Around the NFL: Zach Wilson's Days in New York are Numbered, Week 16 Playoff Outlook, Clinching Scenarios, More

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Around the NFL: Zach Wilson’s Days in New York are Numbered, Week 16 Playoff Outlook, Clinching Scenarios, More

Chicago Bears

I wanted to take a minute here to say a few things about the news around here on Friday, but more importantly Brett and Michael. The other writers were able to do the same in their respective bullets, but this space — and others like it — is my “bullets,” per se.

I was asked a couple of months ago by a younger person, a friend of the family, who just finished her degree in journalism and sports communications, what it was like working for Bleacher Nation. I told her that I could never accurately describe the experience over text. In short, it’s been a blessing and a privilege for myself and my family to have spent the last year and a half at BN. They’re the best bosses I’ve ever had, and they created a culture here at BN that is second to none. That isn’t going to change with the acquisition this week, or for as long as they’re around.

I was nervous about making the leap and taking the full-time job offer at BN once upon a time. Brett and Michael eased all of my fears and concerns, and they’ve stuck to their words and then some since.

I say this to you, the readers because I understand the potential nerves about your beloved home for sports news and discussion becoming something else. I’m here to tell you that I trust Brett and Michael without the slightest reservation. They promised us when they broke the news that nothing was changing for you or us at BN. I trust them. You should as well.

Congratulations to Brett and Michael, and congratulations to all of you, because you guys helped get them to this point, one they both deserve.

Now, let’s talk about some football.

Jacksonville’s Win over the Jets Might Spell the End of Zach Wilson in New York

Thursday night’s Jaguars-Jets game was not only a huge contest for the playoff hopes of both teams, but it was also a check-in on the 2021 NFL Draft quarterback class that featured the likes of Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and Mac Jones in round one.

Lawrence and Wilson, who went No. 1 and No. 2 in that draft, are on completely different career trajectories right now, evidenced by last night’s Jacksonville win that included Lawrence completing 20-of-31 passes for 229 yards on a cold and rainy night in New Jersey. It also featured Wilson completing just nine passes for 92 yards and an interception before he was benched — again — for Chris Streveler. The former No. 2 overall pick benched for an undrafted NFL free agent and former CFL QB who had only 25 NFL passing attempts to his name before Thursday night’s game.

Jets head coach Robert Saleh said all the right things after the game, insisting that Streveler was inserted to provide the running game with a spark and said that while Wilson has to figure out how to be better, Jets fans haven’t seen the end of him in New York.

Props to Saleh for having his young quarterback’s back, but Zach Wilson’s days in a Jets uniform are over, whether he genuinely believes otherwise or not. This is Mike White’s team now, and Wilson will have to figure things out somewhere else next season, likely as a backup.

Wilson isn’t the first former second-overall pick in the draft to hit a wall in the city they were drafted. Bears fans just experienced this with Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky went to Buffalo, spent a year backing up Josh Allen and working with Brian Daboll, and increased his stock to the point where he earned a two-year, $14 million contract in Pittsburgh this offseason.

Zach Wilson’s NFL career — in one capacity or another — has plenty of life left, but his time as the future of the New York Jets has run out, and unfortunately for the Jets, so has their hopes at breaking a 12-year playoff drought. Thursday night’s loss to Jacksonville dropped them to 7-8 on the season and tanked their 24 percent chance at the playoffs, with which they entered their TNF contest with Jacksonville.

Week 16 AFC Playoff Picture and Implications

Let’s take a look at where the AFC playoff picture (x = clinched playoff berth, y = clinched division, z = clinched No. 1 seed):

  1. Bills – x (11-3)
  2. Chiefs – y (11-3)
  3. Bengals – x (10-4)
  4. Titans (7-7)
  5. Ravens (9-5)
  6. Chargers (8-6)
  7. Dolphins (8-6)

In the hunt (with record and chance of making postseason):

  • Jaguars (7-8, 68%)
  • Patriots (7-7, 21.5%)

The Bills and Chiefs enter Week 16 tied for the No. 1 seed in the AFC with three games to play. Josh Allen and the Bills will be in Chicago to take on the Bears, and Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs will be in Kansas City to host the Seahawks. Buffalo can clinch the AFC East on Saturday with a win or tie against the Bears or a Dolphins loss.

