Week 1 of the 2023 NFL regular season comes to a close with a marquee “Monday Night Football” matchup between the Buffalo Bills at the New York Jets.
It’s a season-opening tilt between AFC East rivals who both harbor realistic Super Bowl aspirations.
The Bills opened as 1.5-point favorites at BetMGM and the line has held steady with Buffalo backed by 68 percent of the spread-line bets and 69 percent of the money. However, the Jets’ +110 moneyline has also been a popular play as it has drawn 63 and 60 percent of the action, respectively.
There are still a lot of unknowns in terms of how the Jets’ offense will exit the gates with quarterback Aaron Rodgers at the helm. But New York also has a stout defense that gave Bills quarterback Josh Allen fits in two meetings last year, so we’re taking the points with the Jets at home.
Prediction: Jets 26, Bills 23
Allen was 9 years old when Aaron Rodgers was drafted by Green Bay. Allen said he’s mimicked a lot of Rodgers’ movements and looks up to him. Rodgers wants the Bills looking up at the Jets in the standings when the dust settles Monday.
At 39, Rodgers relocated for the first time in his career following a prolific run with the Packers. Unpacking Super Bowl and MVP credentials in New Jersey, Rodgers said he’s grown comfortable in a new shade of green in part because of the level of talent around him.
“I think we’re ready,” Rodgers said. “I played in a great spot for 18 years. We had a great home-field advantage, place was always sold out. I’m expecting a big crowd, a loud crowd. It’s going to be electric — ‘Monday Night Football’ — last game of the first week. It will be a pretty special moment to take the field against a division rival and a great quarterback, really good football team. It will be a special environment to start off my career with the Jets.”
Wide receiver Garrett Wilson was the 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and created a quick connection with Rodgers, who compared his new No. 17 — Wilson — to former Packers teammate and All-Pro wideout Davante Adams. The Jets also signed free agent Dalvin Cook to a one-year deal and added familiar Rodgers cronies Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb.
There’s depth here, too. New York wants to co-feature running back Breece Hall with Cook and brought in wide receiver Mecole Hardman from the Chiefs.
Defensive Rookie of the Year Sauce Gardner, a rare All-Pro selection at cornerback in his first season, and the Jets’ defense have an established track record of mortalizing Allen.
Gardner made sure Allen’s favorite target, wide receiver Stefon Diggs, didn’t have his hands full in their two matchups in 2022. Allen had 147 passing yards in the Bills’ 20-12 win on Dec. 11 — when Diggs was held to three receptions for 37 yards — and New York’s defense sacked him eight times with two picks in those two games. Allen had three rushing TDs.
In the Nov. 6 meeting, Gardner intercepted Allen and broke up a late pass on fourth-and-21 that ended Buffalo’s final drive and preserved the Jets’ 20-17 win.
“They’re a pretty good group — really good group for that matter,” Allen said. “They’ve got rushers that have motors, they sub those guys in and out so they’re fresh. Their DBs are smart. They game-planned pretty well for us the last couple times we’ve played them and we’ll have our hands full come Monday night.”
Two of the most bet player props for Monday night at BetMGM involved Wilson, the Jets’ second-year wideout.
No. 1 has been Wilson at +145 to score a touchdown in the game, while Wilson topping 68.5 receiving yards at -115 is No. 4.
The Jets signed Hardman and long-time Rodgers running mate Lazard to help keep defenses honest. Wilson will still be the primary focus of Buffalo’s secondary, but the Bills will be hard-pressed to keep the playmaker in check for four quarters so we like the Over on 68.5 receiving yards.
Despite safety Micah Hyde dealing with a back injury, the Bills are still expected to make Damar Hamlin inactive Monday night and go with Taylor Rapp and Cam Lewis as the primary backups. Hamlin, 25, made the 53-man roster as the latest awe-inspiring mile marker of his progress returning from on-field cardiac arrest at Cincinnati in January.
The Jets are expected to be at or very close to full strength, with everyone taking part in Saturday’s final practice of the week.
THEY SAID IT
–“That first game, I feel like it’s also finding yourself, what kind of team you’ve got, figuring out your identity.” –Diggs on being ready for the Jets in Week 1.
–“Having a guy like Aaron come in, the type of caliber player and person he is, he elevates everyone. You have to elevate your standards and your level of play. And across the board, we have so much talent. It is probably the most talented team I have been on and a great mixture of youth and veteran leadership.” –Jets OT Duane Brown on Rodgers’ presence.
–Field Level Media
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