Zach Wilson is back, but can the Jets bounce back?
The Jets’ much-heralded quarterback messiah will be back under center in Houston Sunday looking to help his team break a three-game losing streak that looked more respectable in their latest 24-17 loss to Miami last week.
The Jets are 2-8 against the spread, and the Texans are 5-5. The betting odds for this game have the Texans favored by three points at home, and their moneyline price is -150. The Jets’ moneyline is +130. The total is set at 44.5 points at DraftKings.
Wilson returns after four weeks on the shelf with a knee injury in a winnable game for the Jets (2-8 overall) facing a 2-8 Texans team that is ranked 30th defensively in both the run and the pass. He’ll have to find his mark and improve on his four touchdown-nine interception stance.
Ironically, the Jets have averaged 436 yards a game in Wilson’s absence, stirred by Mike White, Josh Johnson, and Joe Flacco. With White and Flacco on the COVID list, the Jets have brought back 2020 pick James Morgan as their third quarterback.
Wilson, though, isn’t concerned about what happened. The Jets ranked 19th in passing offense.
I play my ball,” he said. Give credit to those guys. I was able to learn from their reps and everything they went through, but I have to go in and play my game and not worry about any of that stuff.”
He will have an improving picture at wide receiver with the upsurge of rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore, who has been one of the few bright spots. Moore has 33 catches for 415 yards with four touchdowns, but he had 25 catches and a touchdown in his last five games. Corey Davis had developed a field relationship with Wilson, and Jamison Crowder is an ideal slot receiver.
The Jets won’t have rookie sensation Michael Carter in the backfield due to injury, so Ty Johnson and Devin Coleman will need to carry the load. The Jets rank 18th in rushing, and they are averaging 17.8 points per game, 27th in the league.
Defensively, the Jet were respectable in their loss to the Dolphins, but they couldn’t come up with the timely plays. Yet, the Jets have four linemen listed as questionable along with leader linebacker C.J. Mosley, which would be a huge hurdle to overcome.
They have a great opportunity to silence the Houston offense that features the likes of running backs Rex Burkhead, David Johnson, and Royce Freeman, who have combined to average 3.1 yards per carry.
The Jets will need to corral wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who had the ability to have the same type of outing that Buffalo’s Sheldon Diggs, who was unstoppable with nine catches a few weeks ago.
They also can’t allow “explosive plays,” one in which the opposing team runs for 10 or more and passes for 15 or more. The Jets have 46 of them this season, and they are still allowing an average of 39.8 points per game.
Houston quarterback Tyrod Taylor bounced back against Tennessee after an three-interception, five sack outing against Miami. Taylor rushed for 28 yards and threw for 107 and two touchdowns in their 22-13 upset victory over Tennessee last week.
The Jets’ defense has given up two touchdowns in the air each of the last six weeks.
“He is a problem, I’ve always had a lot of respect for Tyrod,” said Jets’ head coach Robert Saleh. “He’s getting the ball where it needs to go, he can scramble, he can do all those things.”
The Jets suffered a major blow when Carter went down with an ankle injury for a few weeks.
Wide receiver Corey Davis is doubtful with a groin injury, and that can open up the offense for Moore.
Listed as questionable were defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi (foot), John Franklin Myers (hip) Shaq Lawson (wrist) and Nathan Shepherd (elbow). Mosley has a shoulder issue.
The Texans offense is ranked 30th in passing with 10 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and 26 sacks They have thrown over 20 yards 23 times and five times over 40.
Houston also is ranked 30th running the ball, averaging 3.2 yards per carry and 76.5 yards per game. They have found the end zone six times, Their running game took a big hit when Mark Ingram was traded back to New Orleans.
The Texans are averaging 15 points per contest, which is dead last in the league.
Taylor is averaging 217 yards passing per game, and Cooks had 59 receptions. Johnson can be a threat out of the backfield, and tight end Jordan Atkins can be trouble, as most tight ends are for the Jets.
The Texans will miss defensive lineman and ex-Jet Jordan Jenkins (knee) and
wide receivers Nico Collins (hip) and Davion Davis (illness) along with defensive lineman Jonathan Greenard (foot) and defensive back Lonnie Johnson Jr. (foot) are all listed as questionable.
The Texans’ defense has been playing better, as they have 19 takeaways and have had five in each of their last three games, which could pose a problem for Wilson.
They are ranked 30th against the pass, allowing 17 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. Houston has 21 sacks on the season
Greenard, who is questionable, has seven sacks and linebacker Whitney Mercilus has three.
Against the run, the Texans are ranked 30th, issuing 4.5 yards a clip with 15 touchdowns and 130 yards per game.
Both teams have played eight times with the Jets leading the series 5-3. They last met in 2018, and Houston won a 29-22 battle at MetLife.
These 2-8 teams are spinning their wheels in their transitional mode. With two struggling defenses, their offenses could come alive. The key will be if the Jets can protect Wilson and if he can find a groove, and can the Jets’ defense shut down Taylor.
Incidentally, Taylor has a lifetime 4-2 record in seven appearances against the Jets with 1,165 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions, which can raise a red flag.
Houston has the momentum with last weeks’ win and playing at home, while the Jets have lost three straight since the Mike White Cincinnati game on Halloween,
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Somehow, I see Wilson getting it done, though Taylor can easily turn the tables. Regardless of what happens, it should be an entertaining game.
Take the three points with the Jets and bet on over 44.5 points.
About the author Jeff Moeller
Jeff has covered countless sports events on the high school, collegiate and professional levels in Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey for 37 years. He has worked for The Associated Press, Gannett, and numerous weeklies, dailies, wire services, and websites.