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Five Takeaways From Zach Wilson’s First NFL Schedule With New York Jets

New York Jets QB Zach Wilson poses for photos after being selected No. 2 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. (BYU Photo)

SALT LAKE CITY – The roadmap for Zach Wilson and the New York Jets is now officially out. All 32 NFL teams had their 2021 schedules released on Wednesday. Many BYU fans have a keen interest in what the Jets and Zach Wilson will do this fall.

If you didn’t see the full 17-game schedule, you can find it here.

Here are my five takeaways from the New Yorks 2021 schedule and what it means for Zach Wilson.

1. Three games against Top-10 pass defenses

Based on last year’s defensive rankings, Zach Wilson and the New York Jets will only go up against three teams in the top 10 for passing yards allowed last season. Unfortunately for Wilson, two of those games are against the New England Patriots (Sept. 19, Oct. 24), who was 8th in pass defense a season ago. Bill Belichick’s defense returns Devin McCourty and Stephon Gilmore on the backend of the defense this fall.

The other team Zach Wilson will face this fall that boasted a top-10 pass defense in 2020 is the New Orleans Saints (Dec. 12). New Orleans had the fifth-best pass defense in the league last year. With the Patriots, the Saints were tied for most interceptions in the league last year.

Toughest pass defenses on Jets 2021 schedule

* = Indicates AFC East opponent (will play twice)

New Orleans – 5th

New England Patriots* – 8th

Buffalo* – 13th

Philadelphia – 15th

at Denver – 16th

at Carolina – 18th

Cincinnati – 19th

at Indianapolis – 20th

Tampa Bay – 21st

Miami* – 23rd

at Houston – 24th

Jacksonville – 27th

Tennessee – 29th

Atlanta (London) – 32nd

2. Zach Wilson in star QB matchups

Zach Wilson will be involved in some star quarterback matchups during his first year with the Jets. The contest to open 2021 against Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers is the savviness of the NFL schedule makers on display.

In week two, Wilson takes on possibly fellow first-round draft pick Mac Jones with the New England Patriots. If it’s not Jones, veteran and former No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton will be the starter. Newton is a former NFL MVP.

On Halloween, Wilson and the Jets host the Cincinnati Bengals and former Heisman Trophy-winning QB Joe Burrow. Burrow was someone that Wilson studied a lot in preparation for the 2020 season at BYU. Like Wilson, Burrow had a meteoric rise up NFL draft boards to become Cincinnati’s top pick.

All BYU fans have to be intrigued at the possibility of Wilson taking on a Taysom Hill-led Saints team. The Saints travel to New York on December 12th. Hill will have to beat Jameis Winston and Ian Book for the Saints starting job in the first year after Drew Brees.

A pair of divisional AFC East games against the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 14 and the regular season finale on Jan. 9 will be huge measuring stick games for the Jets. Buffalo QB Josh Allen has emerged as a star in the league and is the best signal-caller Buffalo has had since Jim Kelly.

The day after Christmas, the only man selected before Zach Wilson in the 2021 NFL draft will travel to New York when Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars roll into the Big Apple.

Then, the biggest QB matchup of the year involving Wilson takes place on Jan. 2 when defending Super Bowl Champion Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to Met Life Stadium.

3. Thursday Night Spotlight

After coming off a 2-14 season, the Jets aren’t a coveted primetime entity at the moment. They did land one primetime game, and that is week nine at Indianapolis. Zach Wilson will take the Thursday night stage at Lucas Oil Stadium stage against a Colts squad with former No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz as the new signal-caller in the Circle City.

4. Winnable Games

Looking at the full schedule for Zach Wilson and the Jets, I see five games that could see New York either favored or possibly a toss-up. The London game against Atlanta (Oct. 10), Cincinnati (Oct. 31), at Houston (Nov. 28), Philadelphia (Dec. 5), and Jacksonville (Dec. 26)

Win three of these games and Wilson’s rookie season would already outperform the win total from 2020 for New York. Get four or all five, and this could be a massive success for a rookie season.

5. Must-See TV

The three games that can’t be missed this during Zach Wilson’s rookie year with the Jets: at Carolina (Sept. 12), New Orleans (Dec. 12), Jacksonville (Dec. 26).

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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