The New York Jets are in control of their own destiny in the AFC East, yet questions still remain about quarterback Zach Wilson.
Yet, the team has “full confidence” in their young quarterback to bring them to the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
“We’ve got confidence in him,” said head coach Robert Saleh.
The Jets are sitting at a 6–3 record, and have exceeded even the most optimistic expectations this year behind a young core of offensive players, and one of the best defenses in the NFL.
If they win on Sunday while visiting the New England Patriots, they’ll be in first place in the division, while owning the tie-breaker over the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills (as they beat both teams earlier in the season).
They’re coming off a bye week, and have much time to prepare for their matchup against their longtime rivals.
While nobody in the league can question their efficiency on defense, along with their solid core of pass catchers, Wilson remains the biggest question mark going forward for the Jets’ tremendous season.
Since returning from injury in Week 4 this season, the team is 5–1 with the second-year quarterback at the helm. His only loss came during a porous performance in Week 8 at home against the Patriots, where he tossed three interceptions and completed just 20 of his 41 passes.
That game saw Wilson attempt the second-most passes he’s had in his NFL career, and led to serious scrutiny about his ability to be more than a simple game manger.
Still, Saleh backed up his quarterback, and insisted that one bad game shouldn’t define Wilson’s reputation.
“We’re holding him hostage to four or five plays he had against New England, externally,” said Saleh. “Internally, everybody’s got faith in Zach to run this offense, and to get the ball where it needs to. And to do it in an efficient manner.”
He rebounded significantly the following week, when he significantly outplayed MVP-candidate Josh Allen to lead Gang Green to a victory over the Bills. Wilson went 18–25 in that game, with a touchdown and no interceptions.
He’ll get a rematch against the Bill Belichick-led Patriots on Sunday in Foxboro, which will be one of the highest-stakes matchups he’s seen in the pros.
On the season, Wilson has a 57.49% competition rate with four touchdowns and five interceptions, along with 200.3 yards per game. He has also added 68 yards and a score with his legs.
The team has relied on its defense and running game this year — but Saleh said he’s confident in the quarterback’s ability to put the team on his shoulder, should the need arise.
“I do think that if we needed to put it on his back, and put it on the receivers’ backs, and put it on the O-line to protect — I think we’re capable of doing that,” the coach said.
“When you start slinging it around, and you ask a quarterback to play 60 plays per game, they’re going to make mistakes.”
Moreso, Saleh said the gameplay would be to grind other offenses down, and control the pace of the game.
“It’s hard to play quarterback in this league. It’s our job as coaches to make sure that he’s not being asked to do that constantly,” he said.
“If we have to? We have faith that he’d be able to.”
If the Jets beat the Patriots, they will be the number one seed in the AFC East. If that happens, and the Kansas City Chiefs lose to the Los Angeles Chargers, Gang Green would put themselves as the first overall seed in the entire AFC.