All these things are true about the New York Jets:
• They are a rebuilding team.
• The success of their rebuild depends greatly on Zach Wilson, the second pick of the 2020 NFL draft, becoming a top-end quarterback.
• Their 6-4 start this season is well ahead of schedule, and while it is a great sign, the Jets are still in a multi-year build toward being a Super Bowl contender. They are a playoff contender, however.
• Wilson is not playing well enough for a team that is a playoff contender.
How do you reconcile all of that if you’re the Jets? It’s a situation the Jets can’t ignore anymore after Sunday.
The Jets had a really bad 10-3 loss to the New England Patriots. There was a wild punt return touchdown by the Patriots in the final seconds, the first punt return touchdown in the NFL this season. There’s nothing wrong with losing on the road in the NFL, even on a heartbreaking play like that. The subpar play of their quarterback is what made the loss truly alarming.
Wilson was terrible against the Patriots. He had 77 yards on 22 attempts and missed badly on many throws. It’s not like Wilson had played well before Sunday. He has four touchdowns and five interceptions in seven starts. He has averaged 182.7 yards per game with a miserable 72.6 passer rating. The Jets have been winning, but they’ve done so by hiding their quarterback. They needed Wilson to make one play on Sunday to win, and he couldn’t do it. He has a long way to go to be the quarterback the Jets need, for this season and for the future.
There was plenty of drama around Wilson’s awful day. Rookie receiver Garrett Wilson ripped the offense and while he didn’t mention Zach Wilson by name, it’s impossible to criticize the offense without implicating him. Some defensive players were reportedly not happy that Wilson didn’t take much accountability for his poor play after the loss. A couple Jets defensive players liked tweets ripping Wilson, and you can decide for yourself if you believe their excuse that they liked those tweets on accident.
That stuff makes for good headlines. But the Jets have more than a soap opera to deal with. They need to figure out what to do at quarterback, balancing what’s best for this season with their rebuilding project.
Wilson’s struggles wouldn’t be that big of a deal if the Jets were a losing team, as they were expected to be this season. They could just let Wilson work through his mistakes and then after the season evaluate what comes next. But they’re pretty good. The defense has come along so fast they should feel like they can make the playoffs and even perhaps pull an upset with competent quarterback play. On Monday, Jets coach Robert Saleh wouldn’t commit to Wilson starting this week, saying the team was “keeping everything on the table.” Even if the Jets start Wilson on Sunday, patience is running out.
The Jets can’t just punt a chance at a playoff berth to protect the feelings of their young quarterback. But benching him now obviously isn’t a great step in his development. The Jets also have to consider that Mike White or Joe Flacco aren’t guaranteed to be any better. If they make a change they might be wrecking their young QB’s confidence and not even getting much of an upgrade.
Whatever happens with Wilson beyond this season will be a long conversation for the offseason. The Jets need to worry about the present. The only thing that seems obvious is they aren’t going to win much with this level of play from the quarterback, for the rest of this season or beyond.
Here are the power rankings after Week 11 of the NFL season:
The Texans had their worst game of the season, and that’s saying something. They had five yards at halftime. Coach Lovie Smith is entertaining the idea of benching Davis Mills for Kyle Allen, if you want an idea of where the Texans’ season is headed.
Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks said he didn’t know who would start at quarterback this week. The answer probably should be “anyone but Baker Mayfield.” Sam Darnold isn’t great either but it’s time to try him again.
The Broncos make the same sloppy mistakes every week. Nathaniel Hackett isn’t shaming the franchise off the field like other coaches who have been fired before the end of their first season, but it’s just not working. There’s not much reason to wait much longer on the inevitable coaching change.
When you call as many designed runs as the Bears have for Justin Fields lately, it increases the quarterback’s injury risk. It was scary to see Fields leave Sunday’s game holding his left shoulder, which he dislocated. The Bears didn’t give definitive word on when or if Fields will play again this season but if he does, the Bears would be wise to cut way back on his runs. It’s not like they’re in a playoff race.
