If you thought last week's Dolphins-Jaguars Thursday night matchup was ugly (and it was particularly ugly in this space), wait until you get a load of tonight's matchup. This game features two 0-3 teams dealing with a ton of injuries, one in the Jets that has looked like the clear worst team in football, and another in the Broncos already on its third starting QB of the year in Week 4. Buckle up, because this is sure to be whatever the opposite of a barn-burner is (a barn-freezer? let's workshop it).
We're going to get you ready for the matchup on the gambling side of things in this space, including what you need to know about each aspect of the game from a betting perspective. All odds via William Hill Sportsbook.
What picks can you make with confidence in Week 4? And which Super Bowl contender goes down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which NFL teams are winning more than 50 percent of simulations, all from the model that is up over $7,500 on its top-rated picks.
How to watch
Broncos at Jets (-1)
This line reopened on Sunday at Broncos -3, quickly moved to -2.5 but was back at -3 for much of Monday. Throughout Tuesday, which is when Brett Rypien was announced as the starter, the line dropped all the way to Broncos -1. It moved to pick 'em late Wednesday afternoon and then to Jets -1 by Wednesday night as the market shows no faith in Rypien on short rest.
But should we be looking to back the young starter? Per CBS Sports research, the last 10 quarterbacks to make their first career start in primetime are 9-1 ATS and SU. Expand that to the last 15 seasons and you get an 18-5 ATS mark. Sam Darnold is 0-2 ATS in his career, losing on the road to Cleveland and Baltimore.
Pick: Jets -1. Full disclosure: I actually gave the Jets as a pick on SportsLine on Monday when the line was still Broncos -3, as I thought it was bound to drop. Jets -1 is far from Jets +3, so I'm not super enthusiastic about this pick. How can you possibly feel good about laying even a single point with the Jets the way they've looked through three weeks?
But here's the thing: the Broncos haven't looked that good either. They could have given up 26-plus points in three straight games had Stephen Gostkowski in Week 1. They've been brutalized by injuries at almost every position.
And even though that 9-1 ATS stat looks pretty actionable above, a lot of those games came with highly-touted young QBs, great head coaches, teams with elite defenses or all three. I don't think any of those three situations apply to the Broncos right now.
Over/Under 40 points
This total hasn't done much, sitting at 40 for most of the week, though you may be able to find a half-point either way.
Pick: Over 40. This might seem counterintuitive with the condition of these offenses, but remember that offenses can be so bad they actually help scoring -- for the other team. Here's a game where one pick-six, or a few short fields due to turnovers, should set us up to creep over 40. You know Gregg Williams is going to blitz Rypien to kingdom come, and that should lead to big plays one way or another.
O/U 18.5 completions
O/U 202.5 passing yards
O/U 1.5 passing TDs (Under -220)
O/U 0.5 interceptions (Over -125)
That 202.5 number looks pretty low, right? Well, eight of the last 12 quarterbacks to make their first career start didn't get to 200 yards, and one didn't even reach 100 (sorry, Luke Falk). And when it comes to Thursday night, for every Nick Mullens (262 yards, three TDs, no picks in 2018 TNF debut) there's a Deshaun Watson (125 yards), Jacoby Brissett (103 yards) or Trevor Siemian (178 yards), who are the other three QBs to make their first career start on TNF over the last 10 years. Considering the Jets will likely bring the house a bunch, let's go ahead and hit Over 0.5 interceptions with reasonable juice.
O/U 21.5 completions
O/U 33.5 attempts
O/U 228.5 passing yards
O/U 1.5 passing TDs (Under -175)
O/U 0.5 interceptions (Over -130)
O/U 8.5 rushing yards
While 228.5 seems like a pretty low mark for a QB, it's a number Darnold hasn't topped in any of his last six games dating back to last year. And it's not like the Jets haven't been in negative game script in those games. Since Darnold's accuracy has been an issue, I like the Under on completions, especially if Jamison Crowder can't go. He's been Darnold's security blanket in the past, so check the pregame inactive list and be ready to fire if Crowder is on it. One more Darnold prop: Under 34.5 yards on longest completion. He's only had longer than a 30-yard completion once all year, and that was on a zero-yard pass to Crowder who then broke multiple poor tackle attempts to score a long touchdown.
More props to consider
Braxton Berrios Under 3.5 receptions, Under 42.5 receiving yards
I mentioned above that I like Darnold's Under on completions if Crowder is out again, but it does appear the reliable receiver is on track to return to action in this game. That's bad news for Berrios, who didn't have a role in Week 1 before emerging as Darnold's go-to option over the last two weeks. If Crowder is back, Berrios should take a back seat and have trouble getting over these totals.
Melvin Gordon Under 85.5 rushing + receiving yards
Here's another one worth monitoring the inactive list for, as Philip Lindsay is questionable and may be ready to make his return this week. Even with Lindsay sidelined for most of the year, this is a total that Gordon only slightly beat in Week 1, fell just short of in Week 2 and didn't get close to in Week 3, thanks largely to his lack of work in the passing game (34 yards on nine receptions through three games). The Jets rank 14th in the NFL in yards per rush allowed, so don't just expect the Denver O-line to dictate this matchup.
Frank Gore Over 14.5 rushing attempts (-125)
Gore has not been an effective runner for the Jets this year, but that hasn't stopped them from feeding him the ball. With Le'Veon Bell sidelined, Gore received 21 carries in Week 2 and 15 carries last week despite the Jets getting blown out in both games. In what's expected to be a closer game, there's no reason to deviate from that gameplan here on a short week.