Thursday Night Football Preview: Jaguars visit Jets with huge playoff implications

Dec 11, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) hands off to running back Travis Etienne Jr. (1) during the first quarter at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday Night Football Preview: Jaguars visit Jets with huge playoff implications

Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8) at New York Jets (7-7)

Time/TV: 7:15 p.m. CT/Prime Video

The New York Jets looked like a sure playoff team just three weeks ago. They topped the Chicago Bears 31-10 on a rainy day at MetLife Stadium to improve to 7-4, capitalizing on facing a weakened opponent the way recent New York teams have rarely managed to do. Since that game, the tide has steadily turned in the other direction. The Jets have now lost three straight, and will once again be without the quarterback that seems to be their most reliable when they take the field Thursday night. Mike White was hit hard over and over on the road in Buffalo two weeks ago, and will now miss his second consecutive game with a rib injury.

In White’s place will be Zach Wilson, once a No. 2 overall pick who now feels like more of an emergency option on the Jets’ depth chart at quarterback. Wilson has six touchdown passes to go with six interceptions this season and was sacked four times last Sunday while struggling to find any consistency against the Lions.

The Jacksonville Jaguars will visit MetLife Stadium this week. Jacksonville has won three of its last four, knocking off playoff contenders each of the last two weeks. The Jaguars are now just one game behind Tennessee in the AFC South standings and control their own destiny over the season’s final three weeks. If Jacksonville can beat the Jets, only a trip to take on the Texans would stand between the Jaguars and a battle at home with Tennessee for the division crown.

Much of the Jaguars’ recent success can be attributed to their young, talented quarterback. Trevor Lawrence has come a long way since his first games as a starter under the departed Urban Meyer. Never was Lawrence’s progress more evident than last Sunday, when he threw for four touchdowns and just one interception while leading an improbable comeback win over Dallas. That makes seven passing touchdowns for Lawrence over the past two weeks with just one interception, and he also ran for a score at Tennessee two weeks ago. As a result, the Jaguars have scored 76 points over the last two games.

With a quarter of an inch of rain expected to be dumped onto the field during Thursday night’s game, ball security will be of the utmost importance for both teams. Both young quarterbacks have struggled with turnovers at times, but it would seem that sloppy weather could provide an advantage for Jacksonville. The Jaguars’ 22 takeaways defensively rank seventh in the NFL, including an interception returned for a touchdown to top Dallas in overtime last Sunday afternoon.

If the Jaguars manage to pick up a massive road win against New York, both teams would be 7-8. For the Jets, that mark would make a playoff appearance a tall task – but in Jacksonville’s manageable AFC South, it would put the Jaguars in the driver’s seat. A Jets’ win could land New York in the playoff picture as soon as Sunday night, depending on the Dolphins’ and Patriots’ results. Jacksonville could conceivably still top Tennessee for the AFC South with a loss but would need more help from Titans’ opponents down the stretch.

Thursday Night Football’s playoff implications are clear, even if the weather will not be. In what could be a battle of attrition, whoever blinks first could regret it until next September.

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