You know what they say, it's never too early to start picking regular-season NFL games. At least that's what I think they say. The NY Jets enter 2021 with pressure on their shoulders thanks to a busy offseason. But how will they begin their 2021 campaign?
Let's take a look at Weeks 1 and 2 and try to make educated guesses as to where the Jets are going to be come Week 3.
NY Jets @ Carolina Panthers - Week 1
Week 1 could not be a worse matchup for the Jets. They spent the entire offseason building a case to draft Zach Wilson and drop Sam Darnold and the first team they wind up against in 2021 will be the Carolina Panthers who will most likely be quarterbacked by Darnold himself.
Here's the rub on the Panthers for this upcoming season, it's still a team in a transition. Lots of young defensive guys mixed with a rebooted offense and everything is led by second-year coach Matt Rhule.
Of all the matchups the Jets could have drawn of the teams they have to play this year, the Panthers in Carolina is not the absolute cancel-your-season-tickets worst one they could land on.
Carolina is not particularly a great home team historically, at least the past half-decade or so. They were never that great at home when Cam Newton was in town (even in his MVP year) and last year was no different as they finished 2-6 at home.
I find it hard to believe their home field will become a bastion of road team despair overnight.
On paper, and if it was just Jets vs. Panthers in Carolina, Week 1 could very well go to the Jets, a notoriously good Week 1 team despite being 1-4 in their last five opening weeks.
Where this matchup goes awry for the Jets is the fact that they'll be matching up with the very guy they dumped in favor of the new blood. Sam Darnold, the scorned former Jet, going up against Zach Wilson, who the Jets chose over him.
This is a full-on revenge game for Sam Darnold. Now he has a further-along system, coaching staff, and receiving corps to back him up, not to mention a reunification with another former Jet in Robby Anderson.
I'm very interested to see Robert Saleh's defense in its first game under his control. He and the Jets' defense could cause a lot of issues for Darnold.
But looking at the bigger picture, taking into account the revenge factor as well as each team's future schedule, Week 1's matchup should almost positively go to the Panthers and Sam Darnold.
NY Jets vs. New England Patriots - Week 2
Week 2 is going to depend on what kind of Patriots team we're going to get this year. The easy answer for Week 2's matchup in East Rutherford between the Pats and Jets is to take one quick look at Bill Belichick going against a rookie quarterback and give him the game no questions asked.
But then again, I think it'll be interesting to see how the Pats play Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins. I don't mind the Patriots' schedule and think they might actually have a shot this year because of it, but at the same time, do they have the pieces back in place?
Is Cam Newton going to show us something extra this year? Is Mac Jones going to emerge as the heir apparent franchise quarterback of the Patriots dynasty?
I'm leaning New England in Week 2 as well over the Jets for obvious reasons, but keep an eye on this game anyway.
It might actually not be the worst time to catch Belichick and the Pats if you're a rookie quarterback, especially if you're a rookie quarterback like Zach Wilson with a wizard of a defensive-minded head coach who can devise really tough schemes for a Cam Newton or a Mac Jones.
I'm not very high on the Jets this upcoming season. Miami and Buffalo still seem to be the top of the division and New England has a pretty favorable opening schedule to help put them ahead of the curve off the top.
I've got some wins for the Jets I'm eyeing down as we speak, but you'll have to wait for my next articles to find out which games those are.
For now, my initial feelings are that the Jets start off 0-2 with losses to Sam Darnold and Bill Belichick. More to come in the months ahead, though.