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Jets Betting Preview: Will First Year of Sam Darnold Era Translate to More Wins?

The offense is bound to have a fair share of hype with Sam Darnold at the helm, but it’s the Jets defense that can elevate this team to a .500 record.

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Jets 2018 win total: 5.5 (over -145, under +125)

Jets 2017 record: 5-11

Key offseason acquisitions: CB Trumaine Johnson, DE Henry Anderson, LB Avery Williamson, C Spencer Long, RB Isaiah Crowell, RB Thomas Rawls, WR Terrelle Pryor, K Cairo Santos, OC Jeremy Bates

Key offseason departures: RB Matt Forte, DE Muhammad Wilkerson, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, DE Kony Ealy, LB Demario Davis, QB Teddy Bridgewater

Five things to keep in mind before betting the Jets’ win total

1. Rookie Sam Darnold is the Week 1 starter under center. The 2017 No. 3 pick gives the Jets an injection of excitement at quarterback that the team hasn’t experienced since the early Mark Sanchez days. The former USC signal-caller is an accurate pocket passer, can accelerate his throwing motion when under pressure and displays tremendous poise. Turnovers were an issue last season with the Trojans because there were times he felt the need to make something happen by either holding onto the football for too long or forcing throws.

In the preseason, he’s completed 64.4% of his throws with two touchdown passes and one interception. The 5.4 yards per attempt is concerning, but Darnold already showed flashes of strong ball placement and ability to scan the field. At 21 years and 97 days come Sept. 10’s MNF battle against the Lions, he’ll be the youngest Week 1 starting quarterback since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. There will obviously be growing pains, but the Jets have liked what they’ve seen enough from the rookie to give him the chance to lead the offense from the get-go.

2. Gang Green may not have a perennial Pro Bowl target for Darnold to work with, but he will have a few good options to throw to all over the field. After releasing Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker last offseason followed by promising youngster Quincy Enunwa suffering a severe neck injury in training camp, there were some proclamations that the Jets not only had the worst receiving corps in the league, but also among the worst ever. That proved not to be the case, as second-year pass-catcher Robby Anderson broke out for 941 yards and seven touchdowns on 63 catches, while former Seahawk Jermaine Kearse added a 65-810-5 line of his own.

Anderson got into trouble this offseason, but all of his felony charges were dropped after he was arrested in January for allegedly failing to yield during a traffic stop. The NFL can still impose a suspension, but one of the one- or two-game variety would be the likely punishment if the league were to go in that direction. On the field, Anderson is a legitimate deep threat who stretches the field. Enunwa is back and healthy, and provides a steady target for Darnold to rely upon. Kearse and free-agent acquisition Terrelle Pryor are two more intriguing weapons for the rookie QB to work with. Bilal Powell is one of the best tailback receiving threats in the game. The biggest hole the Jets will have to replace is tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and the two leaders in the clubhouse to do so are “rookie” 2017 fifth-round pick Jordan Leggett (he missed all of the 2017 season) and rookie 2018 fourth-round pick Chris Herndon.

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3. The offense is bound to have a fair share of hype with a rookie QB at the helm, but it’s the Jets defense that can help elevate this team to a .500 record. Safety Jamal Adams, New York’s first-round selection last year, already looks like a future All-Pro. Adams headlines a secondary featuring a formidable cornerback duo in Trumaine Johnson and Morris Claiborne with fellow 2017 draftee Marcus Maye occupying the other starting safety spot. Johnson was the biggest pickup via free agency, but don’t estimate the impact that newcomers Avery Williamson and Henry Anderson can have in the front seven. Williamson at middle linebacker and Steve McLendon and Mike Pennel rotating at defensive tackle give the Jets three stout players at defending the run. Leonard Williams can generate pressure anywhere along the line, but for this defense to truly shine, the Jets will need an edge rusher to emerge. This group has the pieces to take another step forward in this upcoming campaign.       

4. For a 5-11 team, the Jets were actually quite competitive in the first halves of games last season. Before a clear drop-off in the final four games, the Jets either led, were tied or trailed by fewer than three points after the game’s first 30 minutes in 11 of its first 12 games. Even in those final four games, two of them were one-score halftime deficits against the Saints and Chargers.

In the second half of games though, both sides of the ball faltered. On offense, poor play-calling and ultra-conservative decision-making did New York in. The Jets averaged 5.08 yards per play in the first half, and that number dropped to 4.89 in the second half. The passing splits were more severe—the team’s adjusted net yards per pass attempt was 6.0 in the first half and 4.9 in the second half. Additionally, per Warren Sharp in his 2018 Football Preview, the Jets led the league in second-half punts while trailing with 31.

The pass defense’s disintegration was even more severe. The Jets surrendered 5.9 net yards per pass attempt in the first half, and that mark crept all the way up to 7.5 in the second half. The pass rush was only able to rack up seven sacks in the second half (compared to 21 in the first half), and that lack of pressure, or possibly the gas running low in the tank among the pass rushers, allowed quarterbacks to pick apart the secondary.

5. Having the Patriots rule over the division is tough, but residing in the AFC East can have its perks, most notably each team getting to play 4-6 games each year against the Jets, Dolphins and Bills. In the Jets’ case, getting to play the benign Dolphins and Bills is always a great way to pick up a couple wins. New York’s first 10 games before its bye are not that grueling: at Detroit, vs. Miami, at Cleveland, at Jacksonville, vs. Denver, vs. Indianapolis, vs. Minnesota, at Chicago, at Miami, vs. Buffalo. The Jets will either be favored or less than a touchdown underdog in eight of those contests. It also helps for those betting over the win total that one of Gang Green’s affairs vs. the Patriots comes in Week 17, where it seems quite likely that New England will rest its starters.

PICK: OVER 5.5 Wins

Other NFL team betting previews: VikingsBillsRaidersCowboysTexansBroncos, 49ersSteelers, CardinalsBrowns, BuccaneersBengalsGiants, SaintsPackers, Falcons, Chiefs, Bears, Chargers, Dolphins, Eagles, Seahawks