An inside look at Thursday’s Jets-Jaguars Week 16 matchup at MetLife Stadium.
Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence vs. Jets QB Zach Wilson
OK, so technically these two won’t be matched up, but this is the matchup everyone will be dissecting on Friday morning. Lawrence and Wilson went 1-2 in the 2021 draft. Lawrence seems to be hitting his stride in his second season. Wilson is fighting for his job. It is a compelling comparison.
Lawrence looks like the player lately everyone hyped him to be coming out of Clemson. In his past six games, Lawrence has completed 70.4 percent of his passes for 1,680 yards, 14 touchdowns and one interception. He has also run for 140 yards and a touchdown. For the entire season, Lawrence has 24 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
Wilson had some good moments in his return to the starting lineup against the Lions on Sunday, hitting some deep throws, but he continues to miss open receivers and look slow processing.
Wilson said he and Lawrence got to know each other during the predraft process.
“He’s really, truly a great dude, I love the way he carries himself, the way he handles himself,” Wilson said. “I haven’t followed him a ton, I think it seems like he’s been having a good year. He’s one of those dudes that’s never going to quit, and he’s always going to kind of do what’s necessary to make sure he’s improving and getting better. So, I’ve got a lot of respect for him, so I’m sure I’ll probably see him on the field and say what’s up.”
The Jets are a team descending in December while the Jaguars are a team that is ascending. This will be an ugly, rainy night at MetLife Stadium that won’t feature a lot of offense. Trevor Lawrence does just enough to edge out Zach Wilson, and the Jets’ playoff hopes take another blow.
Jaguars 17, Jets 13
Whoa line: The Jets’ offensive line has become an issue. The Jets had a season-low 50 rushing yards last week against the Lions and did not have a run longer than 6 yards. The two tackles — Duane Brown and George Fant — look like they are hurting, as both are playing through injuries. The Jaguars have injuries on their defensive line and are 16th in the league in rushing defense, so the Jets should be able to open up holes against them.
“Establishing the run game has been the most glaring [problem],” Brown said. “We pride ourselves on that. We’ve had some really great performances, but that’s kind of where it starts for us. Having a good run game sets up so much for the pass game. When you become one dimensional, teams get to pin their ears back and rush the passer. You don’t want to be in that type of game against the teams we’ve faced. It’s been a big point of emphasis this week.”
Take it away: The Jets had at least one takeaway in each of their first nine games. Since then, they have one in their past five games, four of those games being losses. The defense needs to help out Zach Wilson and the offense on Thursday night, and give them some short fields to work with.
“We’ve got to catch the ones that are thrown to us,” coach Robert Saleh said. “I think, what was the stat, since the bye week, we’ve had six or eight turnover-worthy passes that were in the palm of our hands, and we just haven’t been able to bring them down.”
Return policy: There have been three punt returns for touchdowns in the NFL this season, and the Jets have given up two of them — including last week’s against the Lions. The Jets are going to need their kick coverage and return teams to have a strong game in order to help out the offense.
They are fourth in the NFL in punt return average at 11.9 yards per return, but they only have one return of more than 20 yards. With the issues the Jets are having on offense, a score or even a big return could make the difference in the game.
Ready for prime time? The Jets play their first, and only scheduled, prime-time game of the season Thursday. There is a chance they will have their games in Week 17 or Week 18, against the Seahawks and Dolphins, moved into prime time, but right now this is it.
Can the Jets show up with the country watching? Prime-time games have not been kind to the Jets in recent years. They have not won a game in prime time since Week 1 in 2018 when Sam Darnold made his debut against the Lions on “Monday Night Football.” Since then, they have lost seven straight prime-time games. Some of those losses have been ghastly — like Baker Mayfield’s debut for Cleveland, Darnold seeing ghosts against the Patriots, the Pats coming back on a winless 2020 team, and Mike White injuring his arm after a promising start in Indianapolis last year.
The Jets have exorcised some of their recent demons this season. Winning in prime time would be another one.
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