Throughout the offseason, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg and Randy Lange will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: What is your favorite game on the Jets' 2021 schedule?
EA: For all the intrigue and all the hype that will surround Jets-Panthers in Week 1, my top game of the Jets' schedule is the game against the Patriots in Week 2. The pandemic has exacted a great toll on all and in many ways 2020 was a year that was both tragic and eerie. Football is not meant to be played in empty stadiums. This is a communal game where fans are participatory actors and the Jets fan base is full of characters. After a trying season, there are good vibes surrounding the Jets with the team of Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh leading the way. Saleh already gets the Green & White faithful, stating on NFL Network's "Schedule Release" show: "They're passionate, they're invested in the team, they're absolutely starving for something good to happen and our open is that we deliver on that hunger." While Jets Nation will have to wait for a reunion with Tom Brady at MetLife (the Buccaneers will visit in Week 17, and the Bucs never beaten the Jets on the road by the way), they won't have to wait too much longer for the hated Patriots. They'll be hungry in Week 2 and the scene promises to be a raucous one. As for my second choice, it's London and the Week 5 matchup with the Falcons at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Our trip in 2015 was a unique experience and one thing that has always struck with me — Jets fans are loud and proud and they know no border.
EG: It's hard not to point tothe Week 1 at Carolina because of the storylines there or Week 5 against the Falcons in London, but I'm going with the home opener against the Patriots in Week 2. Aside from the 2020 season, the Patriots have dominated the AFC East for two decades and after finishing 7-9 in 2020, they spent a lot of money in free agency, drafted Alabama QB Mac Jones No. 15 overall and the external expectations have been heightened. I think there's something poetic starting the Robert Saleh era at MetLife against New England. Also, if Zach Wilson is named the starter before Week 1, his first home start would be against the Pats. With a rookie QB in 2009, the Jets started on the road and then beat the Patriots in their home opener in Week 2. That means nothing for this team, but I like the symmetry. Both the Jets and Patriots have improved teams entering 2020, but this will give the Green & White a chance to strike early in the division and potentially beat the Pats for the first time since 2015.
RL: Popular games are of course the potential "QB battles" for Zach Wilson — at Sam Darnold and Carolina in Game 1, vs. Trevor Lawrence and Jacksonville in Game 15. But my favorite stop on the sked is Game 8, at Indianapolis on Nov. 4. It's the only prime-time game for the Jets at this early date and so is a good chance nationally to show off the progress the Robert Saleh program has made through the first half of the season. It'll be an opportunity to catch the good vibes of the Jets' Lucas Oil wins in the 2010 playoffs and 2015 Game 2 win on "MNF," and to atone for the 36-7 road egg laid there in Game 3 last season. Quinnen Williams, Carl Lawson and the reworked pass rush can possibly get after the Colts' Carson Wentz, who, with the Eagles last season was the most-sacked QB in the NFL. And this game could be a great harbinger of things to come, since it's the last one before the Jets start their run of six home games in an eight-game span — the kind of homestand they last enjoyed in 1976 — beginning with the Bills and Dolphins in Games 9-10.