NEW YORK JETS (7-10)
EXPECTATIONS: Super Bowl or bust? Well, that might be a bit of a stretch for a franchise that has gone 12 straight years without reaching the playoffs — the longest active drought in the NFL. But Aaron Rodgers' arrival energized the team and fanbase, and the 39-year-old quarterback fueled expectations by saying the goal is winning a Super Bowl and adding a partner to what he said is a “lonely” Lombardi Trophy from the Jets' only other appearance in 1969. Robert Saleh's squad has talent and depth on both sides of the ball — and most importantly a quarterback who's one of the best players in NFL history. It all sure looks good on paper, but the Jets will get the chance to prove quickly it's more than just hype with a tough opening six-game stretch that includes matchups with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and runner-up Philadelphia Eagles.
NEW FACES: Rodgers, RB Dalvin Cook, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, WR Allen Lazard, WR Mecole Hardman, WR Randall Cobb, OL Billy Turner, OL Wes Schweitzer, DL Quinton Jefferson, NT Al Woods, S Adrian Amos, P Thomas Morstead, first-round pick DE Will McDonald, second-round C Joe Tippmann, fourth-round OT Carter Warren, fifth-round RB Israel Abanikanda.
KEY LOSSES: OC Mike LaFleur, WR Corey Davis, DT Sheldon Rankins, DL Nathan Shepherd, QB Mike White, WR/KR Braxton Berrios, P Braden Mann, QB Joe Flacco, OT George Fant, RB Ty Johnson, G Nate Herbig, G Dan Feeney.
STRENGTHS: Defensive line, cornerback and quarterback. Led by Quinnen Williams up front, the Jets boast one of the top D-lines in the league and have lots of depth for Saleh and coordinator Jeff Ulbrich to rotate and mix and match. McDonald is expected to add a speedy pass-rushing presence off the edge along with second-year DE Jermaine Johnson and veterans Carl Lawson and Bryce Huff. Sauce Gardner, the reigning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, and the steady D.J. Reed form arguably the top cornerback tandem in the NFL. Despite coming off a good, not great season, Rodgers provides stability at the quarterback position the franchise hasn't seen in years.
WEAKNESSES: Offensive line. The big guys up front struggled mightily last season with consistency and injuries, and it took most of training camp for the unit to take shape. RG Alijah Vera-Tucker is a rising star and C Connor McGovern is consistent, but there are questions along the rest of the line, with LT Duane Brown coming off shoulder surgery, LG Laken Tomlinson trying to rebound from an off year and Mekhi Becton winning the RT spot after missing most of the last two seasons with knee injuries.
CAMP DEVELOPMENT: The Jets boosted an already talented running backs group by adding Cook, who rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his past four seasons in Minnesota. He'll complement Breece Hall, Michael Carter and Abanikanda to give Rodgers plenty of options out of the backfield. Davis' decision to step away from football at the end of training camp was a stunner that scrambled the depth chart a bit for a receiving group that's still solid.
FANTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: WR Garrett Wilson. The reigning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year caught 83 passes for 1,103 yards and four touchdowns without Rodgers throwing to him. With the four-time NFL MVP under center and already calling him, “special,” Wilson appears to be a weekly plug-in and play with the potential to be one of fantasy football's top wide receivers.
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK SAYS: Win Super Bowl: 18-1. Over/under wins: 9 1/2.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
The Associated Press