Sam Darnold fans may be looking at the NFL Week 1 game between his new team, the Carolina Panthers, and his old team, the New York Jets, as a revenge game. For fans of the Jets, it is going to be so much more. It will be the dawn of a new era in Jets football as they began their ascent to relevancy.
If all goes well, Jets fans will not miss their old quarterback because they will be too busy enjoying the new one.
However, the Panthers are not going to want to be a stepping stone for the Jets. They will be focused on improving off last season’s 5-11 record and their own return to relevancy. But whether they can depends on whether the Jets were right or wrong to give up on Darnold.
New York Jets
The hype leading up to the game will be all about the quarterbacks, and with good reason. Fans in New York will get to see the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL draft, Zach Wilson, take the field for the first time.
He appears to have all the intangibles a team wants in a franchise quarterback, but Darnold did too when the Jets took him with the No. 3 pick in the 2018 NFL draft. However, the Jets appear to have learned a lesson from the Darnold days.
While they never really gave Darnold much to work with, Wilson is surrounded by talent. They acquired Corey Davis from the Tennessee Titans via free agency in the offseason. Jamison Crowder is one of the better possession receivers in the NFL.
Denzel Mims has the potential to be an excellent No. 2 receiver. However, for Mims, the trick will be staying healthy enough to stay on the field. But if he cannot, Braxton Berrios, Keelan Cole, and rookie Elijah Moore will be happy to step in.
Rookie Michael Carter is listed as the No. 3 running back on the depth chart. But it would not be shocking to see him become the lead back with Tevin Williams coming in as the change of pace guy.
Assuming new head coach Robert Saleh can get the defense together, and the offense plays as well as it looks on paper, the Jets are going to be tough this season. But they will certainly have their hands full with the Carolina Panthers.
#Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson (@zachkapono1) working on his footwork + moving around the pocket with noise around him: #TakeFlight pic.twitter.com/WxrkiPGFKe
— Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25) May 19, 2021
Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady will figure out how to get the most out of Sam Darnold. Will it happen by Week One? Maybe—but if it does, it will be because of the talent surrounding Darnold making his life easier.
Christian McCaffrey is one of the most dynamic offensive threats in the game today. Robby Anderson and DJ Moore accounted for 1,000+ yards with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback last season. It would not be shocking to see rookie wide receiver Terrance Marshall Jr. make an impact early in the season.
They will undoubtedly give the Jets defense plenty to worry about. But what Jets fans are probably more concerned with is whether that young Carolina defense will be too much for Wilson in his first NFL start.
It was not a bad unit last season, but it was not a great one either (18th in total yards and points allowed per game). But much of the talent was young, and it was the first season under new defensive coordinator Phil Snow.
While they added some help via the draft and free agency, it is hard to say just how much better the defense may be.
Sam Darnold takes on his former team in 2021. 📅✍️@Panthers | @nyjets
📺: #NFLScheduleRelease — TOMORROW 8pm ET on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/uVwR4g6tev
— NFL (@NFL) May 11, 2021
NFL Betting Prediction And Recommendation
NY sports betting oddsmakers are probably picking the Panthers in this one because they were the better team last season. With a healthy McCaffrey, the Carolina offense is hard to stop. But it is hard to say whether switching out Teddy Bridgewater for Sam Darnold is a risk that will pay off.
However, the star of the show will undoubtedly be Zach Wilson. If he were facing a more formidable defense in his first start, there might be more of a reason for concern. But the Carolina defense was average on its best days last season.
While the Panthers’ defense may be better this season, it is hard to say so from the few roster additions they made.
So—how should you bet?
Carolina is favored in this one, but the Jets appear to be the better bet. There is too much uncertainty surrounding the Panthers on both sides of the ball. Christian McCaffrey is incredible, but he cannot win the game on his own.
For now, there is no reason to think Sam Darnold and the defense will give him the help he needs.
The Jets defense has issues of its own and could make Darnold look better than he is. But with the plethora of talented receivers surrounding Wilson (which could include Julio Jones if the rumors pan out), the Jets rookie quarterback is going to throw his way to a win in his first NFL start.
Take the Jets to win.