The NY Jets are set to take on the Denver Broncos in what, for all intents and purposes, is a must-win Week 5 game. Here are three of the most important matchups to watch this week.
Nathaniel Hackett vs. Sean Payton
While the coaches themselves have downplayed any lasting feelings about Sean Payton’s comments this summer, Jets players haven’t been shy about the extra motivation.
Center Connor McGovern said, “[Payton] tried to drag [Hackett] under the bus,” and fellow offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker said the team plans to “rally behind” their offensive coordinator.
Despite struggling through much of the first four weeks, both offenses found some success in their last game. Nearly all of the Broncos’ scoring came late last week against the Bears, but they were able to come back and win after being down 21 points in the second half.
And even in a loss, Zach Wilson might have had the best game of his career last week against Kansas City, consistently hitting back-shoulder throws in tight windows.
Will Hackett unveil a new wrinkle to stick it to his old team and trash-talking successor? Or will Payton back up his comments and keep the momentum his offense found last week?
Garrett Wilson vs. Patrick Surtain II
Even with Zach Wilson’s success last week against a solid Kansas City defense, the Jets have yet to score 20 offensive points in a game this season.
Denver’s defensive stats are skewed from giving up a near-record 70 points, but they have still struggled at points in all their other games, giving up 35 to the Commanders and making Justin Fields look like an All-Pro.
The Jets’ best shot at scoring points in a hurry is getting Wilson involved early and often (sorry, Breece Hall). Explosive plays in the passing game are so much easier to come by, especially when you have one of the most explosive players in the league.
Patrick Surtain II was a first-team All-Pro last season. His job becomes a lot harder, though, if the other 10 players on his defense are not holding up their end of the bargain. If Denver cannot get pressure on Zach Wilson, Surtain has to cover Garrett Wilson that much longer, an almost impossible ask.
Quinnen Williams vs Lloyd Cushenberry
Quinnen Williams is a mismatch versus nearly any interior lineman, let alone one that might be compromised or his backup.
Lloyd Cushenberry is questionable to play this week with a quad injury, and he has been having some success this season. Pro Football Focus has his run and pass block grade at a 61.8 and 67.9, respectively, for the season, but he hasn’t had to go against a monster quite like the one coming this Sunday.
Williams can wreck games. Just a couple of plays can swing the outcome of a game, especially when going against a team that has had every game (besides the 70-point massacre) decided by less than three points.
He is capable of those game-changing plays against any offensive lineman, let alone a backup. Williams' success, or lack thereof, might end up being the deciding factor.