Opener Provides Plenty of Intrigue
April began with the Jets sending QB Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for three draft picks: a sixth-round selection in April plus second- and fourth-rounders in 2022. Then the month ended with the New York's AFC representative selecting BYU signal-caller Zach Wilson with the No. 2 overall selection. So there is a bit of irony here that the Jets and the Panthers will kick 2021 off with an interconference battle. Darnold (24) completed 59.8% of his passes with 45 TDs and 39 INTs for the Jets from 2018-20 while appearing in 38 games and compiling a 13-25 mark as a starter. He'll be in line (along with a number of former Jets including WR Robby Anderson) to face his former teammates at Bank of America Stadium on Sept. 12. As for Wilson, first-year head coach Robert Saleh, who will also make his head-coaching debut against the Panthers, is taking it one step at a time with his gifted young passer.
London Comes Calling
Technically, the Jets will be the "visitors" in Week 5 when they match up with the Atlanta Falcons, but both clubs will make the voyage across the Pond. It would be fair to say the Jets have 9 home games, 6 away games and 1 neutral site contest in 2021. The Oct. 10th affair, scheduled to air at 9:30 a.m. ET, will precede a Jets' Week 6 bye. That early rest will get Saleh and the coaches extra time to prepare for the Jets' Week 7 date at the Patriots. New Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich called the defensive shots for the Falcons down the stretch in 2020 and he'll have to devise a game plan to slow down Matt Ryan, Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones and a new toy, TE Kyle Pitts, who was taken two slots after Wilson. Ulbrich and the Jets will counter with stud defensive tackle Quinnen Williams leading a defensive line group that added Carl Lawson, Sheldon Rankins and Vinny Curry in free agency.
Opportunity in First Half
With the Jets installing new systems on both sides of the ball and the potential of starting a rookie quarterback, there will be a learning curve along the way. But there has been a great synergy with GM Joe Douglas and Saleh and the talent has been upgraded across the board in the offseason. After finishing 2-14 a year ago, things are looking up for the Green & White. Six of the Jets' first seven opponents next season did not make the playoffs with the Tennessee Titans being the only exception as Mike Vrabel will bring his crew to MetLife Stadium in Week 4. Tennessee went 11-5 last season and won the AFC South, but the Jets' other six opponents finished with a combined mark of 32-63-1 and a combined winning percentage of .333. Speaking of the Titans, wideout Corey Davis will play a prominent role in the Jets' passing game after amassing 984 yards receiving for Tennessee last season.
Patriot Acts Early
The Jets' home opener against the Patriots will come 11 years to the day they took down the Pats by a 28-14 score at MetLife Stadium. The Jets have a return date with the Pats on Oct. 24th at Gillette Stadium and they'll complete their season series with Bill Belichick's crew before lining up against the Bills or the Dolphins. The Pats were active in free agency, adding a boatload of players on both sides of the ball including TEs Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, LBs Kyle Van Noy and Matthew Judon and former Jets DL Henry Anderson. That all preceded New England taking a QB of its own in the 1st Round – Alabama's Mac Jones.
Eye-Popping Final Quarter
The Jets' final four games will feature three teams that won double-digit contests in 2020: at Miami (Dec. 18 or 19), vs. Tampa Bay (Jan. 2) and at Buffalo (Jan. 9). And one week prior to Tom Brady coming to MetLife Stadium and attempting to lift the Buccaneers to a road win over the Jets for the first time (0-7), Urban Meyer and Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and the Jaguars will meet up with Saleh and Wilson. So it's Brady, former Jets DC Todd Bowles and the defending Super Bowl Champions in Week 16 and the Jets end the regular season with a Jan. 9 date in Western New York against a Bills outfit that went 13-3 last season and was a perfect 6-0 inside the AFC East.
Thirteen 1:00 P.M Games
If the schedule holds, the Jets will have one prime-time affair and that will come on Thursday, Nov. 4 against the Colts in Indianapolis. The Broncos game will be in the Mountain Time Zone, so that Week 3 tilt will kick off at 4:05 ET. And get your coffee ready early for Jets-Falcons in Week 5 as American Football will have liftoff shortly after 9:30 a.m. ET.