Jets fans got a sobering look at what life without Aaron Rodgers might look like last Sunday as the team lost by 20 in Dallas.
Zach Wilson was under constant pressure and, although the team competed well in the first half, his three fourth-quarter interceptions turned the game into a comfortable Dallas win.
Attention now turns to the New England Patriots, who haven’t lost to the Jets since 2015. However, they also haven’t started off the season with three straight losses since Bill Belichick’s first season as head coach. Could these streaks be snapped on Sunday?
Here are some of the biggest stories to watch as the Jets look to improve to 2-1…
What will Bill Belichick have in store for Wilson?
Over the course of Belichick’s dominance over the Jets he has feasted on New York’s wide array of inexperienced quarterbacks and routinely outcoached their staff. He always seems to have something special for the Jets, often in terms of blitz packages or disguised coverages designed to force mistakes from whoever is under center for them.
Last year’s first meeting between the teams saw the Jets rack up plenty of yardage, but they blew a lead due to turnovers. By contrast, the rematch was a low-scoring affair with both teams being conservative and trying to avoid mistakes. The Patriots won that one, 10-3, on a late punt return. Belichick would probably prefer the latter because Mac Jones is 0-13 in games where the opposition scores 24 points or more.
Will the home crowd give the Jets a boost?
Despite the Rodgers injury, a raucous MetLife Stadium crowd stayed behind their team throughout their opening day win over the Bills. However, in Dallas, center Connor McGovern admitted that the team’s silent cadence was ineffective at slowing down the Cowboys’ pass rush, so being on the road obviously had a negative effect.
Jets fans have a bit of a reputation for getting to their seats late, and optimism took a turn for the worse with the Dallas loss. However, the fanbase is desperate to see the Jets get a win over their hated AFC East rivals. Don’t be surprised if they get frustrated early if the team comes out flat, though. This could end up being a disadvantage if the offense gets booed and the pressure intensifies.
Can the Jets find a way to get Breece Hall, Jeremy Ruckert and Mecole Hardman involved on offense?
The Jets went to great lengths to ensure they had good depth on offense this year, but that may have backfired now that Rodgers is out for the season. The hope was that Rodgers would spread the ball around and get everyone involved, whereas Wilson has struggled to get the ball to anyone at some points in his career. He also seems to lack chemistry with some of his teammates.
Giving Hall more touches than the four he received in Dallas is a no-brainer, but even if they do feed him more carries that could ultimately lead to Wilson having to convert third downs to avoid drives ending prematurely.
Robert Saleh has said he wants to get Ruckert on the field more, but with Tyler Conklin and CJ Uzomah that might be difficult. As for Hardman, he played 14 snaps in Dallas and caught one pass, but if there are to be more multiple tight end sets, then he could again find himself with fewer opportunities to contribute.
Will the Jets be able to take advantage of a Patriots offensive line in flux?
New England is struggling to get any kind of continuity on its offensive line, which was a major factor in them losing their first two games of the season. This isn’t ideal preparation for a Jets defense that boasts a deep and talented defensive line as one of its main strengths.
While center David Andrews and right tackle Calvin Anderson started both games, the other three positions saw different players starting in each game. Anderson, who missed most of the preseason, isn’t even the first-choice right tackle, but Riley Reiff is on injured reserve. Starting guards Mike Onwenu and Cole Strange could return after missing last week’s game, but they’ve been limited in practice and even if they do return it will be a group that hasn’t really had a chance to work together.
Which team’s tight end will have the biggest impact?
With two struggling quarterbacks facing off, it could come down to who uses their top tight end as a safety valve more effectively. Hunter Henry is off to a strong start for the Pats, as he has 11 catches already, including two touchdowns. For the Jets, Tyler Conklin is coming off a game where he led the team with five catches for 50 yards.
Last season, Henry didn’t have much of an impact against Gang Green, with just two catches in the two games. Conklin had a big game in the first meeting with six catches, 73 yards and two scores, but was held to just 15 yards on two catches in the rematch.