The Jets and Panthers can be considered rebuilding teams. However, this could represent the start of a new era for both teams. After being one of the worst teams in the league over the past few years, the Jets look to start fresh with new coach Robert Saleh and new QB Zach Wilson. On the other side, the Panthers hope to have their QB of the future who’s familiar with their week 1 opponent, Sam Darnold. After a rocky start to his career, Darnold looks to right the ship with his new ballclub.
Zach Wilson vs. Sam Darnold
The Jets and Panthers have had similar problems the past few years-the quarterback spot. The Panthers have struggled to find a franchise QB with Cam Newton’s health declining and eventual departure. The Jets can’t find a way to fix the QB spot, especially over the last decade. This year, both are trying to find one again.
It’s fitting to have your first game with a new team be against your own team. This is the reality for Sam Darnold. After being drafted 3rd overall in 2018, Darnold’s Jets career had more up and downs than a Ferris wheel. For example, having a 330+ yard, 2 TD performance in an upset win against Dallas in 2019. And then the very next week, having a 4 interception showing against New England, including this infamous moment. 2020 was his worst year yet, as he registered a 40 QBR and 9 TDs to 11 INTs. The Jets would go 2-14 and Darnold gets traded to Carolina while head coach Adam Gase is fired. Darnold now joins Carolina, a team with plenty more offensive talent than he could dream of in New York, and the Panthers clearly believes in him. He could very well rewrite his career in Charlotte.
As the Jets look to rebuild their foundation, a part of it was drafting of a new QB, Zach Wilson. The BYU product is the 2nd overall pick in this year’s draft. Wilson is known for being a gunslinger who likes to improvise. It will be his NFL debut, and he is already named a team captain going into the game. A testament to the rookie’s work ethic on and off the field. On the field, Wilson has had flashes of great play in the preseason, namely against Green Bay. Wilson will be without one of his targets, Jamison Crowder, due to COVID. However, he will still have Corey Davis, Elijah Moore, and Keelan Cole at his disposal.
Panthers WRs vs. Jets Secondary
There could not be more of a different matchup than the Jets and Panthers secondary / WR groups.
Firstly, the Jets secondary may be the most vulnerable group on this defense, which has a few holes in it already. At corner, the starters are 2021 6th rounder Brandon Echols and 2020 5th rounder Bryce Hall. And Javelin Guidry will be manning the nickel spot. Marcus Maye is one of the better safeties in the league and he will be joined by LaMarcus Joyner. While the safety duo is not the worst, the corner are in a terrible spot, with a lot of younger players in the back end. New York had already finished 28th in pass defense last season. And there couldn’t be a worst matchup for them to start the season.
On the other hand, the Panthers boast one of the better receiver groups in the league. DJ Moore is coming off his second straight 1,000 yard season in 2020. Moore became used as a vertical threat more in OC Joe Brady’s offense, leading to a career-high 18 yards per catch. Opposite of Moore is Robby Anderson, another speedy receiver coming off a career year in catches and yards with a 95/1,096/3 statline. Anderson, like Darnold, is a former New York Jet who will reunite with his former QB in Charlotte. And while Curtis Samuel left for Washington, rookie Terrace Marshall could replace Samuel’s production early, both on the outside and slot.
After a rare 1,000 / 1,000 yard rushing and receiving year from All-Pro RB Christian McCaffery in 2019, the running back missed most of last year. McCaffery suffered from multiple injuries in 2020, from an ankle injury early in the season to a shoulder strain that would shut his season down. The Panthers missed his production, as the rushing attack fell from 14th in 2019 to 21st in 2020. McCaffery is now back to start week 1 with no restrictions, according to head coach Matt Rhule.
When McCaffery was healthy in 2019, he became the 3rd player in history to have 1,000 yards in borh rushing and receiving. The only two backs to accomplish this were Roger Craig in 1983 and Marshall Faulk in 1999. He earned first team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors for that season. With him healthy, he becomes the focal point in an offense that could be very explosive.
Jets vs. Panthers Prediction
This game may be getting overlooked, but this game has the potential for some fireworks. With two young QBs, some new weapons for the Jets, and the Panthers’ offensive firepower. The defenses are more of a work-in-progress, with a lot of younger players starting for both teams. I’m going with the Panthers for a week 1 win by a score of 27-21.
The game will start on Sunday at 1:00 at Bank of America Stadium. The game will be shown on CBS. Andrew Catalon and Tiki Barber are on the call.
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