The New York Jets kick off the 2018 season Monday night against the Detroit Lions. The Lions are fresh off a 9-7 season where they barely missed the playoffs after a week 16 loss at Cincinnati. This will be the first game as head coach for long time Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. ESPN has coverage of the game, kickoff is at 7:10.

When: Monday, September 10, 7:10 pm EST-ESPN

Stadium: Ford Field (Capacity 65,000)

Series: 14th meeting, Lions lead 7-6

Last Meeting: Lions 24, Jets 17 9/28/14

Last Jet Win: Jets 23, Lions 20 11/07/10

Notable: Matt Patricia was with the Patriots since 2004

Head Coaches: Todd Bowles, Jets – Third Season 20-28, Matt Patricia, Lions – First Season 0-0

Injury Report: JETS: DNP- Marcus Maye (Ankle), Josh Martin (Concussion), Jermaine Kearse (Abdomen)/ Limited Practice: Avery Williamson (Hamstring), Jeremiah Attaochu (Calf)/ Full Practice: Steve McLendon (Knee), Brian Winters (Back), Kelvin Beachum (Foot), Spencer Long (Knee), Terrelle Pryor (Ankle), Quincy Enunwa (Thumb), Buster Skrine (Hand) LIONS: No injuries

Jets Rankings 2017: OFFENSE: POINTS PER GAME 18.6 (23rd), TOTAL YARDS 4884 (28th), RUSHING 1702 (19th), PASSING 3182 (24th), 3RD DOWN 35.5% (23rd) DEFENSE: POINTS PER GAME 23.9 (22nd-T), TOTAL YARDS 5636 (25th), RUSHING 1887 (24th), PASSING 3749 (21st), 3RD DOWN 37.1% (12th)

Lions Rankings 2017: OFFENSE: POINTS PER GAME 25.6 (7th), TOTAL YARDS 5404 (13th), RUSHING 1221 (32nd), PASSING 4183 (6th), 3RD DOWN 38.8% (17th) DEFENSE: POINTS PER GAME 23.5 (21st), TOTAL YARDS 5692 (27th) RUSHING 1800 (18th), PASSING 3892 (27th), 3RD DOWN 38.3 (15th)

Key Match-ups:

 

  • QB Sam Darnold vs. CB Darius Slay: The Lions feature the co-leader in interceptions last year in Darius Slay, who had eight interceptions. Sam Darnold is the interception-prone rookie. If Darnold can confidently complete passes to Robby Anderson or Terrelle Pryor while matched up with Slay it well quell a lot of concern about his turnovers. If Slay proves to be too tough, the Jets also feature a healthy Quincy Enunwa and the ever-reliable Jermaine Kearse (if he’s healthy). Besides Slay the Lions also have 2014 interceptions leader Glover Quin at safety.
  • MLB Darron Lee vs. RB Theo Riddick: The Lions run game is headed by Theo Riddick and LeGarrette Blount. Blount is a tough between the tackles banger, but with the return of Steve McLendon from injury, they should be able to contain him. Darron Lee has struggled in pass coverage against running backs in seasons past, and Riddick is one of the best pass-catching backs in the league. He had 444 yards receiving last year, and had 80 receptions in 2015. If Lee can interrupt the passing lanes to Matt Stafford’s safety outlet, he may be more inclined to fit the ball into tight situations, leading to more interceptions.
  • LT Kelvin Beachum vs. DE Ezekiel Ansah: Kelvin Beachum broke his foot in early August and is already back just one month later. The 29-year-old has not been the same since he was a Steeler, and now he’ll have to go against Ezekiel Ansah. The former number five overall pick had 12 sacks last year, and Beachum needs to keep Darnold’s blind side clean to instill some confidence in the rookie, who will hopefully look to air it out more than Jets fans saw in the preseason.

X-Factors

  • JETS- Terrelle Pryor, 1, WR: Pryor is coming back from an injury-plagued season in Washington in which he caught only 20 balls for 240 yards. There hasn’t been a lot of hype around the 1,000 yard receiver since his signing this summer, a one-year deal worth $4.5 million. He has looked good in training camp, and appears eager for his return to form. He could perform well, with Darius Slay presumably spending most of the day spent lined up on Robby Anderson, he’ll have a chance to put up some serious yards on Nevin Lawson or another back-up corner.
  • LIONS- LeGarrette Blount, 29, RB: Another summer signing, Blount is fresh off his super-bowl victory against his former team, the New England Patriots. Although his yards per carry were up, he was nowhere near producing the 18 touchdowns he scored in 2016 with the Patriots. If Steve McLendon isn’t entirely good to go, he could find space up the middle, and Darron Lee would be hard-pressed to bring down Blount at full-speed. As would most linebackers.

KEYS TO THE GAME:

JETS RUN GAME: The Jets finished 19th in rushing yards, and they hope to improve on that in 2018. With Spencer Long replacing Wesley Johnson at center, and Brian Winters being healthy this year. Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell are also healthy and ready to go, and offer a diverse skill-set to keep the defense on their toes. Crowell prefers to run right over defenders, while Powell is a finesse back, who also has the capability to run people over. If the Jets can move the ball on the ground and limit the amount of drives Matt Stafford has, the better the chance they have to win.

SAM DARNOLD’S FIRST START: Darnold’s first career start will come on Monday Night Football in front of all of America. Darnold has never been known to lose his poise, but this is a test like no other he has faced. He has undoubtedly done his due-diligence to prepare for the Lions, but can anything really prepare you for facing off against NFL defenders? Darnold will have a chance to strut his stuff in green and white for the first time with everyone watching- hopefully he can continue to keep his cool.

PENALTIES: The Jets had 119 penalties last year, good for ninth most in the NFL, and were not better in the preseason, as they were flagged 27 times through the first three games. Buster Skrine will see a lesser role in 2018, which should lighten the load on the defensive end, and Brian Winters is now recovered from his abdominal injury, and those were the leaders in penalties last year with 11 and eight respectively.

THE PICK: Jets 20, Lions 17- Although Patricia has been the defensive coordinator for the Patriots since 2004, he has not seen this Jeremy Bates led offense, and Darnold has yet to play an NFL game. The two teams only play each other every four years, and the 2018 edition features two fairly matched teams. The edge goes to the Jets because their defense has the ability to shut-down the Lions offense, while the Jets offense should be able to find some room in the run game and possibly in the pass game if they can get the right protection.