Analysis: Zach Wilson proved Robert Saleh, Jets' confidence in him was deserved

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Zach Wilson proved the trust Robert Saleh and the New York Jets had in him was deserved.

Dissed publicly, dragged online, and disrespected by everyone from Broadway Joe to almost every former-player-turned-talking-head, Wilson responded by outplaying Patrick Mahomes on “Sunday Night Football” only to come up short after losing a fumble in the fourth quarter.

There are no moral victories in sports, but Wilson’s performance in New York’s 23-20 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs was a major positive for a team still reeling from losing Aaron Rodgers in the season opener.

Despite falling to 1-3, the Jets and their fans finally have reason for some optimism.

If Wilson continues to progress, the Jets have enough playmakers around him and a strong enough defense to win games and compete for the playoffs.

They’ve got a long way to go and it was only one game but Wilson earned another opportunity. He justified the organization’s faith in him and should’ve silenced his critics for at least a week.

Now, Wilson has to build on an impressive effort in a winnable game at Denver (1-3) on Sunday. The “Nathaniel Hackett Bowl” is a must-win for the Jets because they have no margin for error in a division where Buffalo and Miami are both 3-1.

They have even more incentive to beat the Broncos because coach Sean Payton eviscerated Hackett’s coaching performance last season in Denver. Wilson was in sync with Hackett, New York’s offensive coordinator, against Kansas City.

The next step is getting a win.

HOT SEAT

Winning six Super Bowls should’ve given Bill Belichick the right to leave on his own terms but the New England Patriots (1-3) are struggling and his seat has to be getting warm. The Patriots are coming off the worst loss of Belichick’s coaching career — 38-3 to Dallas — and are heading toward a fifth straight season without a playoff victory. Their most recent postseason win came against the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl following the 2018 season.

The Patriots were knocked out in the wild-card round the following season in Tom Brady’s final game in New England. They were 7-9 in 2020, lost in the wild-card round in 2021 after going 10-7 and finished 8-9 last season.

Overall, Belichick is 81-93, including playoffs, in games without Brady. Belichick’s 299 wins in the regular season are third on the career list. He needs 30 victories to pass Don Shula for first place, but the 71-year-old coach might have to pursue that record somewhere else if owner Robert Kraft runs out of patience. The “Patriot Way” was built on championship banners and parades, but it has turned to mediocrity since Brady left town.

New England has a chance to get to .500 in upcoming games at home against the Saints (2-2) and on the road at Las Vegas (1-3) before facing the Bills and Dolphins in consecutive games. Belichick has to turn things around quickly or the season can spiral.

POWER RANKINGS

The Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers are the only remaining unbeaten teams.

The 49ers, who lost in Philly in the NFC championship game, have been more impressive in their four wins with three victories by 18 or more points so they would get the No. 1 spot in the power rankings for the first quarter of the season.

Brock Purdy and Christian McCaffrey have led a dynamic offense that’s scored at least 30 points in every game, and last year’s top-ranked defense has picked up where it left off.

Jalen Hurts and the passing attack finally got going for the Eagles against Washington after the offense dominated on the ground the previous two games. The defense has had some issues.

The two teams meet in an NFC championship game rematch in Philly on Dec. 3 in a game that could determine the No. 1 seed. The 49ers face another team that will be in the mix for the top spot when they host Dallas this week on Sunday night.

The Cowboys (3-1) have been dominant in their three wins and will seek to avenge being bounced out of the playoffs by San Francisco the past two seasons.

$40 MILLION BUST

There was plenty of skepticism when the New York Giants gave Daniel Jones a $160 million, four-year contract. Jones led the Giants to the playoffs last season but threw just 15 touchdown passes and has never been a top-tier quarterback in the NFL. Four games in, he’s not even playing up to last year’s standards. Jones has two TD passes, six interceptions and a 69.7 passer rating. Jones threw a pick-6 Monday night that handed the game to Seattle. The Giants overpaid for Jones based on one decent season and now they’re stuck. With road games upcoming at Miami and Buffalo, the Giants are looking at a 1-5 start unless they pull off an unexpected upset.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL