After a one-year hiatus, the New York Jets are back on Monday Night Football.
That their season opener comes in prime time — part of a MNF doubleheader — after a second consecutive 5-11 campaign against the non-conference Detroit Lions was a puzzling choice, to be sure.
No matter. The stage could do wonders for the profile of quarterback Sam Darnold in his pro debut. How many passers have the chance to win on the road in front of a national audience in their first NFL action?
Here are three things the Jets must do to make that happen.
Answer for Ansah
The Jets must put Darnold in position to succeed. He won’t be able to do that if he’s being chased around by Ziggy Ansah all night.
The Lions’ top edge rusher is coming off his second double-digit sack season, tallying 12 in 14 games. He is listed as probable with a knee injury, but the pressure will be on Jets left tackle Kelvin Beachum to keep him off Darnold.
Robby Anderson enters the year as the Jets’ No. 1 wideout after gaining 941 receiving yards and scoring seven touchdowns in 2017. He’ll likely be blanketed by All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay on Monday.
Jermaine Kearse — who also played well a year ago — is doubtful with an abdominal injury. Someone else must establish himself as a viable No. 2 target. The leading candidates are Quincy Enunwa, the team’s leading receiver in 2016 who missed all of last year, and Terrelle Pryor, who surpassed 1,000 yards in 2016 but disappointed in Washington last season.
Play to the whistle
Even if the Jets find themselves with a late lead, there’s no counting out Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. The veteran has led the league in game-winning drives in three of the last four years.
It will be incumbent upon Jets coach Todd Bowles to keep his troops focused for the full 60 minutes. If they’re not, they’ll wind up as just another victim of Stafford’s late-game heroics.
Lions 27, Jets 17