Jets (4-2) at Broncos (2-4)
When: 2:05 p.m. MT, Sunday
Where: Empower Field
Radio/TV: 850 AM, 94.1 FM/KCNC-4
Broncos-Jets series: Broncos are 21-16-1 in 38 regular-season games dating back to 1960; the Broncos won 26-0 in the last meeting, on Sept. 26, 2021, in Denver.
Zach Wilson vs Broncos secondary
The Jets’ first-round pick from a year ago has already matched his rookie season win total, as Wilson is 3-0 so far this year since coming back from a preseason knee injury.
Denver needs to keep Wilson and his weapons in check and thus make the Jets one-dimensional. If the Broncos do that, another dominant defensive performance is likely in the cards.
Defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero said that even though Wilson (one TD to two picks so far) hasn’t had to be spectacular for the Jets to win, the QB has the ability to turn it on at any moment.
“He’s a very talented thrower and very talented in terms of his athletic ability,” Evero said. “Obviously, he’s continued in terms of the knowledge of the game, but he’s a very good player. He was picked No. 2 (in the 2021 draft) for a reason. We have a good challenge ahead of us.”
Pat Surtain II will no doubt be in man coverage against Wilson’s top receiver, Corey Davis. Surtain has been one of the NFL’s top corners this year, and has only allowed 142 yards receiving through six games, which is the second-fewest among the league’s qualified CBs.
Opposite Surtain, rookie DaMarri Mathis — thrown into the fire due to Ronald Darby’s season-ending ACL injury in Week 5 — will continue to get picked on. Mathis was pegged for four pass interference calls last week, although he also had two passes defensed, including one on a pivotal fourth-down conversion attempt.
Evero gave Mathis a seal of approval going into Sunday’s test against the Jets, where the fourth-round pick will likely be matched up with rookie Garrett Wilson.
“It was good to see (Mathis) go out there and continue to battle,” Evero said. “That’s a part of playing in the NFL, especially that position. You have to deal with adversity, and he did a good job.”
Meanwhile, the Jets are dealing with some offensive drama this week that will affect their receiving personnel: Elijah Moore, New York’s second-round draft choice last year, demanded a trade after a blowup with coaches in practice over his lack of involvement in the passing game this season.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh said Moore was held out of practice Friday, and he won’t play Sunday.
“He’s not going to get traded,” Saleh told New York media. “It’s (a situation) we have to work with.”
Who has the edge?
Russell Wilson has been banged up with a right lat injury, and then last week, he hurt his hamstring in the OT loss. Brett Rypien will start if Wilson can’t play. Zach Wilson suffered a preseason knee injury but returned earlier this month, and is 3-0 so far in his starts. Edge: Jets
Melvin Gordon wasn’t happy about his limited role last week, when he got three carries for eight yards. He will start Sunday, with Latavius Murray and Mike Boone as reserves. Rookie Breece Hall is running well for New York; they also have Michael Carter. Edge: Jets
Courtland Sutton has been Denver’s only consistent aerial target; KJ Hamler needs to get more involved. Greg Dulcich is coming off an impressive debut. N.Y. has the potent duo of Garrett Wilson/Corey Davis; Elijah Moore won’t play after demanding a trade. Edge: Even
The Broncos have serious question marks at the tackles, where Cam Fleming could start at left tackle and Billy Turner could start at right tackle. Right guard Quinn Meinerz is dealing with a foot injury. New York has former Broncos center Connor McGovern. Edge: Jets
After getting gashed on the ground in Las Vegas, Dre’Mont Jones, D.J. Jones and Mike Purcell need to stuff the run on Sunday. The Jets’ Quinnen Williams has emerged as a pass-rushing force, and is coming off a two-sack game against Green Bay last week. Edge: Even
Josey Jewell is still dealing with a knee injury, so Alex Singleton likely gets another start with the green dot. Bradley Chubb and Baron Browning have been effective off the edges. Middle linebacker C.J. Mosley is pacing New York with 62 total tackles. Edge: Even
After racking up four pass interference penalties last week, rookie corner Damarri Mathis will surely get picked on again. Pat Surtain II is playing like the best corner in the NFL. Sauce Gardner is a shutdown corner for the Jets; safety Jordan Whitehead is also key. Edge: Even
After Montrell Washington’s muffed punt in OT cost the Broncos dearly last week, the unit needs a bounce-back. Kicker Brandon McManus continues to be consistent (14 of 17). The Jets have vet Greg Zuerlein, who is 10 of 12 on field goals this year. Edge: Even
Tale of the tape
|Total offense||329.3 (22nd)||343 (17th)|
|Rush offense||110.2 (19th)||110.7 (18th)|
|Pass offense||219.2 (21st)||232.3 (13th)|
|Points per game||15.2 (32nd)||23.8 (10th)|
|Total defense||290.3 (3rd)||313.2 (9th)|
|Run defense||105.8 (13th)||105.3 (12th)|
|Pass defense||184.5 (5th)||207.8 (12th)|
|Points allowed||16.5 (4th)||21.3 (17th)|
* Through Week 6
By the numbers
297: The number of TD passes Russell Wilson’s thrown in his career; he needs three more to become the fifth active QB to reach 300.
