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NFL Week 11 takeaways: Vikings, Zach Wilson disappoint; but who impressed?

Zach Wilson

Zach Wilson is a problem

Wow. That was arguably the worst half of offensive football I’ve seen in a long time. I am referring to quarters three and four of Jets football at New England yesterday. The first half wasn’t much better, to be fair. Wilson had three completions in the entire second half and was very fortunate that New England dropped a would-be pick-six. The way the game ended – with a punt return touchdown with five seconds left – was auspicious for Pats bettors. However, the Pats were the right side based on how the game played out. They outgained Gang Green by: 

  • 0.21 in EPA/play
  • 20.9% in series success rate
  • 16% in overall success rate
  • 13-6 in first downs
  • 297-103 in total yards

Zach Wilson went 9/22 for a whopping 44 net passing yards. The Patriots had drives to the NYJ 14-, 26-, 25- and 36-yard lines. It wasn’t a stellar performance by any stretch of the imagination, but the Pats missed two field goals from 43 and 44 yards out and dropped multiple interceptions. They should have covered in regulation.

The most disturbing thing about the Jets loss was Zach Wilson’s reaction after the game. He was asked whether he let the defense down and said, “no.” What in the world, dude? His defense held the Patriots to zero touchdowns and played well enough – along with some kicking luck – to get this game to overtime despite the offense only scoring three points. Not holding yourself accountable and owning the bad performance seems like terrible leadership and character.

The Jets have a quarterback problem. They risk wasting an elite defense and a path to the postseason by having their second-year signal caller show dumpster performances every week. Wilson faced top-10 passing defenses in five consecutive games (GB, DEN, NE, BUF, NE), but that doesn’t explain the awful production and lack of development.

Since 2018, 176 quarterbacks have had a season with at least 200 dropbacks. Among those, here are Zach Wilson’s 2022 ranks in the following efficiency metrics:

  • EPA/play: 162nd
  • Success rate: 169th
  • CPOE: 168th
  • PFF passing grade: 175th

The Jets are 6-point home favorites over the Chicago Bears in Week 12. The quarterback discussion might get delayed another week.

Kudos to the Buffalo Bills

On Wednesday, the Bills had several players missing due to illness. On Thursday, they were informed that their game against the Browns would be moved to Detroit due to the arriving snowstorm. On Friday, their practice was canceled and held remotely. Then, they cleared hurdles to get out of their homes and on the plane to Detroit on Saturday. Saying that their preparation for Cleveland was disrupted is probably an understatement.

Despite that, they beat the Brownies 31-23 despite going 3-for-11 on third down. They were up 28-10 with twelve minutes to go in the fourth quarter before Cleveland added a pair of garbage time scores. The Bills defense held Nick Chubb to a career-low 1.4 yards per carry. The final score might not do enough justice, but it was a dominating win on a neutral field after a very stressful week.

Restore the Roar

The Lions are back—kind of. Over the past three weeks, Detroit is 3-0. Over that stretch, they rank 10th in EPA/play offensively (0.073) and 10th defensively (-0.022). Amon-Ra St. Brown is back healthy, and so is D’Andre Swift. Their defense seems to be more stable. But let’s apply some context: The Lions benefited heavily from Aaron Rodgers throwing three interceptions inside the Detroit red zone and Justin Fields’ pick-six, which skews their EPA/play number. Their defense drops from 10th to 24th in EPA/play without turnovers over that stretch. A massive difference. 

After sneaking past the Packers, they got a last-minute victory against the Bears after being down 17-30 late and getting the pick-six from Fields. Yesterday, they had a great game against an injury-riddled Giants team that ranked 26th in defensive DVOA going into the game and lost two key players during the match (Adoree Jackson and Wan’Dale Robinson). In a short week, they’ll face the Bills. It will be a big test to determine whether the Roar is being restored.

The Minnesota Vikings came down to earth

The Vikings have an 8-2 record with a negative point differential of -1. After the blowout loss to the Cowboys, it is pretty evident that the guys in purple were a classic paper tiger. Minnesota now ranks 21st in EPA/play and 23rd in DVOA. Their estimated win number is 4.4; their Pythagorean win expectation is around .500. They got smoked by every good team: 7-24 against the Eagles and 3-40 against the Cowboys. They were down 10-27 in Buffalo early in the fourth quarter before they orchestrated a miraculous comeback that included a fourth-and-18 completion to Justin Jefferson that might go down as the best catch of all time.

Six of their other seven wins were one-score blockbusters against the likes of Detroit, Chicago, Miami with Skylar Thompson, and the Commanders. Their defense is below-average, and Kirk Cousins is having his worst season as a Viking, statistically. Last year, he averaged 0.132 EPA/DB. This season it’s 0.013. 

Minnesota is a mediocre football team, plain and simple. No one should be surprised if their luck in close games runs out and they go 4-3 or 3-4 the rest of the way. They will likely host a playoff game and could be home underdogs if they draw a team like the 49ers.