1. The NY Jets must survive the early storm
Traditionally, some of the NFL's biggest blowout games have come for teams in Week 1 on the road.
The Jets, throughout their history, have been on the receiving end of a few lopsided opening-week defeats on the road. Things can get ugly really fast for teams in a super-charged environment — especially young teams that haven't dealt with that type of adversity before
There's no doubt that Carolina is going to be amped up for this game. Sometimes that works against you. But in this case, the Jets are facing a team that has a personal vendetta against them.
Whether they admit publicly or not, this game means a lot to former Jets Sam Darnold, Robby Anderson, and almost New York head coach Matt Rhule.
Things are going to be moving fast for Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. No matter how cool and calm a player acts, nothing can prepare a QB for the speed of an NFL game in this type of environment.
A year ago, rookie NFL quarterbacks like Justin Herbert didn't have to deal with crowd noise on the road. They operated in mostly a noise-free bubble. It was easier for them than in years past.
Zach Wilson has played in high-octane environments at enemy territory in college, but nothing like what the NFL can provide when a crowd is fully engaged and amped up.
Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who is calling his first NFL game, will need to settle down his quarterback early and attempt to get him into a rhythm.
Robert Saleh has openly talked about the expectation that his team will have to deal with adversity. And the newly-minted Jets' head coach expects growing pains for not only his team but for himself as well. New York's first big test with adversity could come early on Sunday in Charlotte.
The oddsmakers have the Jets as four-point underdogs on the road to Carolina. The game can get away from the Jets early on if they don't handle the nerves and jitters that affect young teams.
You can game plan and talk a good game all you want, but it all goes for naught if you get knocked out early. Once the tide turns against you, it's exceedingly challenging to recover.
How the Jets offense, defense, and special teams play to start this game will determine if they have a chance to pull off the road upset. A good start will erase anxiety and the seeds of doubt and uncertainty — and it will help build hope as the game pushes forward.
The Jets in 2021 are filled with hope and promise for better days in the future. On Sunday, they square off against the people who hoped for a better future with them, but who now stand as enemies in their present.
All of the Jets' timelines, past, present, and future will collide in Week 1.