Imagine this scenario: The struggling New York Jets, losing control of their playoff hopes, turn their season around with Zach Wilson coming to life in the final three games.
This is still the Jets dream. Their unexpected entry into the playoff race this season has been overshadowed at times by the struggles of their sophomore quarterback. Instead of a young star leading them to a winning record, the team benched Wilson because they thought Mike White was an upgrade. Then they had to go back to Wilson when White got injured.
There’s still time for Wilson to become a great quarterback — see how Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa and Josh Allen among others took off in their third season — and a chance for him to end this season on a very high note. That begins Thursday night in a big game for the Jets against the surging Jacksonville Jaguars.
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At 7-7, the Jets can still make the playoffs. They’re going to have to start winning, and for that to happen they need Wilson to play well. A lot is at stake these past three weeks.
Zach Wilson versus Trevor Lawrence
This was supposed to be a fun matchup between the #1 overall picks. 1 and no. 2 of the 2021 NFL draft. But the two players are on very different paths. Trevor Lawrence looks like a star and has been one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL since early November. Wilson needed an injured White to have a chance to start against Lawrence.
Wilson started last week against the Detroit Lions and the stats looked good. He had 317 yards and two touchdowns. He showed his talent on his arm in some plays. But the same old problems persist.
Wilson pitched a terrible interception in which he seemed to completely misinterpret the cover. And it just wasn’t accurate enough, especially on easy shots that are a must for any competent NFL quarterback. Wilson went wide on 35.3 percent of his passes last week, even worse than his 35 percent mark against the New England Patriots in the game that benched him. according to ESPN’s Rich Cimini.
Wilson just wasn’t good enough. He can play games of scramble when everything breaks down, and that’s when you see his immense athletic gifts. But play-to-play hasn’t been consistent. It seems quite obvious that he hasn’t conquered the locker room either.
On Thursday night, it will be especially hard to tell the difference between Wilson and Lawrence as they near the end of their sophomore season. Lawrence has 14 touchdowns and an interception in the Jaguars’ last six games. He was dominant in a win last week over the Dallas Cowboys. It’s easy to imagine him winning an MVP in the next few years.
The Jets never had a chance with Lawrence, so it’s not like they can regret leaving him or anything. But one team has a bright future with an exciting young quarterback. The Jets have a lot of questions.
Jet, Jaguar have a lot at stake
Thursday night is a big game for the Jaguars and Jets.
The Jaguars have won three of four and suddenly find themselves in the AFC South race. They are 6-8, one game behind the 7-7 Tennessee Titans, but have beaten the Titans once and have a Week 18 matchup with Tennessee at home. The Jaguars need to stay within a game of the Titans through Week 18, and a win over the Jets would be a huge step toward that.
The Jets were in fine form during a 5-2 start, but continue to slide. They lost four of five from a big win over the Buffalo Bills right before their bye week. Wilson was benched because the offense wasn’t good and while White made some plays, the Jets didn’t win. White took a lot of punishment two weeks ago in a rematch against the Bills and hasn’t played since.
In a perfect world, Wilson would kick off Thursday night and White would not start again for the Jets. The Jets’ best-case scenario still has last year’s second-round draft pick become a star. What they have seen so far has been disappointing. There is still time for a breakthrough.
The Jets are hoping it coincides with them making a late-season push for the playoffs.