Jets at Bills Week 18 pick and prediction

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Jets Zach Wilson leans back to throw, white jersey solo
Jets Zach Wilson leans back to throw, white jersey solo

JETS (4-12) at Buffalo Bills (10-6)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m.

Spread: Bills -16.5

The Buffalo Bills are playing for an AFC East title and a home game in the first round of the playoffs. The Jets are playing for well, not much.

But, maybe this time they’re playing for a little bit of hope.

That’s what this season has been all about, and that’s what they’re grasping onto as they head into their season finale. They found a lot of hope a week ago when they pushed the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the very brink before losing. They showed that their young, battered team had made enough progress that it was able to compete with one of the best teams in the league.

Imagine how good everyone will feel throughout the offseason if they somehow can do it again.

So the Jets game is worth watching, at least a little, just for that. Here are a five other reasons to watch season finale, too:

1. Can Zach Wilson succeed against the defense that doomed Mike White?

White’s wild, one-month ride from obscurity to stardom and back again ended with a disastrous, four-interception performance in a 45-17 loss to the Bills on Nov. 14. He was overwhelmed by their aggressive, deceptive defense as he completed 24 of 44 passes for 251 yards (plus the four to the other team). Now, Wilson has been pretty good since coming back from his knee injury, and he hasn’t thrown an interception in his last four games. And he’s been decent against a string of pretty good defenses, too – the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, and Bucs are all in the top half of the league. The Bills are ranked No. 1, though, and No. 1 against the pass. And they’re motivated. Can he survive where White failed?

2. Just how much growth have those young cornerbacks had?

The Jets’ young corners – Bryce Hall, Brandin Echols, Michael Carter II – just keep getting better and better and were strong last week against the Bucs, not leaving Tom Brady much room to throw. Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs, though, might be the best receiver they’ve faced in a while. The Bills, in fact, have six players with more than 30 catches, showing how diverse their passing attack is. It’ll be rough for everyone on defense, but if these corners can slow down the passing games of Brady and Josh Allen back-to-back, they’ll have a lot of good things to think about all offseason long. A little Buffalo weather would help their cause, too.

3. What tricks does offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur have up his sleeve?

He shook off his early season issues and once he left the field and took his seat in the box, he’s looked like a completely different coordinator. It helps that his quarterbacks have played better, but his offensive game plans have been strong and very, very creative. He’s certainly not afraid to throw in an array of reverses, options, flea flickers and even the old hook-and-ladder. There’s one game left against a superior team. Surely he’s got a couple of tricks he hasn’t unveiled yet. And why not? What does he have to lose?

4. Will Denzel Mims get off the sidelines?

The former second-round pick from just last year is in one of the deepest, darkest doghouses there’s ever been around here. The Jets were without their top three receivers last week and he still wasn’t one of the four who played. That puts him eighth on the depth chart, at best. It’s not like he played well when he did get a chance the previous three games, catching zero passes on six targets. He also had those killer consecutive penalties against the Saints and a bad drop against the Jacksonville Jaguars. But with a depleted receiving corps and Braxton Berrios now out too, there’s really no reason not to throw Mims in here, just to see if he can do anything positive. If they don’t, it tells you all you need to know about Mims’ place in the Jets’ future.

5. Does Michael Carter have one more big game in him?

The Jets running back has had a very good rookie season and he looked like he was about to have a big breakthrough over the last few weeks. He had 118 rushing yards against Jacksonville and then ripped off a 55-yard run early against the Buccaneers … and then he left the game with a concussion. He’s been cleared, though, and figures to be a workhorse against a Bills rushing defense that is surprisingly vulnerable (ranked 19th) considering they’re the best overall defense in the league. He’s established himself as the Jets’ primary running back for 2022. One more big game would just be a good confidence-builder for him.

Pick: Take the Jets, plus the 16.5 points

Prediction: Bills 29, Jets 13

My record straight up: 10-6

My record against the spread: 7-9