The New York Jets and Detroit Lions finished the 2015 NFL season separated by seven wins, but expectations are relatively high for both teams. With the Jets expected to be much improved and the Lions looking to make a second consecutive playoff appearance, the two teams will meet in Week 1 of the preseason on Thursday night at Ford Field.
The Jets were one of the NFL’s worst teams in 2014, going 4-12 and finishing in last place in the AFC East. The Lions went 11-5, losing a heartbreaker to the Dallas Cowboys on Wild Card Weekend.
The 2015 season could be a make-or-break year for Geno Smith, and the first preseason game was expected to be a test for the Jets’ quarterback. But after suffering a broken jaw during a fight with his teammate, the 24-year-old will miss every exhibition game. Surgery will keep him off the field for six to 10 weeks.
That leaves Ryan Fitzpatrick as the No.1 quarterback on the depth chart, but the veteran might be used sparingly in preseason while new head coach Todd Bowles looks at the younger quarterback options. Bryce Petty, whom the Jets selected in the fourth round of the draft, could see a lot of action in his NFL debut. Jake Heaps, who went undrafted, should also get some playing time at quarterback.
New York’s biggest upgrade on offense was the addition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who will make his debut after three seasons with the Chicago Bears. The Jets drafted wide receiver Devin Smith in the second round, but he suffered broken ribs on July 31 and should be sidelined for at least another two weeks.
The Jets' strength remains their defense, which has a chance to be one of the best in the NFL. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson didn’t participate in team drills earlier this week, and he is unlikely to take the field in the preseason opener. But first-round pick Leonard Williams, an exciting defensive end from USC, will show what he can do against Detroit.
Most of the Detroit starters are expected to play, but they might not be on the field too long. In last year’s first exhibition game, head coach Jim Caldwell pulled his starters after seven plays. Calvin Johnson didn’t play at all in Week 1 of the 2014 preseason. The wide receiver battled injuries last year and only played in 13 games, but he looks to be completely healthy in training camp.
Detroit lost Ndamukong Suh to the Miami Dolphins in the offseason, though they did make a few acquisitions of their own. But Suh’s replacement won’t be healthy enough to suit up on Thursday night. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, whom the Lions received in a trade from the Baltimore Ravens, won’t play due to a hamstring injury.
Cornerback Alex Carter, defensive end Jason Jones, offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle and Joique Bell will also miss Thursday’s contest. Waddle is recovering from a knee injury, and he might miss the entire preseason.
New York vs. Detroit is one of three games that will start at 7:30 p.m. ET on Thursday night. CBS2 in New York and FOX2 in Detroit will broadcast the contest on live TV. NFL Network will air a replay of the preseason game on Friday morning at 5 a.m. ET.