The conversation about the Raiders would be much different if the Broncos got one more first down on Sunday. But they didn’t, and the Raiders took advantage of two awful defensive breakdowns by Denver to win in overtime. It’ll be a much more peaceful week for the Raiders after that.
T.J. Watt made an incredible interception, jumping in the air to bat a Joe Burrow pass and snatching the ball out of the air for a pick. It was even more incredible because he did that in the first meeting against the Bengals too. Watt is a special talent.
Here’s the Jaguars remaining schedule: vs. Ravens, at Lions, at Titans, vs. Cowboys, at Jets, at Texans, vs. Titans. Luckily the Texans game is in there because the Jaguars will probably be underdogs in every other game. It’ll be a good test for a young team.
Matthew Stafford will want to play again this season. He’s a competitor. But Stafford left Sunday’s game and was evaluated for a concussion after missing the Rams’ previous game with a concussion. The Rams should step in and tell Stafford his season is over. He has taken a lot of punishment and that line can’t protect him. The Rams aren’t going anywhere this season. It’s disheartening to give up on a season, but the Rams need to protect their investment and start getting ready for 2023.
It’s hard to believe the Cardinals were 7-0 late last October. A little more than a year later, the Cardinals look like they need to fix just about everything. A wholly uncompetitive 38-10 loss to the Cardinals probably leads to what’s next on the agenda, and that’s figuring out which changes need to be made before next season.
The Saints traded a lot to move up and draft receiver Chris Olave, but they got a great player. Olave had 102 yards and blazed past All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey for a 53-yard touchdown. He’s going to be a fantastic No. 1 receiver for years to come.
If all you knew was the Browns’ record, you’d think it was because the offense has been horrendous with Jacoby Brissett. That’s not the case. He had 324 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to the Bills. While a lot of that came in garbage time and he hasn’t been great all season, he hasn’t been that bad and neither has the Browns offense. The defense has let the team down more often than the offense. That has become a surprising priority to fix next offseason.
The Colts were very close to being the talk of the NFL. They were on the verge of beating an Eagles team that was 8-0 a week earlier, pushing Jeff Saturday’s coaching record to 2-0. But then the Eagles put together the one drive they needed to win the game, and the Colts move back to being irrelevant.
I’m still confused by what’s going on with D’Andre Swift. He has been passed by Jamaal Williams for the No. 1 spot, and Williams is playing well. But on Sunday it was Justin Jackson, the former Chargers back who was signed off of Detroit’s practice squad on Sept. 14, who had nine carries to five for Swift. If Swift is hurt, he shouldn’t be playing. If he’s healthy, he shouldn’t be ceding work to a player like Jackson (who, in fairness, played well). It’s just a weird situation.
Kyle Pitts wasn’t being used correctly, but it’s still tough to see him go on injured reserve with a reported torn MCL, an injury that could end his season. Pitts is still very talented and hopefully he comes back healthy and puts together a much more productive season in 2023.
The Packers’ odds to make the playoffs at Football Outsiders are 8.6%, and that seems high. The Packers have to win five or maybe all six of their remaining games, and there have been no signs that this Green Bay team is capable of that kind of run.
The Chargers really needed to close out that win on Sunday night. With a win, they’d have been one game behind the Chiefs with a lot of games to play. Now the AFC West race is all but done and the .500 Chargers are in a glut of AFC teams battling for three wild-card spots. The final minute Sunday changed the Chargers’ entire season.
Let’s project a bit. The Buccaneers play the Falcons in Week 18 for what could be an NFC South championship game. That doesn’t seem likely, but the Falcons haven’t gone away. It’s also possible that’s the only winner-take-all game on the schedule and it gets flexed to Sunday night. And what incredible drama that would be, with Tom Brady playing in what everyone will believe is his last regular-season game ever, trying to keep his career alive for at least one more week with another playoff berth. We’ll see.
