The Broncos face the New York Jets in their home opener, where the Denver Broncos open up with favored at -10.5, by far the largest of Week 3. After back-to-back great games against the Giants and Jaguars, the Broncos have built up some momentum and might pay off into a playoff bid. The Jets come off a game against the New England Patriots that can largely be described as “forgettable” (unless you’re the 12 year old on TikTok who will live on forever in memes).
The Broncos have a chance to go 3-0 for the first time since 2016. However, they can’t overlook the Jets, despite the rather large spread total.
There are some concerns about how the Jets’ defense will attack Denver’s offense (hint: the Jets’ DL has outplayed what Denver’s OL has put out so far) but this piece will specifically deal with handling the Jets offense.
In the run game
The Jets’ run game is pretty similar to the Shanahan offense. You’re going to see outside zone runs with plenty of motion sprinkled in throughout. Going into Week 3, the Jets have used some sort of motion on 59.4% of plays, ranking only behind San Francisco and Kansas City and sneaking in just ahead of Cleveland.
Against New England, the Jets rushed for 137 yards on 28 carries. Tevin Coleman got the start, but rookie Michael Carter ended up with the same total number of snaps and looked like the better back. That trend will probably continue to hold up against Denver, and I’d expect Carter to be the lead back sooner rather than later.
The Jets did a fantastic job of attacking the perimeter of the New England defense. With Kyle van Noy out, New England was relying on linebackers who weren’t as good in run defense and the Jets exploited that with various wide zones and some well-designed sweeps. The Jets’ offensive line played better than it did in Week 1 and Alijah Vera-Tucker put together a potentially momentum-building performance against a tough Patriots defensive front.
With Bradley Chubb and Josey Jewell out, the Broncos are going to be thin up front for a challenging rushing offense. Malik Reed is going to have to step up in run defense-an area he’s never really excelled at. Shelby Harris, Mike Purcell, and Dre’Mont Jones will have to do a good job cutting vertically upfield and disrupting the rush lanes.
In the Passing Game
The scary part of New England’s game plan was that they weren’t disguising much. I didn’t see a ton of variety in their coverage looks. Wilson threw 4 INTs, granted one of them went right through his receiver’s hands, with New England playing pretty simple across the board. Each of his interceptions got progressively worse, and New England wasn’t throwing anything exotic at him.
The problem with a lot of the "Belichick always messes with rookies" narratives is that this looks like man coverage with a single safety deep and not really at all disguised. pic.twitter.com/Y2v518FJdM— AJ Schulte (@AJDraftScout) September 24, 2021
Three of his four interceptions came when he was kept clean, per Pro Football Focus. That’s...not exactly stellar. Jets’ Head Coach Robert Saleh summarized it as “Yeah, he was a bit off.”
“A bit”, indeed.
The Jets are probably going to try and ease Wilson into this game. Shorter throws with some screens and trying to get the run game going to open up their play-action passing game. They don’t use RPOs heavily enough that I would consider it a staple of their offense. He’ll likely be asked to play more “boring” and conservative this week.
Denver has played a lot of Cover 1 and “Cover 6” over the season, and NE lived in Cover 1 and Cover 3 against the Jets in Week 2. I’d expect a heavy dose of zone as the team tries to force Wilson into making those checkdowns and shorter throws and bait him into making mistakes.
If the Denver defense can stay disciplined and focused in, I’d expect them to make Zach Wilson’s day as difficult as last Sunday. Control the line of scrimmage and disrupt rushing lines to force Wilson into tough passing situations. If they can do that enough, I’d expect Denver to pull out the win in their home opener.