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Back in Primetime: Jets to Open on Monday Night at the 49ers

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Opening in primetime for a second consecutive season, the New York Jets will begin their 2024 campaign with a Monday night interconference tilt in San Francisco against the NFC defending champion 49ers.

Jets QB Aaron Rodgers, who will be returning to action after sustaining an Achilles tear in the Jets’ thrilling OT win over the Bills on Sept. 11, 2023, grew up northeast of San Francisco in Chico and later starred collegiately at Cal Berkeley. The future Hall of Fame passer owns a 6-3 mark against the ‘Niners in the regular season with a 66.2% completion percentage and 20 TDs to just 2 INTs.

The 49ers claimed the NFC West title last season with a 12-5 mark before tripping up the Packers, 24-21, and the Lions, 34-31, in the divisional and conference championship rounds, respectively. But the Chiefs outlasted the 49ers, 25-22 in OT, in Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium as San Francisco was turned away by Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes in the title game for a second time in four years.

There will be appealing matchups all over the field in this Week 1 affair. The Jets boast arguably the NFL’s top cornerback set, and Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed and Michael Carter II will lock horns with a San Francisco skills group that includes WRs Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel plus TE George Kittle.

At running back, San Francisco star Christian McCaffrey, who became the first player in Super Bowl history to have at least 75 rush yards and 75 receiving yards in the same game, is coming off a season of 2,023 yards from scrimmage with 21 total TDs. The Jets will counter with Breece Hall, who had 1,585 scrimmage yards in an improbable return from ACL injury.

The Jets-49ers trench battles would be primetime-worthy on their own. The Jets traded for Haason Reddick and his 50.5 sacks in 2020-23 rank fourth in the NFL while the 49ers’ Nick Bosa racked up 44.5 sacks the past three seasons. Left tackles Tyron Smith (NYJ) and Trent Williams (SF) are likely Hall of Famers who have combined for 19 Pro Bowl invites. Linebackers Quincy Williams and C.J. Mosley will lead a Jets defense that ranked No. 3 last season while the 49ers will counter with Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw for a unit that finished eighth.

Jets HC Robert Saleh, the Niners defensive coordinator from 2017-20, and current Jets DC Jeff Ulbrich, a Niners ‘backer from 2000-09, will move the Jets’ defensive chess pieces against one of the NFL’s top play-callers in San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan. This relevant Week 1 matchup will also pit “Mr. Irrelevant” from 2018 in SF QB Brock Purdy, who’s compiled a 17-4 mark in the regular season as a starter with 44 TDs and 15 INTs, against one of the league’s top interior forces in Quinnen Williams.

The Jets are 1-3 in Monday night road openers, but they throttled the Lions, 48-17, in their last appearance in 2018. Owning a 2-3 mark in San Francisco, this will be the Jets’ second season-opening visit to the Niners. The Jets dropped a 36-30 OT thriller to the Niners at Candlestick Park on Sept. 6, 1998, but Garrison Hearst’s 96-yard game-winner preceded a Green & White division title and march to the AFC Championship Game.

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