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Biggest matchup of every game on NY Jets’ schedule

Sauce Gardner, Justin Jefferson, NY Jets, Vikings, Schedule
Sauce Gardner, Justin Jefferson, New York Jets, Getty Images

Which one-on-one matchups will determine the New York Jets’ season?

On the latest episode of the Cool Your Jets podcast, Ben Blessington and I went through the New York Jets’ 2024 schedule and identified what we perceived as the biggest matchup in each game.

Here are our conclusions. Do you agree, or are there different matchups that stand out to you?

Week 1 @ San Francisco

  • Jets LT Tyron Smith vs. Niners EDGE Nick Bosa

The Jets have an elite tackle for the first time in many years, and he gets to make his Jets debut against a guy who has racked up 44.5 sacks, 115 quarterback hits, eight forced fumbles, and one Defensive Player of the Year award over the past three seasons.

Week 2 @ Tennessee

  • Jets C Joe Tippmann vs. Titans DT Jeffery Simmons

New York has high hopes for Joe Tippmann going into year two. In Nashville, Tippmann will go face-to-face with the lone All-Pro player on Tennessee’s defense, Jeffery Simmons. The Jets are a more talented team than Tennessee, but if the Titans can generate a pass rush in front of their home crowd, it could be the great equalizer. It’s on Tippmann (and the guards) to quiet Tennessee’s best pass rusher and ensure the Jets can enjoy a smooth-sailing afternoon.

Week 3 vs. New England

  • Jets DT Javon Kinlaw vs. Patriots’ inside run game

New England’s inside run game has been a major problem for the Jets in recent years. The Patriots still have a solid center in David Andrews and a bruising running back in Rhamondre Stevenson. Quinnen Williams can be trusted to hold his own in this matchup, but fellow starter Javon Kinlaw is a mismatch in New England’s favor. Kinlaw has struggled against the run in his career, and his aggressive, gap-shooting style is a poor complement to New England’s gap-blocking scheme. Kinlaw must step up to prevent New England from controlling the clock and keeping the ball out of Aaron Rodgers’ hands.

Week 4 vs. Denver

  • Jets WR Garrett Wilson vs. Broncos CB Patrick Surtain II

Patrick Surtain II is arguably the best cornerback Garrett Wilson will see this year. Surtain held his own against Wilson in last year’s Week 5 matchup; when covered by Surtain, Wilson caught 2-of-6 targets for 22 yards, including an interception by Surtain in a 50-50 situation. Poor quarterbacking certainly didn’t help Wilson, but Surtain still won the battle. Wilson will be looking to even the score.

Week 5 @ Minnesota

  • Jets CB D.J. Reed vs. Vikings WR Justin Jefferson

Sauce-vs.-Jefferson will grab the headlines going into this game, but I’m more focused on the other side of the field. The Jets’ cornerbacks don’t travel (although Gardner claims Jeff Ulbrich will let him do it more often this year; we shall see). So, Jefferson will see plenty of both Jets cornerbacks. Gardner has proven he can be trusted to hold his own against any star cornerback, but Reed has occasionally struggled against high-end competition, most notably in two games against Miami last year. Can he step up in his reps against Jefferson? Or can the Vikings give the Jets trouble by keeping Jefferson away from Sauce?

Week 6 vs. Buffalo

  • Jets LBs C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams vs. Bills QB Josh Allen

The Jets had Josh Allen’s number in the first three games of the Sauce Gardner era. Allen finally figured the Jets out in their Week 11 battle last year, earning a 108.2 passer rating in a 32-6 win. The key? Playing it safe. Allen was much more conservative than in previous Jets games, relying on his playmakers to make plays instead of carelessly chucking bombs all day. A whopping 71% of Allen’s passing yards in Week 11 came via YAC. Most notably, Allen completed six passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns when targeting his running backs, with 74 of those yards coming via YAC. That’s where Mosley and Williams come in. If they can shut down the underneath passing game, they can force Allen into taking reckless shots against the Jets’ secondary.

Week 7 @ Pittsburgh

  • Jets RT Morgan Moses vs. Steelers EDGE T.J. Watt

The NFL’s sack champion in each of the past three seasons where he stayed healthy, T.J. Watt is a player who can single-handedly will an otherwise underwhelming Steelers team to victories. The Jets have to keep him (relatively) quiet if they want to grab this prime-time road win. Accomplishing that goal falls on the shoulders of right tackle Morgan Moses, as Watt plays nearly all of his snaps across from the right tackle.

Week 8 @ New England

  • Jets S Tony Adams vs. Patriots QB Drake Maye

While Jacoby Brissett may start the year for New England, rookie Drake Maye may take the reins by this point. Playing with confidence in front of his home crowd, I anticipate Maye to take some aggressive shots, teeing up some interception opportunities for Jets center-fielder Tony Adams. Even aside from the interceptions, Adams can make a huge impact by winning the cat-and-mouse game against the young Maye to bait him into some poor plays.

