Even when there are many reasons to be optimistic, the Jets still manage to remind you they are the Jets.
There is a lot to be excited about. The roster is much more talented than it has been. And the schedule is manageable. This should be a step-forward season. And yet here the Jets are, preparing to play the Ravens — a trendy preseason Super Bowl pick in some corners — without starting quarterback Zach Wilson (and maybe left tackle Duane Brown as well).
Backup Joe Flacco will instead kick off Robert Saleh’s second season as head coach on Sunday at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m., CBS). The Jets will be seven-point home underdogs, according to Sports Betting Dime. Will they surprise in Flacco’s revenge game against his old team? Here are the ESNY staff picks:
James Kratch, managing editor: Losing Wilson for the first few games is a blow, no doubt. But I’ve been surprised about the level of pessimism that seems to have popped up around the Jets. This is a much-improved team with a bright future. If they can tread water until Wilson comes back, they have a chance to make a run at 7-10 wins (assuming Wilson takes the next step). They will be competitive here. But Lamar Jackson will make one play too many. Ravens 23, Jets 17.
Matt Musico, editor: Everyone loves a good ol’ fashioned revenge game, right? Flacco will face the squad he won a Super Bowl for a decade ago, and lots has changed since then. The Jets’ roster has more depth than in recent years, but Flacco will be dealing with a tough Baltimore secondary that’s among the best in football. This is not to mention that the Jets’ front seven will be charged with stopping a run-heavy attack from the Ravens led by Jackson. Seems like this year will get off to a rough start for Saleh and company. Ravens 28, Jets 17.
Josh Benjamin, staff writer: How bad is this Jets offense? Well, so bad that their ESPN page only listed their defense’s depth chart for a short while on Wednesday. They’ll trust Flacco with the ball when Baltimore comes to town for what should be relatively short work. It doesn’t matter that the Ravens are going all in on an inexperienced and untested receiving group. This team has a strong defense, continually drafts well, and exceeds expectations year after year. The Jets, are, well, the Jets. Ravens 31, Jets 13.
Ryan Honey, staff writer: The Jets’ roster does look better on paper and the defense is supposed to make a tremendous improvement from last year. But it may not all come to fruition right away, especially considering Wilson’s absence. This is a quarterback-driven, offense-driven league. And in this matchup, how could you not take the team who employs the potential $200 million quarterback over the team fielding a 37-year-old at the same position? The Jets’ defense will find a way to get to the quarterback and make life tough for Jackson, but it’s tough to imagine Flacco truly elevating a young offensive unit with multiple new faces. Ravens 21, Jets 10.
Danny Small, staff writer: The Jets have a beast of an early schedule, but don’t write off this young squad for that reason alone. The Ravens are going to need to work out the kinks after a down 2021 season. Losing Wilson to a knee injury hurts the Jets, but Flacco brings experience and a steady hand. He’ll have more offensive weapons to work with and a better offensive line protecting him than any Jets quarterback has had in a decade. If Saleh’s defense can set the edge and contain Jackson, the Jets can pull this one out. Jets 24, Ravens 23.
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