FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The Jets won’t be facing a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut this week. Their opponent will be a step up in class for the Jets and their defense.
The Jets will put their two-game winning streak on the line against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on Sunday. This game should provide a better indication of whether the Jets can be counted on to be playing meaningful games late in the season.
“It’s always a step up when you play a Hall of Fame guy,” Robert Saleh said. “They’re one of the better offenses in football. For any defense, whatever you think you might have on defense, it’s still going to be a challenge — just because these guys know how to win football games, they know how to move the ball and all that stuff.
“So it’s going to be a tremendous challenge to see what we can do to get him off his spot.”
The Jets (3-2) have generated plenty of buzz and excitement over the last two weeks with their come-from-behind victory in Pittsburgh and blowout win of Miami. They are a much-improved team and those were impressive performances. But — not to be a killjoy — the upstart Jets still have to prove themselves.
Both wins came with rookie quarterbacks finishing the games for the other team.
In Pittsburgh, Mitch Trubisky was benched at halftime and replaced by first-round pick Kenny Pickett. The Dolphins started backup Teddy Bridgewater, who got injured on the first play. Seventh-round pick Skylar Thompson replaced him
None of the Jets’ victories this season have come against a team’s No. 1 quarterback. They also beat Cleveland with Jacoby Brissett starting for the suspended Deshaun Watson.
The Jets’ losses were to Baltimore and Lamar Jackson and Cincinnati and Joe Burrow. Rodgers, the NFL MVP the past two seasons, is better than both.
“He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback, man,” Quinnen Williams said. “He’s Aaron Rodgers. There’s nothing that needs to be said. Everybody in this group, everybody in this organization knows he’s got to be affected.
“You got to go to another level in every single aspect because guys like this can beat you single-handedly.”
Rodgers didn’t practice Wednesday because of a thumb injury he suffered at the end of Sunday’s loss to the Giants in London. Packers coach Matt LaFleur said, “we don’t have much concern for game day.”
Now, these aren’t the same great Packers, who have averaged 13 wins the past three seasons under LaFleur, the brother of Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. Green Bay is 3-2, just like the Jets.
The Packers are still learning how to play and win without Davante Adams. Rodgers’ favorite and most reliable target was traded to the Raiders in the offseason. Rodgers is adjusting as well and is off to a slow start by his standards.
Rodgers has yet to throw for 300 yards in a game and has eight touchdown passes to three interceptions. Rodgers has thrown five interceptions or fewer in each of the previous four seasons.
Still, the Jets know how dangerous he is and how the Packers’ running game can be with Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon.
“They’re great. They’re definitely a one-two punch,” Williams said. “You got to stop the run first and then you got to deal with Aaron Rodgers. That’s the biggest thing.”
The Jets spent a few days in Green Bay last year, conducting joint practices with the Packers before playing them in the preseason. At the time, the coaches were excited for this young team to see how Rodgers and the Packers prepared and practiced.
Now this is an opportunity for the Jets to see how far they’ve come since then.
“I do think we’re better than we were a year ago,” Saleh said. “It still comes back to us. It’s exciting just to be able to go out there and play a championship team, which is what they are, a championship team with a Hall-of-Fame quarterback. It still comes back to us and performing to the best of our ability.”