Jets 2023 NFL season preview and prediction

Sauce Gardner, Quinnen Williams, Garrett Wilson, Aaron Rodgers / USA TODAY Sports/SNY treated image

The Jets open the season this coming Monday against the Buffalo Bills. What’s in store for New York this year? Here’s the 2023 season preview…

Storylines to monitor

Was Aaron Rodgers worth it?

This has been such a long time coming — so much anticipation for this moment. It feels like a century ago that the Jets began their search for a veteran quarterback. There was the will-he won’t-he wait to find out if Rodgers wanted to play in New York. Then once he did, a seemingly even longer wait for the actual trade to get done. Oh, the Jets even had a longer training camp because of the Hall of Fame game.

That’s all over now. Monday night the Jets play a game and Rodgers, undeniably the team’s most physically-gifted quarterback since Joe Namath walked out the door in 1976, will start at quarterback. The Jets gave up an awful lot to make it possible (basically a first- and second-round pick). Head coach Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas are banking their careers with the Jets on his success, too.

Now it’s time to see if the investment in Rodgers will pay dividends.

Can they live up to the hype?

Aside from the 2016 season when the Jets believed they were on the doorstep of a playoff run, all other years have been about the next year. The Jets were perennial rebuilders. They occasionally flirted with turning the corner, only to have their course redirected due in part to poor coaching hires or misidentified solutions at quarterback.

That couldn’t be further from the case entering 2023. Playoffs are not the goal, but expected. Everything the Jets have done to this point has been about competing for a Super Bowl title. The result of which has brought forth not just more media attention than in recent memory, but the placement of a target on their back.

The Jets are embracing these big expectations — they openly talk internally about the Super Bowl. With such a young roster you wonder how players who seldom experienced such hype will handle it when the bright lights shine. It’s one thing to be the team most overlook. It’s another entirely when 31 teams are gunning for you.

If the Jets perform well, the NFL world will be theirs. However, the reverse is also true. More than a few are waiting for any chance to show the hype around this team isn’t justified. It’s time to see if New York is up for the challenge.

Is there enough depth?

The Jets have their starters. It’s hard to find a true weak spot — even on the offensive line, which stabilized with the return of Duane Brown and insertion of Mekhi Becton. As long as they remain healthy, something they were able to do throughout the summer, they shouldn’t have an issue competing with the best of the best in the conference.

The problem occurs if players go down. The Jets can withstand a few blows on the defensive line, cornerback, in the backfield and at tight end. The rest really aren’t that deep, though. Quarterback, offensive line, receiver, linebacker and safety are a completely different situation. One or two injuries at any of those spots and the entire group takes a massive blow.

Jul 22, 2023; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson (17) looks on during the New York Jets Training Camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 22, 2023; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson (17) looks on during the New York Jets Training Camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports / © Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

3 non-QBs to keep an eye on

Garrett Wilson, receiver

It was hard to watch Jets camp this summer and not come away wildly impressed with Wilson, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year. His game reached an entirely new level with the arrival of Rodgers. Wilson was always gifted after the catch. Now he’s attacking the defense with a comprehensive route tree. The chemistry between Wilson and his new quarterback seemed to be there from the beginning, but then strengthened over the ensuing months. Rodgers often likes to talk about Davante Adams as a receiver in a class of his own. He’s started to put Wilson in that category, too, and might have him stationed there by season’s end.

Quinnen Williams, defensive lineman

The Jets don’t call sacks in practice. Because of that, and absent the aid of replay, it’s sometimes hard to identify which defensive linemen are impressing. That changed during the Jets joint practices with the Panthers where Williams spent more time in the backfield than quarterback Bryce Young. The Jets had no worries about the type of player Williams would be after they awarded him a $96-million extension. What’s surprised the team is that Williams, an all-pro in 2022, looks even more dominant entering 2023. Aaron Donald might have some company as the league’s most ferocious interior defensive lineman before season’s end.

Mekhi Becton, offensive tackle

Becton wasn’t considered an option to start on the offensive line when the summer began. The struggles from Billy Turner and Max Mitchell opened the door for the former first-round pick, and Becton never looked back. Joe Douglas said it’s been “awesome” to see Becton’s attitude and play in recent weeks. He took the starting job for himself and hasn’t looked back. He’s reminding many in the building of the type of player he was his rookie year — a dominant presence on the offensive line capable of moving anyone and everyone out of his way.

The lone concern with Becton, as will always be the case, is if he can stay healthy. He’s done that throughout camp, but the regular season is a different animal. The Jets lack depth up front, so they need Becton available throughout the year and into the postseason.

The must-watch games

Jets vs. Bills, Sept. 11

A primetime game to open the season? Against the recent kings of the AFC East? Debuting your new Hall of Fame quarterback? There will be more hype around this game than any opener for the Jets in years.

Jets at Giants, Oct. 29

As much as the two sides try to downplay it, any Jets – Giants game tends to carry a bit more weight. This year that will certainly be the case after the war that’s broken out between Rodgers and Giants linebacker Jihad Ward stemming from a Randall Cobb block in the preseason finale. Rodgers told Ward he didn’t know who he was. Ward accused the Jets and Rodgers of laughing off Cobb’s dirty block. Rodgers accused Ward of making stuff up. This will be a good one.

Jets at Dolphins, Dec. 17

The Jets have sky-high expectations for this season. This game against the Dolphins could very well be what decides the outcome of the AFC East. The Dolphins have, in recent memory, been a thorn in the Jets’ side, too. Something weird always seems to happen when the two play each other.

The toughest stretch: Weeks 1 – 6 vs. Bills, at Cowboys, vs. Patriots, vs. Chiefs, at Broncos, vs. Eagles

Rodgers isn’t the only new piece. The Jets also have a new offensive coordinator. While Rodgers is familiar with Nathaniel Hackett, few others on that side of the ball (aside from Cobb and Allen Lazard) are. There’s going to be a learning curve — especially considering the starters only played two series in the preseason. So it’s not really ideal for the Jets’ toughest stretch to be during the first six weeks of the season.

They’ll play the reigning AFC East champs, the two teams that met in the Super Bowl, a team they haven’t beaten since 2015, and the Cowboys … who finished last season 12-5. The Broncos (in Denver) is the easiest game of the bunch … and even that presents its own set of challenges.

Best-case scenario

Super Bowl

That’s it. That’s the goal and best possible outcome for this season. The Jets aren’t dreaming of a Super Bowl. They truly believe they have the pieces to get there. You don’t go and trade for Rodgers and expect anything less.

Worst-case scenario

Missing playoffs with a healthy Rodgers

The Jets only part with a first-round pick in next year’s draft if Rodgers plays at least 65 percent of the snaps. The assumption: If he plays more, the Jets are in the playoffs and likely making a run, rendering that first-round pick a late selection. The worst-case scenario would be a colossal implosion that not only leaves the Jets short of the playoffs, but parting with a first-rounder, too.

Season prediction

10-7, AFC Championship Game loss to Chiefs

That opening stretch will be a gauntlet. It’s a lot to ask for a team with so many new pieces to hit the ground running. The hope is for the Jets’ defense to keep them afloat. Then, after the bye, the offense catches up. The Bills will likely still win the AFC East — that’s fine. As Douglas said during his preseason news conference: All you need is a ticket to the dance. The Jets will make their noise once in there, but fall just short of the Super Bowl.

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