Jets vs. Buccaneers: Preview, predictions, what to watch for

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An inside look at Sunday’s Jets-Buccaneers Week 17 matchup at MetLife Stadium.

Marquee matchup

Jets QB Zach Wilson vs. Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles

Bowles returns to MetLife Stadium on Sunday, three years after the Jets fired him as head coach. Bowles has done just fine for himself with the Buccaneers, engineering a Super Bowl win over Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs last year. Many believe Bowles will get another shot at being a head coach soon.

Before then, he gets to attack Wilson, the Jets’ rookie quarterback. Bowles is known for his love of blitzing and surely will try to heat Wilson up. The rookie has not put up huge numbers since he returned from injury in November but has taken care of the ball better. He has no interceptions in his last three games and just two in the five since he returned from his knee injury. He has thrown three touchdowns and rushed for another four in those games.

“I’m sure they’re going to bring pressure and do different things to try to confuse us,” Wilson said. “I think it’s going to be a good challenge for me. I feel like I’m prepared and I feel like we have a good scheme going into it and I just feel like I need to just stay focused and just be decisive with the ball and I think it’s going to be good for me.”

Zach Wilson and Todd Bowles
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; Getty Images

Costello’s call

It was nice for the Jets to get one last win this season against the Jaguars last week. Now, they play the varsity. Tom Brady is going to pick the Jets apart and Todd Bowles will be smiling at the end of this one.

Buccaneers 30, Jets 13

Four downs

Tight end rope: Zach Wilson will be missing a lot of his favorite targets in this game. The Jets’ top three wide receivers are all out again. The team is also thin at tight end. The Jets expected Tyler Kroft to return from the COVID list, but he did not clear protocols. Ryan Griffin is on IR. Trevon Wesco is on IR. That leaves them with Kroft, Daniel Brown and Kenny Yeboah. The Jets could also use offensive lineman Conor McDermott, who caught a touchdown pass last week, as an extra tight end.

“They got beat up these past couple weeks,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “Someone’s got to step up. And, again, it’s another opportunity for those guys, whether it’s Yeboah, Daniel Brown, even McDermott to get some tackle-eligible stuff. It all matters, so there’s going to be opportunities to be had out there.”

Return of Gronk: Tom Brady is not the only familiar foe the Jets will see Sunday. His old running mate Rob Gronkowski is also still going with the Buccaneers. Gronkowski has 41 catches for 550 yards and six touchdowns this season for Tampa Bay.

Gronkowski has killed the Jets during his career. In 16 games with the Patriots, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 883 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 12.3 yards per reception. The Jets are playing backup safeties and they will be tested by Gronk in this one.

Run away: The Jets got the running game going in a big way last week, rolling up 273 yards against the Jaguars. It was the Jets’ best total this season by far and the highest amount of rushing yards by any team in the NFL this season.

The odds of the Jets repeating the feat this week are slim. Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is known for stopping the run and Tampa Bay enters this game ranked third in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing just 87.5 yards per game. It will be tough for the Jets’ offensive line to get a push in this one against one of the best defensive lines in football.

Getting to the point: The Jets are on the verge of allowing the most points in team history. They have given up 449 points entering this game, the third-most in franchise history. Unless they really shock the world and stop Brady and the Bucs, the record will fall Sunday. The record was set just last year when the Jets allowed 457 points. Second on the list is Rich Kotite’s 1996 crew, which gave up 454 points.

As for points allowed per game, the 1975 team holds that dishonor, allowing 30.9 points per game. The current Jets are giving up 29.9 points per game.

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