Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season features this matchup between two teams ready to make a playoff return.
The New York Jets last made the postseason over a decade ago and had seven losing seasons since their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 AFC Championship Game.
Add the 2020 season to their misery as they lost their first 13 games.
At that point, Jets fans would rather have their team lose to get the number one pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
But they won two straight games and finished the season at 2-14.
Here’s what to watch and how to watch it for when the Panthers host the Jets in the 2021 season opener. https://t.co/a4T86hoFzq
— ThePanthersWire (@ThePanthersWire) September 9, 2021
Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers won three of their first five games.
Unfortunately, they went 2-9 after and finished with a 5-11 slate.
Only the Atlanta Falcons had a worse record than them in the NFC South.
A new season starts, and both teams are hoping to bury their frustrations in the past.
As the kickoff for the Jets-Panthers contest nears, here are fascinating stories that make the clash more compelling.
3. Robert Saleh’s Head Coaching Debut
The Jets cleaned house during the offseason by letting former head coach Adam Gase leave.
Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams also got the pink slip after that controversial zero blitz call in Week 13 against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains did not survive the transition either.
In comes the 42-year-old Saleh, who made coaching stops with the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Jacksonville Jaguars, and San Francisco 49ers before landing in New York.
— Harrison Glaser (@NYJetsTFMedia) September 8, 2021
He brought in offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich to help him manage their game plan on both sides.
The Jets defense will line up on a base 4-3, a staple of Saleh’s schemes.
However, the offense is still an enigma, although they might employ some run-pass option plays to make Zach Wilson comfortable.
Saleh seems to be getting rapport with his players, but will that translate to wins?
2. Christian McCaffrey Returns
Unfortunately, Christian McCaffrey’s 2020 season came to an abrupt end after three games.
The Panthers featured back already had 225 yards and five touchdowns in 59 attempts by that point.
The year before, McCaffrey became a bonafide star by rushing for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 7, 2021
His return will provide a tremendous boost to a Panthers offense that ranked 22nd in rushing yards per game last season.
He also adds another dimension to Carolina’s attack by targeting screen passes or short-yardage situations.
1. Darnold Seeks Revenge
There’s no bigger story than Sam Darnold facing his former team.
He has yet to prove that he is NFL material, especially after what Jackson and Allen accomplished so far.
He didn’t have much talent to work with in New York, and Gase did not provide an environment where he could thrive.
Darnold will have a fresh start in Carolina and has plenty of firepower around him.
#Panthers QB Sam Darnold had a chance to throw the #Jets organization under the bus when the media asked him about the lack of weapons, protection in NY, but he took blame instead. Always has been a stand up guy: #NYJvsCAR #TakeFlight #KeepPounding pic.twitter.com/ZpRC9PXVBo
— Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25) September 8, 2021
The 2016 Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year also formed a promising quarterback-receiver tandem with tight end Dan Arnold throughout training camp.
Winning over the Jets will be a sweet result for Darnold.
But facing him on the field is the rookie Wilson who has a similar playing style to Darnold.
Will the new guy prevail or will Darnold show the Jets what they will be missing?NEXT: Kyle Pitts Must Live Up To The Hype For Falcons To Succeed