How will Zach Wilson follow up his career-best game?

Has Wilson finally turned over a new leaf?
NY Jets, Zach Wilson
NY Jets, Zach Wilson / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

Make no mistake about it, NY Jets quarterback Zach Wilson had a great game this past Sunday against the Houston Texans in less-than-ideal weather conditions.

Throughout his three-year career, there were times when people applauded a Zach Wilson game but the stat sheet would show that those were merely good games for Wilson that would otherwise be ignored if they were say, Kirk Cousins or Jared Goff numbers.

You can even look to this year’s Chiefs game which was the previously crowned ‘best game of Zach’s career’ where he threw for a measly 245 yards and had the game-losing fumble but people acted like he just threw for 400 yards and six touchdowns.

This game, against the Texans, was an objective success. 301 yards (season-high), 75% completion (career-high), 117.9 passer rating (career-high). He also had two touchdowns and zero interceptions, but another fumble lost. Still, if Kirk Cousins gets these numbers and the win I think people would talk about it. Kudos to Zach for truly giving his best when his back was against the wall.

Is this a new Zach Wilson?

So has Wilson turned over a new leaf? My guess is probably not – he’s been consistently inconsistent for his entire career. If you read my preview from last week, I outlined why his breakout was a possibility, even if I doubted its probability.

He has some raw talent and physical gifts but my biggest criticism has always been between the ears. Factor in the weather where people are relying on physical instincts more than usual, and you get plays like this beauty that set up Randall Cobb’s first touchdown as a jet.

But just as those sparks come, so far they have always gone immediately after – including this year after the Chiefs game. This Texans game was the sixth time in Wilson's career that he had a passer rating that was more than 25 points higher than the previous week’s rating.

This is the most objective measurement that can be used to define a “breakout” because it implies that this game was that much better than the previous one.

If you look at the five other times he did this in his career, you notice two things: 1) he’s had two of these types of games in each season so far, and 2) he is much worse in the next game after that initial breakout.

So, Wilson has never thrown a TD in any of the ‘follow-up’ games after his breakout games. He, on average, has had 156 yards on 54.8% completion for 0 touchdowns, .4 interceptions, and a passer rating of 65.3 following a breakout.

Those are obviously horrible numbers but perhaps a more promising one is that the Jets are (2-3) in such games. They have a chance to go .500 in this category this Sunday.

For camp Wilson, it’s worth noting that those numbers largely reflect the 2021 and 2022 seasons where he was the worst QB in football. He has improved in 2023, and that Broncos game is the only ‘follow-up game’ on this list in which his completion percentage improved after the breakout game — perhaps a sign of things to come?

The Dolphins' defense hasn’t been as good as the Texans’ defense but there will be no weather elements to get in the way — it’s all up to Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett to try to have lightning strike twice if the Jets will have any shot to win this game.