The beauty of the NFL is rooted in outrageous displays of skill and jaw-dropping plays. Then there’s the New York Jets, who offer none of the above.
It’s no surprise that the Jets are 0-2 after falling to the New England Patriots 25-6 on Sunday. After all, teams like the Jets – who finished last season 2-14 – don’t often come out of the gate with a run of victories.
To their credit, and unlike previous iterations of the Jets, this year’s team have already shown positives. Rookie rusher Michael Carter, who ended the day with 59 yards on 11 carries and a couple of catches, showed the talent that had Jets brass salivating during the draft. The defense played well, bringing pressure, including three sacks in the first half and an impressive stuff of Damien Harris on third-and-goal late in the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, by then Harris had bulldozed his way through seven Jets on an epic touchdown run that effectively sealed the game for New England.
But there was also Zach Wilson. The No 2 overall pick in this year’s draft had a day from hell with four interceptions, each one more cringeworthy than the last. By interception number four – which would have embarrassed a high school quarterback – he looked like he was throwing a shot put rather than a football. Worst of all, Wilson had tremendous protection on the last two picks – the turnovers simply boiled down to terrible decision making. Rookie quarterbacks need time to adjust to the speed of the NFL, but they should enter the league knowing what to do when given ample time – whether that’s throwing the ball away or finding a lane and taking off.
“It’s OK to play a boring game of football. That’s really it,” Jets head coach Robert Saleh said after the game. “[Wilson] is competitive as crap and he wants to win so bad, but sometimes it’s OK to be boring. That’s probably the biggest lesson he can take out of this one.”
Wilson wasn’t the only rookie who made mistakes on Sunday. Trevor Lawrence threw two interceptions of his own for the Jacksonville Jaguars, finishing with a 37.2 rating. Justin Fields – the man many think the Jets should have chosen over Wilson – was just 5-of-12 in relief of an injured Andy Dalton (though Fields showcased his scrambling ability to seal victory for Chicago).
But Wilson’s performance was in a class of its own. If the Jets were a normal franchise not mired in a history of failed quarterbacks, then we would be more likely to chalk up his day to rookie jitters. Perhaps that will be the case and Wilson will go on to be enshrined in Canton after winning seven Super Bowls.
But in the early days of his career – and it’s still early – it’s hard not to wonder whether the Jets made yet another Jetsian mistake by using the No 2 pick on Wilson or whether the team’s fundamental dysfunction means that they will derail any quarterback. It sure looks like the latter based on events in Carolina.
Sam Darnold, one of those failed Jets quarterbacks, has been revived with the Panthers. He looks like an upper echelon quarterback because he is working with competent coaches and real offensive weapons (though he did have a brief relapse in an otherwise stellar performance against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.)
Or maybe the red flags around Wilson were accurate. Did a relatively soft schedule during his college career at BYU properly prepare him for the next level? Will his addiction to hero ball be found out by professional defenses? Should the Jets have opted for a more NFL-ready option like Fields or Mac Jones?
Wilson has undoubted talent and may still turn into a fine quarterback, and normally it would be absurd to cast major doubts on a quarterback this early. But the Jets are no ordinary franchise.
Quote of the week
“We saw. We heard. And we conquered. Say something about that.” – Derrick Henry following Tennessee’s 33-30 overtime win in Seattle.
Henry was a bit chippy following criticism of the Titans and their low scoring offense in Week 1 (looking at you, fantasy owners!) Well, Henry silenced any doubters with a monster performance against the Seahawks. He muscled his way to 237 total yards and three touchdowns and carried the Titans to the game-winning field goal. Henry’s the guy you want on your team in overtime, or any time.
Stat of the week
199 – Joe Burrow had such a nice streak going: 199 pass attempts without an interception. But that streak, and thus the fate of the Bengals, would dramatically change with throw No 200. Bears linebacker Roquan Smith read Burrow and took his errant pass to the house for a pick six. Burrow’s next two pass attempts were also intercepted. The momentum shift was crucial in Chicago securing a 20-17 win, especially since Burrow found his deep passing attack in the fourth quarter.
MVP of the week
Here comes Tom Brady showing up the kids once again. This week it was a spectacular five-TD performance in a 48-25 thumping of Atlanta in a game that was much closer than the score suggests, at least for a while. Had the Bucs not pulled away with two pick sixes of Matt Ryan in the fourth quarter, Brady might have had six or seven touchdowns. The ease with which Brady is throwing the ball at age 44 – and the zip on that ball – is simply incredible.
Video of the week
Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein lived up to his nickname with a soaring 56-yard field goal as time expired to catapult the Cowboys to a 20-17 win over the Chargers. It’s been an interesting two weeks for Zuerlein. He missed two field goals and an extra point in the Cowboys’ opener in Tampa Bay before kicking a 48-yarder to temporarily put Dallas ahead before the Bucs kicked the game-winner. There was no doubt this week.
Elsewhere around the league
— So, about the NFL figuring out Lamar Jackson … It sure didn’t look that way in a thriller on Sunday Night Football as the Baltimore Ravens quarterback scored three touchdowns and converted a crucial fourth-and-one in the final moments to secure a 36-35 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. The win was all the more impressive given the injuries that have ravaged the team. As for the Chiefs, they could easily be 0-2 after being pushed hard by the Cleveland Browns this week. But Patrick Mahomes was brilliant for much of this game and it would be a huge surprise if they don’t make another deep playoff run this season.
— Watch out for those pesky Las Vegas Raiders who have emerged as an early surprise after back-to-back victories over the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. Las Vegas stunned Pittsburgh on the road 26-17, in large part thanks to a sensational Derek Carr. He compensated for an almost nonexistent Raiders rushing game by throwing for 382 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders also dominated the Steelers’ questionable offensive line. This was a statement game by Gruden and Co.
— The Bills got back on track after their opening loss with a 35-0 drubbing of the hapless Miami Dolphins. Josh Allen improved on last week’s performance but was still off target at times – including on a deep underthrown ball to Stefon Diggs in the third quarter. But he ran an efficient, balanced offense. Meanwhile, the Bills defense was dominant. They forced four turnovers and stopped the Dolphins on all their fourth-down attempts.
— NFC West watch: The division most consider to be the best in the NFL finished 3-1 in Week 2. Only San Francisco’s win in Philadelphia came without any major heart palpitations as the Niners pulled away in the second half and eventually won 17-11. Jimmy Garoppolo, who showed his flaws in the first half, led the 49ers to multiple 90-yard drives in the second. The defense continues to show it is one of the league’s best: just ask Jalen Hurts who was terrorized throughout. Arizona beat Minnesota 34-33 thanks to a missed 37-yard field goal by Greg Joseph as time expired. The Rams narrowly beat the Colts 27-24. Backup Jacob Eason, in for the injured Carson Wentz, had a chance to drive Indianapolis downfield late in the fourth but tossed the ball straight to Jalen Ramsey.
— There was a boatload of notable injuries on Sunday including: Andy Dalton, Tua Tagovailoa, TJ Watt, Darrell Henderson, Bradley Chubb, Diontae Johnson and Wentz. How many other players going are going to suffer the same fate over 17 games?