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JETS (0-2) at Denver Broncos (2-0)
Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
Spread: Broncos -11 ½
The Denver Broncos are one of the surprises of the NFL this season, with a Top 5 defense and a Top 10 offense led by the revived Teddy Bridgewater.
Keep in mind, though, they’ve only played the Giants and the Jaguars.
And both of those teams were reasonably competitive in those games.
That bodes well for the Jets, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be able to do the same. The Broncos do have a good pass rush and Bridgewater has plenty of offensive weapons. They may turn out to be legitimately good. And the Jets ... well, despite their late comeback on opening day in Carolina against the Panthers, they’ve been pretty non-competitive their first two weeks.
A lot of that, of course, has to do with their rookie quarterback, Zach Wilson. He got off to a slow start in Carolina and an absolutely disastrous start against the New England Patriots. He’s the wild card. If he’s off again, the Jets simply have no shot. They couldn’t recover from his two interceptions on his first two passes against the Patriots, and he got worse before he got better, turning it into a four-interception day.
The sense I get around the Jets this week, though, is that after two weeks of letting Wilson see what he can do, they’re about to pull in the reigns. That means they’re going to really attempt to play “boring” to rely even more heavily on their rushing attack, and to work with Wilson on taking the easy passes instead of looking for something more risky down the field. They want him to settle into his role, to be more of a game manager the way Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones was last week, to do things where he’s not at risk of turning over the ball.
If he buys in and doesn’t turn into a gun-slinger, that means a slow, “boring,” efficient game. It’ll be dink-and-dunk football with a lot of runs and short passes. Any big plays will be the result of a play-maker breaking a tackle early and turning it into something on his own. There shouldn’t be a lot of reckless throws down the field.
Behind what looked like an improved offensive line in Week 2, that is -- at the very least -- a formula for keeping the Jets competitive. Their defense, despite its issues, shouldn’t get blown out by the Broncos – at least not at the start. They’re good enough to keep Wilson and the offense in the game and give them a chance.
Wilson probably isn’t quite ready to take full advantage of that -- not in a tough spot on the road against a good team. But if he settles down, he’ll keep the Jets in the game a lot longer than he did the first two weeks. That might not be enough for the Jets to get their first win, but it should be enough for them to at least cover a very big spread.
Pick: Take the Jets, plus 11 1/2
Prediction: Broncos 23, Jets 16
My record straight up: 2-0
My record against the spread: 2-0