Why the New York Jets can still make the NFL playoffs despite Aaron Rodgers’ injury

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Highlights Losing Rodgers is massive, but the Jets have surprisingly become a model franchise in the last couple of years, which should help them overcome the loss
Zach Wilson has not impressed so far as a pro, but he has a chance at a new lease on life in the NFL if he can limit his mistakes this year
Strong depth and talent on the defensive side of the ball, as well as in the running game and special teams, should supplement the loss of Rodgers
The New York Jets entered the 2023 NFL year with high expectations. In the offseason, the newest NFL media darlings were able to sign future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers as well as Pro Bowl free agent running back Dalvin Cook. To top it all off, the team starred in the annual HBO behind-the-scenes series Hard Knocks.
However, much of that good fortune was seemingly undone after Aaron Rodgers’ fourth snap of New York’s 22-16 Week 1 victory on Monday Night Football over the Buffalo Bills. During that play, Rodgers rolled out and fell awkwardly on his left leg after being sacked by Bills linebacker Leonard Floyd. The team’s worst nightmare was confirmed the following day as an MRI revealed Rodgers had torn his left Achilles tendon, ending his debut season with the Jets prematurely.
Despite the grim prospects, all is not yet lost for fans of the J-E-T-S as evidenced by their gritty win over a top contender like the Bills. Here’s why the team can still make the NFL playoffs, even without Aaron Rodgers.
Read more: 6 playoff teams that won’t make it in 2023, including the Bills?
Saucy Suffocating Defense
The 2023 Jets defense is looking to make even more of a splash than last year, when they terrorized their offensive opponents by allowing only 18.6 points per game, good for 4th in the league. Under head coach Robert Saleh, the defense of the Jets produced three Pro Bowlers: linebacker C.J. Mosley, defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, and rookie cornerback Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner (the latter two were also First Team All-Pro selections).
In their season opening victory over the Bills on Monday, Jets safety Jordan Whitehead also had three interceptions as the defense flustered MVP candidate Josh Allen all night, forcing the perennial Pro Bowler to commit four turnovers. With another year under their belt in Saleh’s 4-3 defensive scheme, the Jets’ defense will look to keep their opponents’ scoring to a minimum, which helps their chances at making the playoffs.
Two-Headed Running Back Monster
Although the mood was a somber one at MetLife Stadium on Monday night with the loss of Aaron Rodgers, Jets fans can take solace in the fact that their running game looks to already be in mid-season form. Second year running back Breece Hall made his return from a left ACL tear that derailed his rookie campaign last season after Week 7. Against the Bills Monday night, Hall ran for 127 yards on just 10 carries, two of which went for 26 and 83 yards.
Any trepidation over how Hall would look in his return quickly vanquished as his burst and acceleration were very evident throughout the night. Four-time Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook also took the field for the first time since leaving the Minnesota Vikings during the offseason. With only 13 carries for 33 yards, Cook wasn’t as effective as Hall Monday night. However, that is to be expected as Cook entered camp late with the Jets. Look for this lethal combination of speed demons to continue to run rampant and take on a bigger role within the offense after the loss of Rodgers.
Read more: The biggest NFL offseason addition for all 32 teams – 2023 edition
Shrewd Coaching From Bobby Saleh
If the New York Jets are going to make it to the playoffs this season without Rodgers, they must have sound coaching on both sides of the ball. This begins with third year head coach Robert Saleh. On offense, former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has taken on the same role with the Jets — a role that he used to help Rodgers win the MVP in 2020 and 2021 (Hackett was the Packers’ OC from 2019-2021).
The defensive side of the ball is where Saleh gained a more than reputable coaching resume as the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers from 2017-2020. With a stacked roster on that side of the ball, Coach Saleh can deploy his vaunted 4-3 scheme in order to win low-scoring affairs, which will be key if this team wants to make the playoffs. The team will also look to play cleaner football, as they finished in the middle of the pack in terms of penalties in 2022.
Special Teams Superstars
If Monday night’s victory is any indication, the New York Jets will be exceptional on special teams this year. Their kicker is 11-year veteran Greg Zuerlein. He is often referred to as “Greg the Leg” or “Legatron” for his long range kicking prowess. In the Monday night game against the Buffalo Bills, Zuerlein made all 3 of his field goal attempts, including a 30-yarder to give the Jets a 3-point lead with less than 1:50 remaining in that game.
With his starring role in Hard Knocks, undrafted rookie returner Xavier Gipson had already become a more well-known name around the NFL before his debut. Then, in overtime on Monday night, the Bills punted to Gipson, who took it 65 yards for a touchdown to win in walk-off fashion. With Gipson’s dynamic ability in the return game and Greg Zuerlein’s reliable kicking, the Jets’ special teams will look to help carry the load for New York.
Zach Wilson Comeback Season
Yes, that is correct. Backup quarterback Zach Wilson is one of, if not the most vital piece for the New York Jets if they want to make the playoffs this season. He is only in his third year after being drafted with the number two overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Despite a tumultuous two years at the helm of the Jets, he has grown some under the tutelage of Rodgers. The former four-time MVP was not only brought to New York to lead the team to the promised land but also to instill a confidence in them that hasn’t been there seen since the days of Rex Ryan, Darrelle Revis, and Mark Sanchez. Wilson was seen as a type of Rodgers protégé this year, and apparently the youngster has been inseprable from the veteran all offseason. Wilson’s arm strength and scrambling ability are indeed reminiscent of a young Aaron.
With an elite defense, a reliable running game, solid coaching, and big plays from special teams, Wilson doesn’t need to be the Green Bay legend. If he can limit his turnovers and regularly find his playmakers, such as star receiver Garrett Wilson, the Jets will find themselves where they assumed they would be all along…in the playoffs.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference and all contract information courtesy of Spotrac unless stated otherwise.
Read more: Aaron Rodgers likes to get wild: Craziest, nuttiest things the QB has said and done

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