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Pregame Shuffle Week 2: Cowboys vs Jets

This matchup has changed dramatically already.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Jets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Mike McCarthy got his first ever 1-0 start as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and he did it in style with a 40-0 win in the rain over the Giants in their own stadium. The next item on the to-do list was to go back home to Dallas and beat his former quarterback Aaron Rodgers, now with the Jets. Now, the list has changed.

Cowboys fans weren’t even finished celebrating the impressive victory when Rodgers, on just the fourth play of his first game with his new team, went down with what turned out to be a season-ending Achilles tear. The Jets went on to win the game in overtime despite an uneven performance from backup Zach Wilson, but that emotional high point soon gave way to the news that their quarterback - whom the Jets built their entire offseason around acquiring - was done for the year.

Now, they have to turn around and prepare for a road trip to Dallas with one less day to do so than the Cowboys. There’s a reason the line for the game shifted dramatically after Rodgers’ injury, with the Cowboys now favored by as many as 9.5 points.

That should tell you all you need to know about the perception of this team after the injury, but the Cowboys cannot underestimate this Jets team. Head coach Robert Saleh has built a lethal defense in New York, and that’s what ultimately led the team to victory against the talented Bills on Monday night. New York pressured Josh Allen 21 times in the game and forced three interceptions while also recovering a fumble deep in Bills territory to set up the go-ahead field goal late in the fourth quarter.

Suffice it to say that this is a much better defense than the Cowboys faced in Week 1. Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who finished last year second in sacks and eighth in pressures among interior defenders, leads a fierce pass rush on the defensive line. On the back end, cornerback Sauce Gardner won Defensive Rookie of the Year last year and anchors a very stingy secondary.

The offense has weapons, too. Receiver Garrett Wilson won Offensive Rookie of the Year last year, and now he’s flanked by veterans like Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb. Of course, both players were brought in because of their history with Rodgers, but their experience can’t be discounted. The Jets also have a strong running game that features Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook. Hall, a rookie last year, was very impressive in Week 1 with 127 yards on just 10 carries.

It all comes down to Wilson, though, and that’s why the Cowboys should still win this game comfortably. The second overall pick in the draft back in 2021, Wilson quickly proved that he was not going to be the Jets’ franchise quarterback. His rookie year was terrible, as Wilson finished dead last among all starters in EPA/play and throwing 11 interceptions to just nine touchdowns.

Wilson’s sophomore campaign didn’t get any better despite the addition of Garrett Wilson and a couple other free agent additions. He missed the first three games of the season due to injury but played so poorly once he returned that the Jets ended up benching him twice before the season ended. One of their first moves after the season concluded was to fire offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and bring in Nathaniel Hackett, who Rodgers has described on multiple occasions as his favorite coach of all time.

Wilson didn’t even play two full seasons before the Jets decided to completely give up on him, and everyone knows it. Now, they’ll have to roll with him against a Dallas defense that just demolished Daniel Jones, a quarterback who has actually put up a productive season in the NFL before.

Wilson wasn’t terrible on Monday night, finishing 15th in EPA/play for the week, but he was clearly playing with the gloves on all night. Wilson never threw the ball more than 20 yards down the field, and he was inefficient even when throwing more than 10 yards downfield, picking up an interception in the process. He also held onto the ball way too long - leading the league at 3.29 seconds to throw - which resulted in a lot of wild throws under pressure.

If Wilson plays that way against Micah Parsons and the rest of the Cowboys pass rush, this game could get ugly fast. The saving grace for the Jets is their defense, which is on par with the Cowboys defense even though they lack a player of Parsons’ caliber. This will be the first real test for McCarthy’s Texas Coast offense, but the Dallas defense should once again feast.

It’s just unfortunate that McCarthy won’t have the chance to face Rodgers, especially after their fast matchup ended in overtime last year. But the road has gotten considerably easier for the Cowboys as they prepare for their home opener.

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