The NFL schedule makers know what they’re doing. On Wednesday morning we learned that the New York Jets would open their 2021 NFL season against the Carolina Panthers on the road.
A lot of us thought this game would warrant prime time consideration, but instead, it’ll be a 1:00 pm affair on CBS.
Regardless this is one of the tastiest games on the schedule for the Jets and we get it in Week 1. With so many tantalizing storylines it’s time to rank them.
5. Random Players on Both Sides
There are several former players on both sides for the Jets and Panthers respectively. Here are several random current members of Carolina that have spent time previously with Gang Green:
- Cornerback Juston Burris was originally taken No. 118 overall in the fourth round by the Jets. He was on the green and white from 2016 through 2018.
- Running back Trenton Cannon is a former sixth-round pick, No. 204 overall who played for the Jets from 2018 through 2019.
- Offensive lineman Pat Elflein was claimed off of waivers by the Jets last season and started six games in 2020.
- Linebacker Frankie Luvu originally went undrafted in 2018. Despite those humble beginnings, he made a living on the Jets roster from 2018 through 2020.
While on the Jets side of things they only have one random player on the roster that previously spent time with the Panthers:
- Interior offensive lineman Greg Van Roten spent three years with Carolina before joining the Jets last offseason.
4. Robby Anderson Gets First Crack at Vengeance
Of course, one player we didn’t mention that has previous experience on the Jets roster is veteran wideout, Robby Anderson.
Anderson and the Jets had an awkward staring contest last offseason. Gang Green thought Anderson was worth x amount. The former Temple star thought he was worth y amount. Ultimately Anderson signed a two-year $20 million contract with the Panthers.
After showing some flashes with the Jets, Anderson blossomed into a star with Carolina in 2020.
He had a career year by every possible measure last season (provided by Pro Football Reference):
- 95 receptions
- 1,096 yards (first 1K season of his career)
- Played-and-started 16 games
- Registered 49 first down conversions
- Finished with a 69.9 percent catch rate
All of those stats above were career highs for the former undrafted Jets star. General manager Joe Douglas, in a rare moment, admitted he made a mistake not signing Anderson to a contract.
Now for the first time, Anderson will get an opportunity to exact his revenge on the team that tossed him to the side last offseason.
3. What Could Have Been…
In the Week 1 matchup between the Jets and the Panthers, fans of the green and white will see what could’ve been.
Carolina head coach Matt Rhule was this close to taking the job with the Jets, but there was one problem, ownership reportedly wanted to control who he hired for his staff.
That final fun fact spooked Rhule and he opted to join the Carolina Panthers instead. While the Jets ended up with *checks notes* Adam Gase. He finished up as one of the worst head coaches in NFL history.
Not only has Rhule impressed with his unique coaching style and motivational techniques, but he also brought Joe Brady from college to the NFL. Many have credited Brady as the architect of the greatest college football team in history (15-0 LSU Tigers). He’s now the Panthers’ offensive coordinator.
Fans seem pretty happy with how things turned out. The Jets eventually landed a pair of highly regarded coaches in Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur, but it’s impossible not to wonder what could’ve been?
2. Zach Wilson Makes His NFL Debut
In most cases, this would easily be the No. 1 storyline to watch heading into a season.
Zach Wilson, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NFL draft, is the highest selected player in BYU Football history and is the highest-drafted quarterback for the Jets since ‘Broadway’ Joe Namath.
This will be his first opportunity to prove the Jets made the right decision at quarterback this offseason. Not only did Gang Green pick Wilson over the slew of other talented quarterbacks that were available in the first round, but they also picked him over their prior savior.
The Jets’ 2021 NFL draft class as a whole was labeled a major success by the pundits. But how Wilson ultimately turns out will truly be the determining factor in whether or not the Jets hit a homerun or another dud.
1. Sam Darnold Faces His Old Team
This is obviously the No. 1 storyline in what is one of the juiciest Week 1 NFL matchups on the 2021 slate.
Sam Darnold was crowned the savior when the Jets traded up to the No. 3 pick which they ultimately used on the former USC star. Three short years later, he was dealt away to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a 2021 sixth-round pick and a pair of picks in 2022 (second and fourth-round selections).
As soon as the trade became official every Jets fan immediately circled this game on the calendar, despite not knowing exactly where it would be on the schedule. The same could be said for Darnold who is determined to prove the Jets made the wrong decision and he’ll get a chance to prove it Week 1.
There are so many potential ripple effects from this game that could have a lasting impact.
If Darnold lights the Jets up and the Panthers win, the Jets 2021 season will be off to a rocky start and the media will eat the team alive. While on the other side of the coin, if the former BYU standout lights the world on fire and beats Carolina, I’m not sure anyone would be able to stop this hype train.
Week 1: Sunday, September 12 can’t get here soon enough.