The Bengals have clinched a playoff berth with Jacksonville’s Thursday night victory over the Jets. They can take a significant step toward winning the AFC North with a win over the New England Patriots this weekend. The Ravens will be taking on the Falcons, and while they’ll be without Lamar Jackson for a third straight game, the Falcons are, well, the Falcons. The AFC North still has a good shot at being decided in a head-to-head matchup in Week 18. 

Tennessee is in the must-win territory with the recent surge by the Jaguars. Jacksonville is a half-game behind the Titans in the AFC South, and if Tennessee doesn’t win the division, they’re staying home for the postseason. The Titans will be without Ryan Tannehill this week as they take on the Texans at home, but they then face the Cowboys and Jaguars to close the season, making this week a must-win. 

The Chargers simply have to not choke down the stretch, and they’ll be in the playoffs. With an 8-6 record, a head-to-head victory over the Dolphins, and one of the easiest remaining schedules — Colts, Rams, and Broncos — The Athletic gives Los Angeles an 81.9 percent shot to make the AFC playoffs. 

The Dolphins are in a similar situation because they simply have to win their way into the AFC playoffs. Miami has the Packers at home this week and then closes the season with a trip to Foxborough and a home game against the Jets. 

As far as the Patriots are concerned, it’s a must-win the rest of the way, and pray for some luck. A Dolphins loss to Green Bay and a Patriots win over the Bengals would set up a battle of an 8-7 Patriots and Dolphins teams in Week 17 with the final Wild Card spot on the line. A loss to the Bengals this week and a Miami win against Green Bay spells doom for New England.

Week 16 NFC Playoff Picture and Implications

Let’s take a look at where the NFC playoff picture (x = clinched playoff berth, y = clinched division, z = clinched No. 1 seed).

  1. Eagles – x (13-1)
  2. Vikings – y (11-3)
  3. 49ers – y (10-4)
  4. Buccaneers (6-8)
  5. Cowboys – x (10-4)
  6. Giants (8-5-1)
  7. Commanders (7-6-1)

In the hunt (with record and chance of making postseason):

  • Seahawks (7-7, 19%)
  • Lions (7-7, 57.6%)
  • Packers (6-8, 7%)

Four of the seven playoff spots in the NFC have been decided, and a fifth will go to whoever wins the lowly NFC South, which will likely be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That leaves the Giants, Commanders, Seahawks, and Lions to duke it out for the final two spots over the next three weeks.

At 8-5-1, the Giants put themselves in the driver’s seat with their Week 15 win over the Commanders. This means that Washington, Seattle, and Detroit are realistically fighting for one final spot in the NFC playoffs unless the Giants choke their way out of the catbird seat in the last three weeks. A Giants win in Week 16 will guarantee them a playoff berth, making all of this a reality for Detroit, Seattle, and Washington.

The Lions are on the outside looking in as it stands today, but they’re as hot as anyone in football right now, and they have a 57.6 percent chance to sneak into the playoffs with three games against the Panthers, Bears, and Packers left on the schedule. 

The Commanders have a more difficult schedule — 49ers, Browns, and Cowboys — and hurt themselves with a Week 2 loss to the Lions, meaning that they have to finish with a better record than Detroit, or the Lions would get the final spot in the NFC playoffs.

The Seahawks could be looking up at the Lions and Commanders after they visit the Chiefs in Kansas City later this afternoon, putting their postseason hopes on life support.

Extra Points

  • Ronnie Hillman, a member of two Denver Broncos Super Bowl teams and who led the Broncos in rushing during their Super Bowl 50 championship season, passed away, according to a Thursday morning release by the Broncos.
  • I think that the Nickelodeon NFL broadcasts are a stroke of genius by the NFL, and I don’t know why more leagues haven’t caught onto this yet.
  • Chase Young makes his return for the Commanders this weekend.
  • Two big names regarding offensive linemen set to enter free agency this spring are off the board. Luis discusses the impact Elgton Jenkins and Jack Conklin’s extensions will have on the market, particularly the Bears.
  • Justin Fields, Josh Allen, and Lupe Fiasco at Soldier Field today:
  • Merry Christmas, everyone!

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.