Jets vs. Buccaneers Week 17 pick and prediction

Jets Michael Carter runs black jerseys Jaguars

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-4) at JETS (3-11)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

Spread: Buccaneers minus-13

Zach Wilson has played better lately and the Jets’ rookie quarterback looked as comfortable running the offense as he’s been all season last week. He looks like he’s ready to take the next step towards being a franchise quarterback.

This just might be the wrong week to do it.

Unfortunately for Wilson, just as he seems to be slowly growing into his job, he’s forced to take a huge step up in class with a game against the defending Super Bowl champions and quarterback Tom Brady, who once again is in the race for NFL MVP. Playing with a roster depleted by injuries and COVID-19, it’s hard to see how Wilson has enough around him to even make this game competitive.

And that’s especially true with former Jets coach Todd Bowles surely licking his chops as the defensive coordinator on the other side.

Granted, the Bucs are hurting right now with injuries and COVID-19 issues of their own. Running back Leonard Fournette and receiver Chris Godwin are on injured reserve, receiver Mike Evans has been out with COVID and he’s dealing with injuries too. The secondary is banged up. Shaq Barrett has a knee injury. Jason Pierre-Paul has a shoulder injury.

But they still have Brady, and if you ignore their weird, shutout loss to the Saints two weeks ago, they’ve averaged 32.6 points per game in their other games since mid-November.

The Jets’ offense has improved and they’ve totaled 50 points in the past two weeks, and Wilson hasn’t thrown an interception in his last three games. But he also has just one touchdown pass in those games (and one long touchdown run) and he’s averaged just 158 passing yards in those games.

He’s going to have to do better than that. And he’s going to have to do it without injured receivers Corey Davis and Jamison Crowder and rookie Elijah Moore, who is still out with COVID-19. Sending Wilson into a game against…

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