A gunslinger by nature, New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is more often a game manager in his second year as a starter. Avoiding negative plays is sometimes more important than making big plays, especially against the opponent Wilson is facing Sunday.
Wilson threw three interceptions when the Jets lost to the Patriots on Oct. 30, and he needs to avoid a repeat of that performance in the rematch at New England.
Only two teams in the NFL are undefeated away from home, and no one predicted the Jets would be unbeatable road warriors through 10 weeks. New York’s surprising success is mostly due to a defense that ranks seventh in the league in yards allowed (312 per game) and 10th in scoring (19.6).
The Jets’ quarterback production has been a roller-coaster ride. Wilson passed for 154 yards and a touchdown without making a major mistake in New York’s 20-17 upset of Buffalo in Week 9, when coach Robert Saleh’s defense intercepted Josh Allen twice and sacked him five times. The defensive front is strong, and rookie Sauce Gardner is becoming a shutdown cornerback.
The Jets (6-3) are no longer a joke, and the Patriots (5-4) are in last in the AFC East, a division that’s shaping up as a dogfight down the stretch.
The biggest question surrounding New England is the inconsistent play of quarterback Mac Jones, who has slumped in his sophomore season with four touchdown passes and seven interceptions. It’s not all Jones’ fault because the play-calling and schemes leave a lot to be desired with Matt Patricia calling the shots. The Patriots were pathetic offensively (203 yards, 11 first downs) in a victory over the Colts before the bye, and they were outgained 387-288 in a victory over the Jets.
Wilson’s 355 passing yards and two touchdowns were overshadowed by his three picks against the Patriots. The flow again will be dictated by the defenses and turnovers by either quarterback could swing the outcome. I’ll take the road dog in what figures to be a 20-17 type of game.
Pick: Jets +3.5
Four more plays for Week 11:
COLTS (+7) over Eagles: The best change Colts interim coach Jeff Saturday made was naming Matt Ryan the starting quarterback. Ryan answered the wake-up call after being benched and responded by passing for 222 yards without an interception in a 25-20 win at Las Vegas. To be effective, Ryan needs a lot of help from Jonathan Taylor, who carried 22 times for 147 yards against the Raiders. In Philadelphia’s first loss of the season on Monday, its defense surrendered 152 rushing yards to Washington. The Colts have what it takes to be competitive in this matchup.
GIANTS (-3) over Lions: All seven of New York’s wins have come by eight points or fewer, so this is unlikely to be easy. The Giants are getting outstanding production out of quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley, and Detroit’s defense ranks last in the league in yards allowed (416.2) and scoring (29.3). Lions coach Dan Campbell just picked up his first road win last week at Chicago, but his team had to overcome a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to pull it off.
Bears (+3) over FALCONS: Atlanta has dropped three of its past four, with its offense failing to top 17 points in all three losses. Chicago brings in the league’s No. 1 rushing offense at 201.7 yards per game, due mostly to quarterback Justin Fields’ dynamic playmaking. The Bears are the first team in NFL history to score 29 points or more in three straight games and lose all three, but they are trending in the right direction.
Cowboys (-1.5) over VIKINGS: After a wild 33-30 win at Buffalo, Minnesota’s 8-1 record looks much more legitimate. But following what many have called the season’s best game, are the Vikings in a letdown spot? Dallas should be in a bounce-back spot after blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in a loss at Green Bay. On the surface it might seem the wrong team is favored, but I’ll respect the oddsmakers and say the Cowboys are road favorites for a reason. When these teams met in Minneapolis in the middle of last season, Dak Prescott was out with an injury and Cooper Rush led Dallas to a 20-16 win as Kirk Cousins came up short.
Last week: 3-2 against the spread