Taylor Heinicke will keep the starting quarterback job, and it’s the right call in the moment. However, the baffling path to that decision is an indictment of the Washington organization. They saw Heinicke start most of last season. They had time over the offseason to evaluate Carson Wentz, and traded a lot to get him. Early this season, Wentz was exactly what he has been the past few years. Heinicke isn’t really any different than he was last season. But after six games of Wentz, Washington decided Heinicke was better after all. Does all of that sound like rational decision making from a competent franchise?
For Jets fans who want Mike White (who took over as the No. 2 quarterback spot from Joe Flacco a few weeks ago), he might not be the solution either. White played in four games last season, starting three, and had one good start against the Bengals and one awful start against the Bills. He had a 75.1 passer rating. He’d be taking over for a quarterback with a 72.6 rating. It’s probably wise to temper expectations.
Saquon Barkley had just 22 rushing yards on 15 attempts against the Lions. That doesn’t mean he’s hit the wall, but it’s still worth noting that he had 228 touches the past two seasons combined and already has 244 this season. It’s something to monitor.
Rookie third-round pick Marcus Jones made one of the plays of the season, an 84-yard punt return in the final seconds to beat the Jets. It was an ugly game, but a memorable ending. It might be why the Patriots end up in the playoffs.
If the season ended today, the Seahawks would have the fifth overall pick of the 2023 draft according to Tankathon. Of course, that’s the Broncos’ pick acquired in the Russell Wilson trade. A lot of people thought the Seahawks might have a top-five pick, but not in this way.
Nobody had backup running back Samaje Perine randomly scoring three receiving touchdowns in Sunday’s win. Joe Mixon left the game with a concussion and if he misses any time, Perine steps into an important role for the Bengals.
Rookie receiver Treylon Burks could be a huge asset the rest of the season for the Titans. The first-round rookie had 111 yards in a win over the Packers last week. The Titans desperately need a playmaker in the passing game, and Burks has the talent to make an impact.
I don’t want to penalize the Vikings too much for one loss, but 40-3 was bad. The Vikings were never as good as their 8-1 record last week — they were too high in these power rankings last week, mostly because of a good win at Buffalo and the lack of quality contenders this season — but they’re also not bad. That 37-point loss just means that anyone who thought the Vikings might be Super Bowl contenders needs to re-evaluate.
The Ravens did not play well on offense in a 13-3 win over the Panthers. Every time they have a dud like that, it shines a harsh light on the lack of quality offensive weapons around Lamar Jackson. Jackson is great, but other than Mark Andrews, he doesn’t have anyone around him who can consistently help him.
Everything came together for the 49ers on Monday night. The defense was really good. The offense scored five touchdowns, and didn’t even need one from Christian McCaffrey. Yes, it was against a bad Cardinals team without Kyler Murray. But that’s the kind of performance that should give San Francisco hope that it has a Super Bowl contender.
In 1997, the Broncos were almost trapped in Denver by a blizzard. They found some creative ways to make it to the airport and got to their road game against (of all teams) the Bills. The Broncos won that game and years later the players from that team would talk about how the entire ordeal built character and helped them win the first Super Bowl in franchise history. Whether or not the Bills win a Super Bowl this season might have nothing to do with their travel ordeal to Detroit to play the Browns, but they have to feel pretty good to come out of last week with a win.
The Dolphins return to action this week with … a home game against the Texans. So they get a bye week after their bye week.
When the Cowboys get their pass rush going like they did against Minnesota, they have an argument as the best team in football, or close to it. Had the Eagles not pulled off that win against the Colts, we might be having an interesting conversation about the NFC East. That conversation still might happen before the Cowboys host the Eagles on Dec. 24.
AJ Brown had more than 60 yards in six of the Eagles’ first seven games. In his last three games, Brown has 59, 7 and 60 yards. The Eagles had a big win on Sunday, coming back in the final minute to win, but they struggled against the Colts. The key to recapturing their form from a few weeks ago is figuring out how to get Brown involved again.
Patrick Mahomes probably won his second NFL MVP award on Sunday night. Driving the Chiefs down in the final 1:46 for a game-winning touchdown to Travis Kelce was masterful. There’s a long way to go but nobody is catching Mahomes unless something weird happens or he gets injured.