Week 9 vs. Houston

  • Jets QB Aaron Rodgers vs. Texans QB C.J. Stroud

C.J. Stroud might be the best quarterback on the Jets’ schedule. Not only that, but he’s armed with one of the three best skill-position groups on the Jets’ schedule (only Miami and San Francisco can contend). In a prime-time Halloween spotlight at MetLife Stadium, this is a game where Rodgers may need to outgun Stroud in an explosive shootout, exchanging body blows as they trade “wow” throws under the MetLife lights.

This game is why you bring Aaron Rodgers to your team: To keep pace with the other “alien” quarterbacks in the NFL. Rodgers will obviously be important in every game, but this is one game where I can envision the quarterback battle being the primary post-game storyline. This feels like it will be a passing-of-the-torch spectacle, a la the Mahomes-versus-Brady clashes of yesteryear.

Week 10 @ Arizona

  • Jets EDGE Jermaine Johnson vs. Cardinals QB Kyler Murray

Jermaine Johnson is an excellent athlete who has proven he excels at pursuing quarterbacks outside of the pocket. Kyler Murray is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league, so it will be up to JJ to keep him from doing too much damage with his mobility.

Week 11 vs. Indianapolis

  • Jets CB Sauce Gardner vs. Colts WR Michael Pittman (and the entire WR unit)

People love to highlight Sauce when the Jets face a superstar wide receiver (or WR unit), and for good reason. But he should also be highlighted when he has an advantageous matchup. Michael Pittmann is a very good WR, but he’s not close to the level of some of the other WR1s the Jets will face, and more importantly, the Colts’ WR depth behind him is very uninspiring. The Jets’ CBs will have a big edge in this matchup, and I want to see Gardner maximize it with a dominant performance. Against a quasi-rookie QB who is playing on the road in his first prime-time game, this is Gardner’s chance to light it up with an interception or two.

Week 13 vs. Seattle

  • Jets HC Robert Saleh vs. The Bye Week

The Jets have been abysmal after the bye week under Robert Saleh. They lost 54-13 at New England in 2021, lost 10-3 at New England in 2022, and barely beat the Giants in a gruesome stinker last year. This game is an opportunity for Saleh to exorcise his bye week demons. Up until this point of the season, the Jets’ sheer talent will have likely carried them to many wins, but the post-bye-week game provides Saleh a chance to flex his coaching muscles and prove he’s made strides as an individual.

Week 14 @ Miami

  • Jets RB Breece Hall vs. Dolphins IDL

Miami’s interior run defense could be an issue after the loss of star defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. For the Jets to keep up with a Miami offense that is electric at home, they need to cook up home-run plays of their own, which is why it falls on the explosive Breece Hall to make big plays through the heart of the Dolphins’ defense.

Week 15 @ Jacksonville

  • Jets S Chuck Clark vs. Jaguars TE Evan Engram

Jaguars tight end Evan Engram is targeted out of the slot more than any other tight end in football. He crushed the Jets on shallow receptions in Jacksonville’s 2022 win over the Jets. Fortunately, the Jets have a safety in Chuck Clark who excels at covering tight ends out of the slot.

Week 16 vs. LA Rams

  • Jets CB Michael Carter II vs. Rams WRs Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp

Los Angeles boasts two of the best slot receivers in football with the duo of Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp. The Jets are prepared to counter with Michael Carter II, one of the best slot corners in the game.

Week 17 @ Buffalo

  • Jets Gs Alijah Vera-Tucker and John Simpson vs. Bills DT Ed Oliver

In what could be a frigid, snowy game, the Jets’ run game will take center stage, which puts the spotlight on the guard duo of Alijah Vera-Tucker and John Simpson to (quite literally) pave the road for Breece Hall. The guards must also keep Rodgers safe on a slippery field, and they’ll be tested by one of the best interior pass rushers in the sport, Ed Oliver.

Week 18 vs. Miami

  • Jets DT Quinnen Williams vs. Dolphins IOL

Miami’s offense is much less prolific in the cold, so in this January affair that could be for the AFC East crown (or a wild card spot), I’m placing the spotlight on the Jets’ most important defensive player. With the Dolphins’ offense vulnerable in the chilly Meadowlands, Quinnen Williams has a chance to assert his dominance with some sacks and tackles in the backfield. Williams’ playmaking can give the Jets an early edge, allowing them to run the ball at Miami’s interior defensive line and control the clock all game long. Additionally, Miami’s interior offensive line could be a weakness after losing center Connor Williams and right guard Robert Hunt, who were both excellent players last year. Williams might have a major mismatch on his hands.

Which one-on-one matchups on the Jets’ schedule stand out the most to you?

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