New York Jets Defense Key Against Detroit Lions, Zach Wilson Back Means Little

Posted on: December 15, 2022, 01:28h. 

Last updated on: December 15, 2022, 01:28h.

Lots of ink in the New York tabloids today about Zach Wilson being elevated to backup quarterback for the New York Jets, ahead of Joe Flacco. Mike White remains the starter this Sunday against the Detroit Lions. But if he gets hit as hard as he was last weekend against the Buffalo Bills, the guy coming off the bench will be the same guy who started seven games earlier this season.

Which makes for a nice story, especially because Wilson spoke to the media.

But you know what makes or breaks the Jets in this make or break game against a Detroit team that just knocked off Minnesota? Hint: It begins with the letter “D.”

That was Josh Allen last weekend after the Jets held him to a season-low 147 passing yards while also holding Stefon Diggs to a season-low 37 receiving yards. New York is ranked third in the NFL in overall total defense and sixth in scoring defense, and the Jets have decreased their points allowed from 29.7 to 18.7, the second biggest drop in NFL history behind the 2001 Rams.

How Will This Defense Fare?

So if you are wondering why the over/under line is 44 1/2, a full 7 1/2 points higher than what we are seeing for Browns-Ravens, well, there is the matter of the Lions potent offense. The game is going to be played in cold conditions at Met Life Stadium, and the Lions are a team that plays their home games in a heated dome. Yes, they have the No. 4 ranked offense in total yardage and have scored more points than any NFC team except the Eagles and Cowboys. But they are going up a Jets defense that has allowed more than 20 points just twice in the last nine games. Push meets shove, eh?

“It’s a combination of a couple of different things,” defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins told reporters. “Obviously, you continue to upgrade talent and add pieces. But then it’s just about each and every time we step out there it’s a personal challenge. We take that challenge to heart.

“It means something for us to be able to stop teams. It means something for us to be able to make those plays to help this team achieve everything we want to achieve. Then, lastly, everybody is always on the same page. The times that you do see plays that we give up, there’s not a lot of finger pointing. There’s not a lot of heads down. You add all that in with the talent, with the mentality that we take the field, and you get a recipe for success.”

A recipe for success is crucial this weekend and again next Thursday night, as the Jets play a pair of must-win games against the Lions and Jaguars, both of which have been on the upswing. New York currently sits ninth in the East because of tiebreaker losses with the Chargers and Patriots (all have 7-6 records), and New York likely needs to win three of its remaining four in order to get a wild card berth. They close the regular season with road games at Seattle and Miami.

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OK, So What Are the Betting Angles?

Player props for this game are not yet listed at DraftKings, the only one of the nine licensed New York sportsbooks to list individual player props for NFL games (others do it for NBA and soccer, but not for the NFL). File that one under “The mysteries of why New York sportsbooks are more difficult than a combination of the Sunday NY Times Crossword puzzle and Super Soduko, both solved under a stopwatch challenge.”

Those props likely will not go up until Saturday, so for now we cite a few trends.

The Lions are 9-4-0 against the spread, tied with the Giants for second-best in the NFL behind the 10-3-0 Cincinnati Bengals. The Jets have covered the spread in eight of their 13 games, and with New York listed as a 1-point favorite, that one looks like a wash.

Both the Lions and Jets have played 13 games, with Detroit going over in nine and New York in four. Detroit has gone over in four of its last five, while the Jets have gone under in six of their last eight.

That is what we call clashing trends, and it is happening between two teams fighting for their postseason lives. The website fivethirtyeight now lists New York as having a 33% chance of making the postseason (their odds have moved this week from +140 to +150 after New England’s Monday night win), and Detroit’s odds of rising from ninth to seventh and making the postseason are at 20%. (The Commanders and Giants are tied for sixth at 7-5-1, and Seattle is sixth heading into a matchup with the 49ers tonight as 3 1/2-point home underdogs).

Whoever loses this game has a bleak three weeks ahead of them, and the Jets are facing a team that has won five of six after a 1-6 start.

Draft Kings is seeing a 55-45 spread bet split on handle in favor of the Lions, and a 69-31 moneyline split in favor of Detroit. On the over/under, 63% of handle is coming in on the under, which shows that bettors believe New York’s defense, led by newcomers Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, and Jordan Whitehead, along with sack master Quinnen Williams (he has 11 — tied for sixth-most in the NFL) will keep quarterback Jared Goff in check a week after he threw three TD passes and had 330 passing yards in a 34-23 victory over Minnesota.

Allen’s 147 passing yards in cold weather last weekend came one week after he threw for 223 against New England. As a result, he has gone from one of the MVP cofavorites to being the +2000 fourth choice for MVP behind -160 Jalen Hurts, +190 Patrick Mahomes, and +1000 Joe Burrow.

And What About Zach?

Well, if White gets knocked out again — as he was twice against the Bills — the No. 2 overall pick of the 2021 draft will be on the spot for the first time since he was downright lousy in a 10-7 loss at New England. That’s a game in which he failed to take his share of the blame and lost a good part of the locker room. The Jets players are clearly more comfortable with White’s professionalism. But the bottom line is they cannot let themselves have a mental letdown if White goes down again. The Jets have not been forthcoming about the extent of White’s ribcage injury, so that is a wild card unto itself.

Wilson is supposed to be the quarterback of the future, but Sam Darnold was supposed to be that guy, too, as was Geno Smith back in 2013 before it took the entire NFL nine years to realize the guy is pretty darn good (Smith is the -360 superfavorite for Comeback Player of the Year for the job he has done replacing Russell Wilson in Seattle).

The Jets are probably the better team, but the Lions have the momentum. This line could very well be pick’em by the time it kicks off at 1 p.m. EST at the Meadowlands, where the forecast calls for sunny skies with a 10-15 mph wind and a temperature in the high 30s.

It is not a sellout.


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