It is Week 5 of the 2023 NFL season and this week the New York Jets will hit the road to face the Denver Broncos. Denver will look to build off their win last week while the Jets look to snap a three-game skid.
Today, let’s take a look at the Jets’ keys to victory, x-factors, and biggest matchups to watch.
6 Notes Heading into Jets vs Broncos
Jets Offensive Key: Let It Rip Again
Going into last week’s meeting on primetime against the Kansas City Chiefs many fans wondered if it would be Zach Wilson‘s last game as a starter. What seemed like a disaster at first falling behind 17-0 in the first quarter, Wilson and Hackett found a rhythm and it turned out to be the best showing on offense of the young season. For Wilson, it was one of his best games in his career since getting drafted second overall in 2021.
After the 17-0 deficit to start the Jets began to sling it on offense outscoring the Chiefs 20-6 the rest of the game. Wilson went 28/39 for 245 yards and two touchdowns. His 65.8 QBR posted in that matchup was the highest of the season through four weeks. Nathaniel Hackett needs to put Wilson in the same situation allowing him to play to his strengths.
Those strengths are airing it out, rolling him out of the pocket, and utilizing his mobility. Continuing to take chances as an offense for a team that needs this win in week five to stay alive is huge. This success in passing the ball will also help the run game produce at its full potential. Another key was getting the ball in his playmaker’s hands in Garrett Wilson and Allen Lazard.
Wilson and Lazard combined for 12 receptions on 17 targets for 121 yards and a touchdown. If Zach Wilson and the offense build on this it will go a long way in snapping this current three-game skid.
Jets Defensive Key: Start Fast
A big part of why the Jets went down 17-0 early was the early-game defense. Unfortunately, that first quarter performance on Sunday Night was all too familiar. In the first quarter of games this season, the Jets have been outscored 30-0. Along with that they have been outscored 61-28 in the first half of games.
These slow starts need to change on Sunday, especially on the road in a game that could decide the rest of the season. Despite the massive comeback last week against the Bears for Denver, Russell Wilson has primarily found most success early in games. In the first half of games this season Wilson is completing 79.7% of his passes for 560 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. While the second half of games Wilson is completing only 55.9% of his passes for 454 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
If you break down those stats even more, Russell Wilson in the first quarter has been even better, by far the best quarter for him this season. He has completed 83.3% of his passes for 259 yards and four touchdowns. If this Jets defense can slow down the Broncos early on allowing the offense to gain momentum and take over, it will put this team in a good spot to come away with win number two. However, if the opposite happens and Denver gets off to a quick start at home it could get ugly.
Jets Offensive X-Factor: Breece Hall
On Wednesday Robert Saleh said “There is no pitch count” when asked about Breece Hall‘s usage going into week five. As a Jets fan that gets you pumped up as we’ve seen flashes from Hall this season but in a very limited role. Coming back to the exact spot where he went down last season against the Broncos, Hall will look to have a huge breakout game.
Through four games this season he has only 32 carries but is averaging 6.6 yards per carry and has rushed for 210 yards. Even in his limited role with an average of eight carries per game, he has made a huge impact. Hall’s 83-yard run in week one against the Buffalo Bills still stands as the longest rush of the season through four weeks.
Not only should we anticipate the Jets to utilize Zach Wilson the way they did last week but we should also see an increase in rushing attempts. Denver enters this game as one of the worst defenses in football, especially when it comes to stopping the run. The Broncos are last in the NFL in rushing defense allowing 176 rush yards per game. This is the perfect game for Breece Hall in a full role to break out.
Jets Defensive X-Factor: Bryce Huff
One of the most underrated and underutilized players on this Jets team is Bryce Huff who makes a big impact every time he is on the field. Last week at home against Kansas City Bryce Huff saw his snaps increase and his presence was felt. His 25 defensive snaps which was a snap percentage of 39%, was the most he’s played since early on in 2022.
On 18 pass-rush snaps against Kansas City, Huff generated seven pressures and a 38.9% pressure rate which were both career highs. If the Jets continue to use Huff in a larger role than just third-down situations it will benefit this defense in a big way.
Russell Wilson enters this game getting sacked 11 times through four games however seven of those came in week two against the Washington Commanders. If Bryce Huff and company can generate pressure on Wilson and make his life miserable like Washington was able to, the Jets should come away with the victory.
Jets Offensive Matchup To Watch: Nathaniel Hackett vs Sean Payton
While this matchup won’t take place on the field it is one of the biggest storylines going into this matchup. This battle between former Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett now Jets offensive coordinator and current Broncos head coach Sean Payton goes back to August.
Payton called Hackett’s job “one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.” Aaron Rodgers who is extremely close to Hackett made comments back at Payton creating a match where both sides were exchanging blows. Even though it hasn’t been brought up much recently, especially with the Rodgers injury, it’s still something that you expect to be on the players’ minds come Sunday.
Especially early on it will be interesting to see if either team comes out with more energy playing for their respective coaches. Hackett will look to lead this offense to a win in his old home while Payton will look to avoid a 1-4 record which would be worse than Hackett’s 2-3 record through his first five games at the helm in Denver last season.
Jets Defensive Matchup To Watch: Jets Cornerbacks vs Broncos Wide Receivers
Even though games are always highlighted by what goes on in the trenches there are some intriguing matchups to look out for in the secondary in this game. The Jets enter this matchup a little banged up in the secondary, Brandin Echols will be out as will D.J. Reed who is dealing with a concussion.
Even with these injuries the Jets will still roll out Sauce Gardner and Michael Carter II against an under-the-radar Broncos receiving core. The Broncos enter this matchup with a WR core that consists of Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and rookie Marvin Mims Jr. Mims currently leads Denver in receiving yards with 242 on only nine catches. That is good for 26.9 yards per reception.
Look for Denver to try and get Mims more involved in the game plan along with both Jeudy and Sutton. As long as the Jets generate pressure up front and the secondary continues to hold it down despite being banged up the Jets should be able to contain this group and win.
Jets win 20-13.
Main Image: Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com / USA TODAY NETWORK