On one hand, the Jets lost a lot when Aaron Rodgers went down with a torn Achilles on Monday night.
He was the quarterback, offensive coordinator, essentially a co-GM, choreographer, social director and face of franchise. For six months, his name was part of almost every sentence written or said about the team.
But on the other, except for four snaps, Rodgers hardly was the quarterback of the Jets. So do they lose him if they never really had him?
True, the entire offensive system was catered to Rodgers, from the hiring of Nathaniel Hackett as offensive coordinator to the signings of Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb and the designs of all of the plays. Changes will need to be made to retrofit the operation to Zach Wilson’s abilities (and to mask his deficiencies).
But there’s a lot for Hackett to work with. Though the offensive line has some problems with pass protection, the run blocking looks solid (Mehki Becton pancaked two Bills with the same block on a Dalvin Cook 13-yard run).
With Cook, Breece Hall and Michael Carter, they have the runners to try the ground-and-pound approach that worked so well in the Mark Sanchez-Rex Ryan era. They have a fullback in place (Nick Bawden) and a vicious blocking tight end in Jeremy Ruckert.
The game plan can help the offensive line protect Wilson, then the game-breakers like Hall, Garrett Wilson and Mecole Hardman can emerge.
The defense was off the charts against the Bills, with five sacks and four takeaways. And credit to Robert Saleh and all of the players for not getting down after Rodgers got injured.
Meanwhile, I figure the Cowboys will be overconfident after their 40-0 destruction of the Giants. They’re big favorites against a team that just lost its superstar and have to think this game will go the same way.
The Giants didn’t lay a finger on Dak Prescott, but he’s a guy who will turn over the ball when pressured. He had five multiple-interception games last season.
The line for Sunday’s game in Arlington, Texas, ballooned off the Rodgers injury and Cowboys blowout, leaving some nice value for the Jets.
The pick: Jets +9.
New York Giants (-4) over ARIZONA CARDINALS
Former Giants offense lineman Justin Pugh posted an interesting comment on X after the team was destroyed by Dallas. “That first drive is who the @Giants are. It snowballed from there but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. … If they would have scored on that opening drive it would have been a completely different game.”
That’s either the most ridiculously optimistic spin of all time, or spot on. We’ll start to find out Sunday. The Cardinals covered and nearly won in Week 1 and had six sacks of Washington’s Sam Howell. The thought here is that they’ll quickly turn into a team tanking for Caleb Williams.
Everyone in Giants blue will be looking to make amends for 40-0. In the short Brian Daboll era, they are 0-6 against the Eagles and Cowboys, and 10-3-1 against everyone else. That includes some wins against quality teams but also quite a few against the bottom-feeders.
Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5) over TENNESSEE TITANS
Chargers lost the Game of the Week against the dangerous Dolphins in Week 1 but looked good offensively. The Titans won’t be able to duplicate what Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill did to them. Austin Ekeler’s ankle status gives pause, but give me Justin Herbert over decrepit Ryan Tannehill.
Green Bay Packers (+1.5) over ATLANTA FALCONS
The Falcons eked by the Panthers, and the Packers destroyed the Bad News Bears. Though the Pack’s injury report is a bit daunting, they have edges at quarterback and coaching.
Indianapolis Colts (+1) over HOUSTON TEXANS
The Colts lost by 10 to the Jaguars, but Anthony Richardson and the offense looked very competent in scoring 21 points. The Texans attack still looks remedial with C.J. Stroud.
DETROIT LIONS (-4.5) over Seattle Seahawks
Off a great win in Kansas City, the Lions have had extra time to rest and game plan for the Seahawks, who were the most disappointing team in Week 1 west of the Giants. Roll with Jared Goff, Amon-Ra St. Brown & Co.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (-2.5) over Chicago Bears
I’d like the say the Bears are what I thought they were, but I had them against the Packers, sadly. The Bucs aren’t very good, but they showed some nice defense and physicality in an upset win at Minnesota. Justin Fields is 5-21 as a starting quarterback, so I’d need more points to consider taking Chicago.
BUFFALO BILLS (-8.5) over Las Vegas Raiders
Another game in which the spread dwindled a bit, down from Bills -9.5. Buffalo is off a short week but should be at full attention after losing to the Jets. Raiders have injury concerns with Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers and even Jimmy Garoppolo’s ankle.
Jacksonville Jaguars (+3.5) over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
I know I made a point of the extra rest benefiting the Lions above, and the Chiefs will be a totally different team with Travis Kelce and Chris Jones back. Just really like what the Jags can do with Trevor Lawrence, Calvin Ridley and Travis Etienne, even if the defense was a sieve versus the Colts.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (-3.5) over Baltimore Ravens
It was a perfect storm for a rusty Joe Burrow in wet conditions versus a Browns team that always gives him fits. Injuries to OLs Tyler Linderbaum and Ronnie Stanley will make it tough for Lamar Jackson.
San Francisco 49ers (-7.5) over LOS ANGELES RAMS
The 49ers have won eight of their past nine in this matchup, and trucked the Rams by 15 and 17 points last year. Brock Purdy is for real in this diverse offense, while the Rams will miss Cooper Kupp more than they did in Seattle.
Washington Commanders (+3.5) over DENVER BRONCOS
Maybe Sean Payton should have spent more time worrying about his own team and less trashing Nathaniel Hackett. Washington’s defensive front can cause problems for Russell Wilson, and that extra half point looms as the decider.
Miami Dolphins (-3) over NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Bill Belichick is renowned for his ability to take away an opponent’s top weapon, but it will be tough for him to shut down the Tua Tagovailoa-to-Tyreek Hill pipeline. And if he does, Jaylen Waddle could emerge.
Betting on the NFL?
New Orleans Saints (-3) over CAROLINA PANTHERS
Leaning this way because Derek Carr gives the Saints an advantage over Bryce Young, making just his second NFL start. Young could have problems versus New Orleans’ veteran secondary — including Marcus Maye, Tyrann Mathieu and Marshon Lattimore.
Cleveland Browns (-2.5) over PITTSBURGH STEELERS
If ground-and-pound plus defense is the new formula for the Jets, it’s already in fashion with the Browns. Risky to expect a second straight home loss and non-cover from what still should be a decent Steelers team, but the Browns are stealthily building a beast.
Best bets: Lions, Packers, Dolphins.
Lock of the week: Lions (Locks 0-1 in 2023).
Last week: 9-7 overall, 1-2 Best Bets.
Thursday: Eagles (L).
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