Denver Broncos (0-3) at New York Jets (0-3), Thursday, 6:20 p.m. MT, MetLife Stadium, FOX, 850 AM, 94.1 FM, 103.5 FM
3 Things to watch
1. Thursday toilet bowl. Two of the AFC’s three 0-3 teams kick off Week 3, and based off the trajectories of both franchises this year, this game could ultimately play a large role in determining draft position at the end of the season. Meanwhile, both teams have second-year head coaches in the Broncos’ Vic Fangio and the Jets’ Adam Gase, with each going 7-9 in their opening seasons. Dropping to 0-4 could put the losing coach on the fast track to a pink slip.
2. Phillip Lindsay’s status. The Broncos running back missed the past two games with a turf toe injury suffered in the first half of the Week 1 loss to Tennessee. He was limited in practice this week and is questionable to play. If he does play, Fangio said the running back will be on a play count. While a third straight 1,000-yard rushing season is basically out of the question now, the homegrown running back’s ability to impact the game Thursday will affect Denver’s chances.
3. Rypien’s first NFL start. After making his NFL debut in the fourth quarter of last week’s loss to Tampa Bay, quarterback Brett Rypien makes his first start. On his one drive last week, Rypien started 8-for-8 and marched the Broncos into the red zone before his ninth pass was intercepted. Rypien spent eight weeks on Denver’s practice squad last year after signing as a college free agent out of Boise State. He’s the ninth starting quarterback for Denver since Peyton Manning retired following the 2015 season.
Who has the edge?
When the Jets run
New York’s rushing has been about as anemic as the Broncos, as the Jets are averaging 88.3 rushing yards per game to rank 28th. The ageless Frank Gore is their main back, while New York also features Colorado native and Falcon product Kalen Ballage. Inside linebacker Alexander Johnson and nose tackle Mike Purcell must set the tone against the run.
When the Jets pass
Former No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold hasn’t impressed much in this three seasons in New York. His top targets are wideouts Braxton Berrios and Jamison Crowder, although the latter was limited in practice this week due to a hamstring injury. Corner Michael Ojemudia will surely continue to get picked on, while Denver could use more interceptions overall.
When the Broncos run
With Lindsay questionable to play, a heavy load will again fall on Melvin Gordon, who needs one scrimmage touchdown (rush or receiving) to become the fifth active running back with 50 combined scores. Gordon’s yet to go over 100 yards in a game. Leading tackler Marcus Maye and the Jets, meanwhile, rank 24th with 133.4 rushing yards allowed per game.
When the Broncos pass
Denver’s offensive line has been atrocious the past couple of weeks, allowing a combined 13 sacks and 29 quarterbacks hits in losses to Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. The protection must improve for Rypien to allow the young quarterback to find dangerous targets such as rookie wideouts Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler as well as blossoming tight end Noah Fant.
Denver’s blocked two kicks this season, and the Broncos rank first in the league with seven blocked kicks since 2018. Brandon McManus has been decent so far, hitting 3-of-4 field goals. But Denver has to make sure to prevent the big play on special teams, as happened when Tampa Bay blocked a punt in the first quarter last week and punter Sam Martin dropped snap to give Pittsburgh a safety the week before that.
Ryan O’Halloran, beat writer: Broncos 20, Jets 13
Rypien throws two touchdowns and Bradley Chubb gets his first two sacks of the season as the Broncos avoid a second consecutive 0-4 start and contribute to the Jets’ misery.
Kyle Newman, beat writer: Jets 17, Broncos 14
A second straight 0-4 start is punctuated by another embarrassing performance by the offensive line, and Rypien throws an interception on the final drive to seal the defeat.
Mark Kiszla, columnist: Broncos 24, Jets 20
Although no playoff implications, this is must-win for Fangio and Gase, because the losing coach might not finish the season.
Sean Keeler, columnist: Broncos 20, Jets 17
Welcome to the AFC’s biggest pillow fight. If 2020 owes us anything, it’s the sight of a healthy Joe Flacco coming off the bench, trying to rescue the hosts. The Broncos are a dumpster fire. The Jets are a burning Zeppelin.