Dan Campbell says the Lions need to win; Jets to start Zack Wilson
Robert Salih insisted that Zack Wilson’s career with the New York Jets was far from over when he picked the first round in 2021 last month. Now, Saleh and the Jets are turning to Wilson to help keep their NFL playoff hopes alive.
Saleh told reporters on Friday that Wilson would start Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions after the team’s doctors refused to participate in Mike White due to the internal injuries he suffered last week.
Lions coach Dan Campbell said the last-minute change does not affect his team’s plan.
“I mean, we kind of had an idea, so we’re ready,” Campbell said Friday. “We knew he was going to play the game anyway, so we thought they were going to play him. So it’s really the same, man, it’s about discipline. We know what kind of game this is, and what it’s we’re going to want to do offensively. We had to play our keys, We had to be disciplined. We had to run, we had to hit, all the same things we know here.”
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Campbell praised the toughness he displayed in the Jets’ 20-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills last week, when he completed 27 of 44 passes for 268 yards and two brutal punt returns to the midsection.
Gates benched Wilson in late November after a 10-3 loss to the New England Patriots when the offense managed a total of 103 yards and six first downs, and Wilson took little accountability for the unit’s poor play.
He led the White Jets to a 31-10 victory over the Chicago Bears the following week, but lost their previous two games.
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Wilson completed 55.6% of his passes for 1,279 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions in seven starts this season. He brought a mobile element to the quarterback position, something the Lions have struggled with at times this year.
“The good thing about them is, they have a system in there and they’ll run what they’re going to run no matter who the quarterback is,” said Lions head coach Kelvin Sheppard. “The mobility element is an important factor, and you know those are the things we’ve had problems with this year as far as mobile midfielders are concerned, so that’s obviously something we have to deal with in the game. But our players throughout the year have progressed and gotten better. And better and better in terms of retaining mobile quarterbacks and things like that. So our plan won’t change at all. We’ve been preparing all week and we’re going to MetLife (courtyard) with our plan.”
For Wilson, who was demoted to third string after being sat out, Sunday’s game represents a chance for redemption and perhaps a final chance with the Jets to live up to his billing as the second overall pick in 2021.
“I’m sure he’s competitive like most guys in this league are, so he’s going to want to go out and play well,” Campbell said. “He’s definitely talented and they’ll have a good game plan designed for him where he can succeed and take it to their weapons and control the game and play good defense. They’ll try to take the pressure off him as much as possible and let him be him. Use his talents and skills.”
It starts with planes
The Lions got some much-needed help in their chase for a playoff spot on Thursday, when the San Francisco 49ers beat the Seattle Seahawks, 21-13, to clinch the NFC West title.
The Seahawks (7-7) stay ahead of the Lions in the NFC standings, and maintain a tiebreaker thanks to an October win at Ford Field, but the Lions (6-7) can pull away during a semi-game of the final wild-card spot with a win over the Jets and no Sunday’s game between the New York Giants and Washington Commanders.
The winner of the Giants-Commanders team will capture the second wild card, while the loser will receive the seventh and final seed. Both teams are 7-5-1.
Campbell said it was “nice” to see the 49ers win, but he was more encouraged about his team’s playoff chances because of “where we are”.
“We know we have a chance, but we also know we feel like we need to win here and it all starts with the planes,” said Campbell. “If we don’t get our act together, it’s all for nothing. It’s nice to be able to look out there and know that this team ahead of us has taken a loss, and so it’s hard to ignore that. But we also know, our guys know we have to do our part.”
After the Jets’ visit, the Lions finished the season with three straight games against teams with losing records: at the Carolina Panthers, at home against the Chicago Bears and at the Green Bay Packers.
The Seahawks visit the Kansas City Chiefs next week and close out the season with home games against the Jets and Los Angeles Rams; The Leaders 49ers visit and host the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys to close out the season; And the Giants have games remaining at the Minnesota Vikings, home versus the Indianapolis Colts and at the Philadelphia Eagles.
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