Zach Wilson is 5-1 since returning from injury in Week 4. But he hasn’t played all that well.
The Jets quarterback’s 57.5% completion rate is third-worst in the NFL while his 75.5 passer rating is second-worst according to Next Gen Stats. His worst game: the Week 8 matchup with the Patriots and the almighty Bill Belichick, who has a history of giving young quarterbacks fits. Wilson threw three interceptions in what was a devastating 22-17 loss.
The Jets are on a roll and coming off a huge win over the Bills prior to the bye. But Wilson and his kryptonite meet again Sunday. In Foxborough, no less.
The Pats will host the Jets at 1:00 p.m. ET. And for various reasons, it’ll be the biggest test of Wilson’s young career.
Redemption time. Belichick owns Wilson. In less than three games against the Pats (he exited one last year with a knee injury), the former No. 2 pick has completed only 53.6% of his throws with two touchdowns, seven picks, and a dreadful 50.5 passer rating.
Although it’s one of the most difficult tasks for any novice quarterback, Wilson must figure out Belichick’s defense if he wants to succeed against him for years to come. Impressing in a big road victory Sunday would be a great start, and it would also go a long way toward Wilson’s further growth as an NFL quarterback.
Wilson’s performance in the recent loss to New England turned a lot of fans off. The “bust” narrative was starting to formulate. But he took a step forward the following week with the win over Buffalo and can do the same against the Pats.
If Wilson can just manage the offense, not make the big mistake, and use the offensive weapons to his advantage, the Jets could win this game. And Wilson and his team could continue to gain the respect they feel they deserve.
Division status. The Jets have a chance to sit atop the AFC East after this weekend. But multiple things need to happen.
Right now, the division looks as follows:
1-Dolphins: 7-3 (Week 11 bye)
2-Jets: 6-3 (Week 11 at Patriots)
3-Bills: 6-3 (Week 11 vs. Browns)
4-Patriots: 5-4 (vs. Jets)
If the Jets defeat the Pats and the Bills lose to Cleveland at home, the Jets will be 7-3 and tied with Miami for the best record in the division. However, the Jets would own the tiebreaker due to a Week 5 win over the Dolphins. The Bills would then be in third at 6-4 with the Pats sitting in last at 5-5.
However, the Jets could just as easily find themselves in last place in the division. A loss and coinciding Buffalo win would put the Dolphins and Bills at 7-3 and the Jets and Pats at 6-4. The Pats would then own that tiebreaker by having beaten the Jets twice.
It’s not like the Jets would be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss. But a 7-3 division leader heading into Thanksgiving sounds a lot better than a 6-4 squad possessing the final Wild Card spot.
Recent history. The Jets’ recent struggles against the Pats have become absurdly embarrassing. They haven’t defeated Belichick’s crew since late 2015, when Ryan Fitzpatrick was under center in Florham Park.
The Jets have lost 13 straight times to its division rival by an average of 19.2 points. A Week 11 loss would result in the Jets being swept for a seventh straight season, and third straight in the post-Tom Brady era.
New York has the opportunity to change the course of history on Sunday. In a year when the Jets may actually finish with a better record than the Pats for the first time since 2000, a Week 11 win could help establish a new era of AFC East football. And Wilson could be a huge part of that.
The overall setting. It’s Bill Belichick. It’s the New England Patriots. It’s the rough fanbase. It’s cold Foxborough. It’s a team you’ve struggled against. It’s an opportunity to shut up the talking heads who criticize your play each week. It’s a chance to sit atop arguably the toughest division in football.
A lot is riding on this game. And for those still evaluating Wilson (which includes the organization), this divisional matchup will play a role in the eventual decision on his future.