New York Jets 2020 season preview: Enough playmakers around Sam Darnold?

ByESPN staff ESPN logo
Tuesday, September 8, 2020

The New York Jets are ranked No. 25 in ESPN's Football Power Index ahead of the 2020 NFL season. With no preseason games this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, Week 1 is the first time we'll see new acquisitions and rookies for every team. Week 1 will also give us the first NFL games since Super Bowl LIV in February.

Here's everything you need to know about the Jets heading into the season, from the big question to answer and the toughest stretch on their schedule to a bold prediction and potential breakout fantasy football stars.

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

The big question: Does quarterbackSam Darnold have enough players to realize his potential?

It will be tough because the Jets lack a perimeter playmaker. Yes, wide receiver Breshad Perriman has lots of speed, but he will often disappear for stretches in a short passing game. With slot receiver Jamison Crowder and tight end Chris Herndon, Darnold has enough to be efficient over the middle. It will be on coach Adam Gase to scheme up ways to balance the offense both inside and outside. If he's smart, he'll run the offense through running back Le'Veon Bell, taking pressure off Darnold. -- Rich Cimini

How the pandemic has most affected the Jets

Linebacker C.J. Mosley, poised to anchor the defense in the post-Jamal Adams season, became one of the biggest stars to opt out because of COVID-19 concerns. Without Mosley and Adams (who was traded to Seattle), the Jets won't have their top two "box" players. They can survive it, but only if Marcus Maye can make the transition to strong safety. The pandemic wiped out offseason practices and preseason games, which could stunt the Jets' offensive line development. With four new starters, the Jets needed those reps to build chemistry. There will be acute growing pains over the first few weeks, which could drag down the entire offense. -- Cimini

Football Power Index projections for the Jets

Overall ranking: 25

Offensive ranking: 28

Defensive ranking: 13

Special teams ranking: 1

Total wins: 6.8

AFC East title chances: 11.1%

Chances to make playoffs: 23.5%

Super Bowl chances: 0.3%

2021 draft picks: Nos. 8 & 25 (via SEA)

Inside the Jets' schedule

FPI's strength of schedule rank: 3

Toughest stretch: Let's go straight to the midsection: In Weeks 7 through 9, the Jets face the Buffalo Bills (home), Kansas City Chiefs (away) and New England Patriots (home). Aside from the obvious concern -- they were all playoff teams -- the characteristic that jumps out is all three have smart quarterbacks who are athletes. The Jets struggled against mobile quarterbacks last season, and not having Adams -- their fastest defender -- won't help. Their season could be toast by the end of this stretch.

Over or under 6.8 wins? Under. The Jets helped their future by acquiring two first-round picks in the Adams trade, but the present looks grim. They have no top-100 players on the roster, the offensive line is new and the defense lacks talent at the two most important positions, edge rusher and cornerback. And let's not forget, they have the third-toughest schedule. This feels like one of those years that goes two steps backward. Prediction: 6-10. -- Cimini

Bold prediction for 2020: Bell will be traded by the midseason deadline

This won't be an easy task for the Jets, because he will still have about $4 million remaining in guaranteed 2020 salary, but they will eat some of it to pave the way for rookie La'Mical Perine to get more carries alongside Frank Gore. Look, Bell is a talented player, but he will be of no use to the Jets if they're out of contention. They will cut him after the season to avoid a $13.5 million salary-cap hit in '21; this way, they can recoup a late-round draft pick. -- Cimini

Breakout fantasy star: Chris Herndon, TE

Herndon had the look of a breakout player last season, but injuries limited him to 16 snaps. He is back healthy and ready for another shot at it in 2020. Herndon impressed as a rookie, posting the ninth-most fantasy points at tight end after Week 5. His 9.0 yards per target (YPT) is fourth best among rookie tight ends since 2007, a stat that has correlated well with eventual fantasy dominance. Herndon can be had in the final round or two of your draft. -- Mike Clay

ADP for the top players:

The view from Vegas

Super Bowl odds: 100-1 (opened 50-1)

Over/under: 6.5

Playoff odds: Yes +370, No -460

The Jets are in familiar territory, as it's the fourth time in the past six seasons they open 100-1 or longer to win the Super Bowl. Betting "yes" to make the playoffs is close to 4-1 on your money, but the Jets haven't done that in a decade. The win total is at 6.5 and they did win seven last season, but they have not had back-to-back seasons with 7-plus wins since 2010-11. -- ESPN Chalk staff

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill as of Sept. 1.

Speed reads before Week 1

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