Elijah Moore, Courtland Sutton
Elijah Moore, Courtland Sutton, Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Zach Wilson looks for redemption near his hometown in Week 3 against the Denver Broncos.

DENVER, CO—Well, it won’t be easy. If Zach Wilson, Robert Saleh and the rest of the first-year New York Jets have designs on collecting that elusive first victory with their new NFL organization this weekend, they’ll have to get it done against a tough Denver Broncos team.

Vic Fangio’s group comes into their home-opener at Mile High Stadium 2-0. Exactly how good this squad is, remains a mystery, however.

The two victories came against the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars—hardly the 1985 Chicago Bears. The league knows how talented a roster the Broncos currently feature, especially defensively. But unless you think the Jints or Jags posed a serious threat in either of the first two weeks, the jury is still officially out on the 2021 Denver Broncos.

For the Jets, Wilson returns west to a city that represented the closest NFL franchise to his hometown of Draper, UT (prior to the Raiders moving to Las Vegas). Friends and family will be in attendance as he looks to shake off his horrid four-interception game against Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots last Sunday.

Jets vs. Broncos game info

  • New York Jets (0-2)
  • Denver Broncos (2-0)
  • NFL, Week 3, Sunday, Sept. 26, 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS
  • Empower Field at Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO
New York Jets, Denver Broncos, 2021, Week 3, Preview
New York Jets, Denver Broncos, 2021, Week 3 Preview, Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

Other than harsh memories producing incredible winds via Jason Elam’s kickoff and a Victor Green mishap on a Rod Smith vertical route, the current Jets-Broncos matchup isn’t anything of major note.

The two teams played a year ago—as it was time for the AFC East and AFC West to clash. Then-Jets quarterback Sam Darnold surprised everybody in the building (including himself) when he ran for a long touchdown on the ground.

In the end, however, Fangio’s team got the better of Adam Gase’s winless (at the time) Jets at MetLife Stadium with no fans in the building.

The Jets will wear their white tops and green pants, which means Denver has opted to wear its colors for the team’s first home game of the season.

Jets vs. Broncos history

The Jets-Broncos’ all-time series matchup has been rather competitive. Although Denver currently holds a five-game lead (21-16-1), it’s the 1998 AFC championship game that sticks in the craw of the Jets organization and its fans.

Moreover, Denver has dominated the series’ recent history, winning four of the last five and six of the last eight matchups.

The Broncos took the last game, a 37-28 victory last year in New Jersey, in a game that was there for the Jets’ taking. The two head coaches even got into it a bit following the final gun.

Jets vs. Broncos Odds (FanDuel Sportsbook)

  • Spread: Jets +10.5 (-115), Broncos -10.5 (-105)
  • Moneyline: Jets +440, Broncos -590
  • Over/Under: 41.5 (O: -110, U: -110)

There’s no way around it: The Jets deserve to be big underdogs. In fact, the oddsmakers have placed them as Week 3’s biggest dog.

Until they prove otherwise, the big-underdog storyline will justly continue to march forward.

New York Jets, Denver Broncos, 2021, Week 3 Final Injury Report
New York Jets, Denver Broncos, 2021, Week 3 Final Injury Report, New York Jets Communications

Injury Report

New York Jets

  • Tevin Coleman (Illness): Out
  • Jamison Crowder (Groin): Doubtful
  • John Franklin-Myers (Calf): Questionable

Although Tevin Coleman’s presence will be missed on the field from a veteran-savvy sense, it’s nowhere near the Jets’ greatest concern at the moment. Michael Carter and Ty Johnson can do the job just fine.

The same goes for Jamison Crowder, who will miss his third-straight game to open the season. Expect Braxton Berrios to get the start in the slot for the second-straight week.

John Franklin-Myers is the big one, and it looks as though he’s ready to roll after missing Wednesday’s practice. He returned in a limited fashion Thursday prior to practicing in full Friday.

Rookie Jamien Sherwood will be in uniform after missing a game due to an ankle injury, while Zach Wilson’s groin isn’t too much of a concern (at least right now).

Denver Broncos

  • Graham Glasgow (Illness): Questionable
  • Mike Purcell (Knee): Questionable

Veteran Graham Glasgow is questionable with an illness, and his presence is a big deal along the interior of that Broncos offensive line.

Defensive lineman Mike Purcell is also questionable with a knee. Aside from those two guys, the Broncos are relatively healthy (injured reserve notwithstanding).

Jets’ keys to the game

An early offensive aggressive mindset

The area Bill Belichick hurt the Jets most last week was easy to spot: He used the Carolina Panthers’ Week 1 game plan to his advantage.

Mike LaFleur’s intent on establishing the rushing game was stopped cold by an aggressive Panthers defense. The linebackers were on their toes and one of the two safeties usually drove down post-snap (when starting two-high).

It resulted in tough spots for the rookie quarterback.

A week later, Belichick hedged his bets that LaFleur had learned his lesson. He did, but that also meant a more balanced first-down attack—something Belichick was ready for, as the six-time Super Bowl champ first took away the passing game with a lot of two-high looks in his usually sound man-to-man coverage.

What will Fangio—a notoriously lagged coverage play-caller—do early in this one?

Although he’s a Cover 4 monster who loves the bend-but-don’t-break philosophy—especially in today’s impossible-to-cover NFL—I’d bet he comes out with an aggressive first-down mindset. This means the Jets offense will have to let Wilson loose early.

How comfortable are they with that thought? Would Saleh even allow such an aggressive mentality early in the game after the kid threw four picks the week prior?

It doesn’t have to be downfield chunk attempts. Go 11 personnel and get the kid rolling early with a bunch of three-step looks, screens and easy stuff to get his confidence up and force Fangio to think about his early aggression.

If Fangio sticks to his conservative guns, then the Jets’ offensive line will have to get the job done on the ground.

Eliminate the chunk plays defensively

Denver isn’t just near the top in defensive rankings at the moment; it’s also eighth in yards per pass attempt (8.5). What Teddy Bridgewater is currently doing as opposed to Mac Jones is night and day.

Interestingly, it favors the Jets’ defense.

Like Fangio, Saleh is also a defensive mind who bends but doesn’t break. He plays a lot of quarters while teaching responsibility and eyes on the quarterback.

The Jets defense making sure no chunk plays happen will go a long way in giving the offense a chance to put points up on the board. The biggest mistake Denver can make is not mirroring what Mac Jones and Josh McDaniels did last week (dominating the three-step underneath game).

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Jets vs. Broncos Prediction

  • New York Jets 30, Denver Broncos 22

This is one of those wild ones. Sure, I don’t have the proper evidence to back up this prediction. Then again, it’s nearly impossible to prove a 10.5-point underdog will come out on top.

I’m going to roll with Wilson having another encouraging road game (away from the MetLife pressure), the Broncos’ owning a slightly misguided level of confidence thanks to their porous competition in Week 1 and 2, and the matchup making sense from a strategic standpoint.

Wilson won’t be perfect, but the worst thing he can do is give into timidity. The worst thing the Jets coaching staff can do is to force him to choke on the ball.

Give the kid freedom to make plays early while using the pass to set up the run, and couple that with Saleh’s soft coverages making sense against a Broncos offense that wants chunk plays.

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Robby Sabo is a co-founder, CEO and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor - Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. SEO: XL Media. Founder/Consultant: Elite Sports NY - ESNY. Email: robby.sabo@jetsxfactor.com

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