As the Broncos prepare to play the Jets on "Thursday Night Football," we're going straight to the source to get an opposing perspective on this Week 4 matchup. We've turned to Eric Allen, a senior reporter for NewYorkJets.com, to see what he'll be watching in this prime-time matchup.
Which player on the Jets will have the biggest impact on this game?
EA: Jamison Crowder. The Jets' injuries at the wide receiver position have been well-documented with veteran newcomer Breshad Perriman (ankle) set to miss a second consecutive game and rookie Denzel Mims on injured reserve (hamstring) along with Vyncint Smith (core surgery). But the Green & White expect to get both Jeff Smith (shoulder) back along with Crowder. After hauling in 7 passes for 115 yards and 1 TD in Week 1 vs. the Bills, Crowder was forced to the sideline the past two games due to a tight hamstring. He is Sam Darnold's go-to guy, a player who led the club in receptions (78), receiving yards (833) and TD catches (6) last season. Crowder consistently wins against man coverage and he is comfortable finding the soft spot in the zone. This Jets offense needs a spark and Crowder can provide it.
Which Bronco will you be watching most closely?
EA: Brett Rypien. Rypien did some good things in a mop-up role last week against the Buccaneers and the Jets have had their struggles on defense, but this is not an ideal situation for his first NFL start. Not only is this a road game, but Rypien had a short week of preparation before a long plane ride from Denver to New Jersey. Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams praised Rypien's intelligence, saying he did a good job changing protections Sunday. The Jets weren't able to get to Philip Rivers last week, but the Broncos have allowed 13 sacks the past two games. Will the Broncos play it safe and try to get the ball out quickly or will they give Rypien a green light at times to attack the Jets down the field with those talented young receivers? Williams might be sending extra defenders to the Broncos' bus Thursday before kickoff.
What storyline for this week's game intrigues you most?
EA: How will Sam Darnold respond from one of his most difficult outings as a pro? He had two pick-sixes against the Colts and also was taken down in the end zone for a safety, resulting in 16 points. The Jets are averaging just 12.3 points per game and their 17 point-effort at Buffalo was their top output thus far. Ironically, Darnold and the offense moved the ball well in the first half against both the 49ers and the Colts. But they haven't found much success in the red zone and the games have gotten away from them in the second halves. Denver is yielding 277.7 yards per game through the air and is still minus top cornerback A.J. Bouye.
What will be the deciding factor in Thursday's game?
EA: I think you'll know by halftime where this is going. The Jets are the only team in the NFL that hasn't had a lead to date. They need to play loose and bring the energy in front of a nationally televised audience. If they can grab a lead, I think they'll be able to settle in and then get back to an attacking style on defense. Both quarterbacks have to protect the football and which team can get their run game going? One club will head into the mini-bye with some much needed momentum after a challenging first quarter.