Playoffs?! Yes, the Jets and Jags have a shot at them

This Thursday Night Football matchup means so much more than the top two picks of the 2021 draft facing off

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Jacksonville Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence
T-t-t-Trevor vs. the Jets
Image: Getty Images

The Jacksonville Jaguars vs. the New York Jets is one of those games you’d typically see on the Thursday night NFL schedule, and figure this could be skipped this late in the season. Coming into the season, having that game scheduled on Thursday Night Football in December seemed like a dud. Suddenly, this game has significant playoff implications for both teams, making it one of the more intriguing games on the Week 16 slate. Aside from everything on the line, this is a battle between the top two picks in the 2021 NFL draft. Zach Wilson took the first head-to-head matchup against Trevor Lawrence last year in a 26-21 Jets win in New York.

Not much was expected of either team this year now, with three weeks left in the regular season, they find themselves in the thick of the AFC postseason mix. Jacksonville has its eyes set on a division title. Even at 6-8, the Jags are only one game back of the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans, who might be without QB Ryan Tannehill for the rest of the season. In New York, the Jets are out of the AFC East division title race but are holding firm in the fight for the final wildcard spot at 7-7.

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Neither can afford a loss, and no one wants a tie, so this should be a good one. A loss wouldn’t entirely eliminate Jacksonville as the Jags play the Titans in their final game of the season in Jacksonville. Seeing how Tennessee has played lately, the Jags should still have a chance come Week 18, so long as they’re no more than a game behind the Titans. Jacksonville beat Tennessee in Week 14, 36-22. All they’ve got to do is finish with the same record and beat the Titans a second time, and they win the South.

A month ago, the Titans had firm control of the division, but after four consecutive losses and the Jags winning three of their last four games, the AFC South has become a tight race heading toward the end of the season. That Week 18 showdown on Jan. 8 is starting to look like it’ll be for all the division marbles.

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In the Jets’ case, all division hope is lost, but they’re only a game behind the Chargers and Dolphins for one of the final two wildcard spots. New York needs a bounce-back win more than just about any team in the NFL after losing three straight. They were 7-4 a few weeks ago and looked to be headed for their first postseason appearance since 2010. A loss this week to Jacksonville could make breaking that streak nearly impossible.

With Mike White still not cleared to play, the Jets are set to trot out former No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson one more time. Despite a 5-3 record, Wilson’s been mediocre at best — and that’s being kind. He’s the ultimate example of a team winning in spite of, not because of, his play. This superb Jets’ defense will need to be at its best because Wilson cannot be trusted to carry this team. The Jets went 4-0 once Wilson returned from injury in Week 4 but have a record of just 1-3 since that winning streak ended.

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While the record isn’t as polished, Trevor Lawrence is head and shoulders above Wilson in just about any key QB statistical category you can name. It’s not just on paper, either. Just watch Lawrence perform, and you’ll see what all the hype is about. This kid is good and finally looking like he’s shaping into the QB everyone proclaimed him to be coming out of Clemson. And, of course, he wants a little revenge after losing his first head-to-head battle with Wilson last season. Lawrence was the No. 1 pick in the same draft as Wilson, so these two players will forever be linked.