JETS PLAYER TO WATCH: All eyes will be on Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson, the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, who makes his first career start. He had a breakout season last year at BYU, throwing for 3,692 yards, 33 touchdowns and three interceptions, while running for 10 touchdowns. That was enough to convince management to make a change and trade 2018 No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold to Carolina.
PANTHERS PLAYER TO WATCH: Rookie wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. had three solid preseason games, leading the NFL in yards receiving (181). With the Jets expected to pay close attention to starters D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, Marshall could benefit from 1-on-1 coverage.
KEY MATCHUP: Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey vs. New York front seven. McCaffrey returns after missing 13 games last season due to injury and will once again be the focal point of Carolina’s offense. McCaffrey will be used frequently in the passing game. His 320 catches through 51 career games are the fourth most by an NFL player in the Super Bowl era.
KEY INJURIES: Neither team has any major injuries, but the Jets are monitoring the health of WR Jamison Crowder, who is dealing with COVID-19 issues. The Panthers have ruled out starting RG John Miller due to a positive COVID-19 test, which means Dennis Daley will get the start.
SERIES NOTES: Jets free safety Marcus Maye and Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson are the only two starters who remain from the last matchup in 2017. … In the last meeting Panthers LB Luke Kuechly had a 34-yard fumble return for a touchdown and Kaelin Clay returned a punt 60 yards for a score in the Carolina win. Josh McCown was Jets quarterback at the time. … One of the stranger moments of the series came in 1998 when Panthers running back Fred Lane celebrated one touchdown by grabbing his crotch and another by doing “The Worm” during a lopsided 48-21 loss to the Jets. A day later then-Panthers head coach Dom Capers suspended Lane for what he deemed inappropriate gestures, marking the first time in franchise history a Carolina player was suspended for on-field actions.
STATS AND STUFF: The Panthers have not won a playoff game since 2015, while the Jets have not been in, let alone won, a postseason game since 2010. New York’s playoff drought is the league’s longest. … Darnold was 13-25 as a starter in three seasons with the Jets prior to being traded to the Panthers for three draft picks. … Jets LB C.J. Mosely makes his return after opting out last season. … The Panthers are tied for the youngest team in the NFL with an average age of 25.67 years old, while the Jets rank third with an average age of 25.71, according to Elias Sports Bureau. … Panthers WR Moore has 2,368 yards receiving since 2019, sixth most in the league over that span. Anderson had 95 catches for 1,096 yards last year after being signed away from the Jets as a free agent. … Panthers S Jeremy Chinn led all rookies last season with 116 tackles and also had two fumble returns for touchdowns.
FANTASY TIP: The Jets will lean heavily on RB Tevin Coleman, who in 2019 ran for 105 yards and scored four touchdowns in 51-13 win over the Panthers while a member of the San Francisco 49ers. Carolina allowed 4.8 yards per carry last season.
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