7: The number of targets KJ Hamler’s had through five games played this year; by contrast, he was targeted 56 times in 13 games as a rookie in 2020.
54: That’s how many penalties the Broncos committed through six games, last in the NFL.
18.3: After struggling on kickoff returns last year, that trend has continued into 2022, as Montrell Washington and the Broncos rank 31st in kickoff return average.
26.7%: The red zone touchdown percentage allowed by the Broncos’ defense, which is the lowest mark in the NFL.
Line: Broncos -2.5
Bet on the underdog here. With the way Denver’s offense is sputtering, and considering the Jets are riding the momentum of a three-game winning streak coming into Sunday, the Broncos will be lucky to squeak out a victory but they won’t cover the spread if they do.
Prop bet: 39.5 over/under
Take the under. The Broncos defense isn’t going to allow Zach Wilson & Co. to hit 20 points; the inconsistencies and question mark at QB isn’t going to allow the Broncos offense to crack 20 points, either. Both teams will be lucky to score in the high teens.
Mark Kiszla, columnist: Broncos 18, Jets 13
Who will start at quarterback for the Broncos? Beats me. The best I can offer is a conspiracy theory. In search of maximum buzz across the pond, the NFL really wants Russell Wilson to play in London. So give DisasteRuss a week off to let the body and ego heal. Give the start to Brett Rypien, let Brandon McManus beat the J-E-T-S with 1-2-3-4-5-6 field goals and let everyone hop the plane to merry old England wearing a smile.
Kyle Newman, beat writer: Jets 17, Broncos 16
Even if Russell Wilson starts, this rag-tag offensive line won’t be up to the task of containing the Jets’ dynamic defensive line. The Broncos’ D allows a field goal from field positioning, plus a touchdown off a Denver turnover in their own end. But besides that, they’re dominant, stuffing Breece Hall to no avail as the Denver run game can’t get going, either. Lots of boo birds at Empower Field on Sunday.
Parker Gabriel, beat writer: Jets 20, Broncos 19
The Broncos very much need a win and, ideally, two wins by the time they fly home from London. The Jets, though, are no pushover. Not only are they 4-2 with three road wins, but they’ve got a disruptive defensive front, a talented young running back in Breece Hall and confidence coming off an impressive win at Green Bay last week. Denver, meanwhile, has two touchdowns in three home games. There’s no reason the Broncos can’t win this game, but it’s a believe-it-when-you-see-it situation at this point.
Sean Keeler, columnist: Jets 17, Broncos 16
To Russ, or not to Russ. Will it matter? The J-E-T-S defense is at its strongest (pass rush, cornerback) where the Broncos’ offense is at its weakest right now. You realize that if the Orange & Blue had scored at least 18 points — JUST 18! — in each of their first six games, they’d be 5-1 right now? Chances are, neither team gets to that number Sunday without some help.