When the schedule initially came out, this game was circled by most.
Then Sean Payton shared truthful comments on the disaster that was Nathaniel Hackett for the Denver Broncos and this was one of the most attractive games of the year.
Then four plays into the New York Jets season and Aaron Rodgers tears his Achilles.
Now as we head into Week 5, it doesn’t have the same appeal.
DraftKings Sportsbook has the Broncos as a slight -2.5-point favorite over New York. There was a point mid-week when that number was 1.5, so it’s bounced back. The line isn’t a surprise since Denver is at home. The total sits at 43.5.
To preview Sunday’s game, we go behind enemy lines to get a feel for the Jets heading Sunday’s game with MacGregor Wells from Gang Green Nation.
MHR: How much of a blow was the Aaron Rodgers injury to the fans’ and the team’s psyche? And how are Jets fans feeling about the season after the first four weeks?
MacGregor: I can only tell you what the effect was on some of the people at Gang Green Nation. I would say for the most part it was devastating. The entire Jets offseason was built around bringing in Aaron Rodgers to finally end the team’s last 15 years of absolute dreck at the quarterback position. The Jets brought in several former teammates and his old offensive coordinator to help lure Rodgers in. They built the offense around his unique capabilities. The thought was, with an excellent defense and a future Hall of Fame quarterback, along with a couple of top-tier young playmakers on offense in Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall, the Jets had the ingredients, if everything went as planned, to potentially contend for a championship.
Four offensive plays into the season that plan went up in smoke as Rodgers was out for the year, and possibly forever. The Jets went from having a future Hall of Fame quarterback to having arguably the worst starting quarterback in the NFL in Zach Wilson. Unless Wilson made some pretty huge strides, the Jets wouldn’t be contending for a championship this season. That’s obviously a huge letdown and a huge change in expectations in a blink of an eye. I don’t believe in curses, but man sometimes it does feel that way being a Jets fan.
As far as how Jets fans are feeling about the first four weeks, I guess you could say we were feeling terrible until Zach Wilson and the Jets put together a surprisingly strong effort against the Kansas City Chiefs last week. Now there’s a glimmer of hope, but just a glimmer. We’ve seen this movie before, and it rarely ends well.
MHR: How has the Nathaniel Hackett experience been in New York? Do fans feel like Week 4 against the Chiefs was a turning point for Zach Wilson?
MacGregor: Nathaniel Hackett has been taking some heat for overly conservative, unimaginative game plans. It was obvious he had no trust in Zach Wilson and was just trying to avoid having Wilson make disastrous errors. It wasn’t working. The Jets offense was completely stagnant. Then in week 4 against the Chiefs, Hackett apparently realized you can’t hope to win just with your defense against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. He opened up the offense, had Wilson throwing more on first down and more down the field, and it worked much better.
It was by no means an offensive masterpiece. The Jets still scored just 18 points on offense (two points were scored by the defense on a safety). But the offense and Zach Wilson looked competent for the first time this season. It’s a start, but there’s a long way to go. When Wilson and the offense start stringing together multiple weeks of good offensive performances then we can start to hope for better things. For now we’re in wait and see mode. Prove you can do this on a consistent basis, then we can start being optimistic for the future of the Jets.
MHR: How good is the Jets defense? How does NY match up against the Broncos offensively and defensively?
MacGregor: How good is the Jets defense? I’m not really sure. At times, like the second half of the game against the Buffalo Bills and the final three quarters of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Jets defense looks as good as any defense in the NFL. At other times, like the first quarter against the Chiefs and the entire game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Jets defense looks like an overrated mess. So I would say how good this Jets defense is has yet to be determined. It has the potential for great things, but so far that potential has not been fully realized.
As far as how the Jets match up with the Broncos on offense and on defense, let’s start with the Jets offense. It hasn’t been very good. If Zach Wilson plays like he did against the Chiefs then the Jets offense can do some things, but even if that happens the Jets lack offensive playmakers, and the offensive line is suspect. If the Broncos can limit the damage that Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson do, there really isn’t much else on the Jets offense that presents much of a threat. If Wilson reverts to his previous level of ineptitude, then the Jets offense is truly putrid and doesn’t present much of a threat to any defense.
On defense the Jets probably match up pretty well against the Broncos. The strength of the Jets defense is in the cornerbacks and pass rush. The best way to attack the Jets defense is by running much of the passing game through running backs and tight ends, thus taking the Jets cornerbacks out of the game. But the Broncos appear to run their passing attack largely through the wide receivers. That runs into the teeth of the Jets’ biggest strength on defense. The Jets have one of the best trio of cornerbacks in the NFL, and they don’t give up a lot to opposing wide receivers. If the Jets pass rush is able to get home against Russell Wilson it could be a long day for the Broncos offense. However, one developing problem for the Jets is starting cornerback D.J. Reed is in the concussion protocol and may not play on Sunday. If Reed is out the Broncos offense should get a big boost, as his replacement, Bryce Hall, isn’t very good. Look for Russell Wilson and the Broncos offense to repeatedly and successfully exploit Hall if Reed is unable to play.
MHR: What is your best bet for Sunday’s game at DraftKings Sportsbook? And what do you make of the Broncos being the favorites?
MacGregor: My best bet is I would take the under on Russell Wilson and 1.5 passing touchdowns. This is contingent on D.J. Reed being healthy enough to play. A healthy Jets secondary is really tough to score on through the air. Only one quarterback, Dak Prescott, has been able to throw more than one touchdown pass against the Jets this season. If the Jets secondary is healthy I don’t expect Wilson to do so.
As for the Broncos being favorites, I don’t quite understand it. The Jets have faced three legitimate Super Bowl contenders. They beat the Bills, barely lost to the Chiefs and got blown out by the Cowboys. They also lost to a mediocre Patriots team. Despite having the toughest schedule in the NFL to start the season the Jets have been in position to win every game except the Cowboys.
The Broncos have an identical 1-3 record, but they have looked worse getting there. The Broncos have faced just one legitimate contender in the Miami Dolphins, and they suffered an historic blowout in that game. The Broncos other three games came against a bad Las Vegas Raiders team, which beat them, a mediocre Washington Commanders team, which beat them, and one of the worst teams in the NFL, the Chicago Bears, which almost beat them. To me the Broncos have looked like contenders for worst team in the NFL so far this year. I don’t think they should be favored in this game, but I guess home field is the advantage here.
Neither of these teams have covered themselves in glory so far in 2023, and maybe I’m just being a homer here, but to me the Jets have been the better of two bad teams here.
MHR: What are your expectations and predictions for Sunday’s game?
MacGregor: If D.J. Reed plays I expect the Jets to largely shut down the Broncos passing offense and that should make this a low scoring game, and one in which the Jets’ better defense should give the Jets the advantage.
If D.J. Reed doesn’t play I expect the Broncos to take advantage of his absence and have some success going after Bryce Hall. Then the Jets’ chances will hinge on Zach Wilson building on last week’s good performance. Is Zach Wilson capable of that against a Broncos defense that has had major problems? I have no idea. For this week, I have some hope.
I’ll take the Jets to win this game outright against the Broncos, but I don’t have a high degree of confidence. Zach Wilson is fully capable of an awful performance at any time and that could ruin any Jets hopes of a victory here.