Biggest storylines for Panthers vs. Jets in Week 1

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You’d be remiss not to find any type of drama in any NFL game, even one between the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets here in 2021. But just to make sure you do find it, we’re here to help.

Here are the three biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s season opener.

New York State of (Re)Mind

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All, or at least most, eyes will be on Panthers starting quarterback Sam Darnold. After all, it is the SAM DARNOLD REVENGE GAME! Besides that, it'll be compelling to see if the fourth-year slinger has made any noticeable improvements since his trade to Carolina. How much of a command does he have on coordinator Joe Brady's offense? Will his footwork hold up? Will his offensive line hold up? Those are all very pertinent details in tomorrow's matchup. But let's not forget the other former Jet, wideout Robby Anderson. Anderson seems to get a tad overlooked, which really isn't fair considering how good he is. That sweet two-year extension didn't come by accident, it came by his wide-range of polished skills that make him one of the sport's most dangerous game-breaking talents at his position. Can he break his ex-squad's hopes tomorrow when they throw out a group of (painfully) inexperienced corners at him? Will this be the . . . ROBBY ANDERSON REVENGE GAME as well?

A Broadway Opening

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Ten years ago to the day, the Panthers embarked on a new era. That was when rookie quarterback Cam Newton and first-year head coach Ron Rivera began their successful partnership at the top of the Carolina franchise, taking the field against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 11, 2011. New York will be experiencing a similar feeling at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday. Their fresh start with Robert Saleh at the helm and 2021 second overall pick Zach Wilson is quite palpable, too. Sure, they've had their chances at a refresh numerous times, even one with Darnold, of course. But there just seems to be a different energy exuded by this pair of Jets newcomers, one of excitement and one of the interesting unknown. Let's see if the Panthers can turn that energy back around. And that may be up to another debuting rookie, Panthers cornerback and eighth overall selection Jaycee Horn.

Return of the Mac

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("Return of the Mack" is such a damn good song, by the way, isn't it? Like, who doesn't bump with that?) Speaking of "damn good," Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey is back from a disappointing 2020. After becoming just the third man in NFL history to amass 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a single season back in 2019, his encore performance lasted just three games. A high-ankle sprain, a shoulder sprain and a thigh strain (that's a lot of -ain), smacked McCaffrey throughout the campaign and resulted in a collective absence of 13 games. Even though he was still himself when he did play, totaling 374 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns, he pretty much wasn't there. Now, barring any more setbacks, we'll get to see a full dose of McCaffrey in Brady's offense. Head coach Matt Rhule and his staff have kept their top weapon in a cage for the entire summer and are ready to finally unleash him here in Week 1. [vertical-gallery id=640184]

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