did meet once before on Monday night. That one also went the Green & White way, 28-13 in the Pontiac Silverdome in 1982. The big connection in that game was Wesley Walker from Richard Todd for five catches, 164 yards and three TDs. Big question this Monday: Who on the Jets will play Walker (Robby Anderson, perhaps) to Darnold's Todd?
Top Snapshots from Some of the Matchups Between the Jets and Lions
5. Darnold vs. the Detroit D
It's hard to say if Detroit's defense is a good way for Darnold to get his pro career started. On the positive side for Sammy and the Jets is the preseason, during which the Lions D was 32nd in the NFL in yards/play, passing yards/play and points/game and 31st in sacks/attempt (two total). On the negative side: That was the preseason, and Patricia is transitioning DE Ziggy Ansah, CB Darius Slay and the Lions from a 4-3 to that more hybrid, game-plan-specific Patriots defense that the Jets know so well but that Darnold has yet to experience. Said first-year DC Paul Pasqualoni, "It's a work in progress and we'll get better." Hopefully beginning in Week 2.
6. Special Things
The Jets continued looking at kickers after releasing Cairo Santos, but Jason Myers has the job and under Ford Field's roof it's possible he'll continue his long-kickoff mastery. In his only pro game at Detroit, for the Jaguars in 2016, he was 2-for-2 on field goals and 5-for-5 on KO touchbacks. Andre Roberts, who had two punt-return TDs as a Lion and one in Ford Field in '16, is now the Jets returner, and as such could run into ex-Jet Nick Bellore, who when not covering kicks is no longer a LB but a blocking FB — except when he caught his first-ever touchdown pass from Stafford at Baltimore last year.
7. The Patricia Way
Patricia got the gig as the Lions' head coach this fall and the hopes in Motown are that he'll reproduce his success near Beantown, specifically Foxboro, where he was a Patriots defensive coach from 2006-17 and their DC the past six years. During his coordinator span, the Pats were tied for first in the NFL in points allowed and sixth in takeaways. But there was some controversy this offseason over whether Patricia might lose his players over making them run laps for practice mistakes. So is Patricia more Parcells/Belichick, more Groh/Mangini, or some combination? First returns come in late Monday night.