Week 16; Thursday Night Football; #DUUUVAL @ #TakeFlight

Last week was one of the best of the year in the NFL, possibly helped by the additional of the three Saturday night games to give us an additional fix. That flips around this week with it being Christmas Day on Sunday and we have ten games on Saturday with just the three on Sunday. After Monday we have six of the fourteen playoff teams confirmed and five teams officially eliminated. Things could change quite dramatically again this weekend with several games lined up between those currently in a playoff spot and those just on the outside looking in.

Tonight’s game is between a couple of AFC playoff hopefuls with the Jaguars hoping to continue their late surge towards the AFC South division title and the Jets hoping to sneak one of the two wildcard spots that are still very much up for grabs.

Jacksonville Jaguars +2.5 @ New York Jets: 36.5

This game is between two teams and two quarterbacks who are seemingly trending in opposite directions at the moment. Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson were pick one and two in last year’s draft and while Lawrence seems to have got things together and started to progress recently, Wilson is only starting this game due to Mike White’s rib injury. Wilson did come out on top when the two met on Boxing Day last year and he probably needs to do the same again tonight to keep the job for the final two games of the season.

The forecast is for some wet and windy weather tonight which could make both QB’s jobs difficult and has dropped the total by a point or two over the last day.

Jaguars

There has been a big shift in the AFC South in recent weeks with the Jags winning three of their last four games and the Titans losing all of their last four. Add to that the fact that Ryan Tannehill is now “very likely” to miss the rest of the season and the Jags are now the bookies favourites to take the division.

A big part in their change of fortunes has been the improvement from Lawrence as he has thrown 11 touchdowns and just one interception in the last four weeks (he threw just 12 touchdowns all of last season). The matchup with the Jets top five passing defense is not so daunting when you consider how he performed against the Cowboys last week, 311 total passing yards compared to their season average allowed of just 192.

With the uptick in passing game production in recent weeks, more of the Jaguars pass catchers have been involved than earlier on in the season. Zay Jones has gone over 100 yards twice in the last month and scored three touchdowns against the Cowboys last week, and it was Evan Engram that exploded the week before with 160 yards and two touchdowns against the Titans. Christian Kirk continues to put up steady production but hasn’t been in the headlines recently as the others have been scoring the touchdowns. He’s still the safest bet in the offense to get consistent targets and yardage and conveniently runs most of his routes from the slot, helping him to avoid being covered by Sauce Gardner most of the time, so I like the over on his 49.5 yard line (Kirk o49.5 receiving yards).

Travis Etienne took over the backfield from James Robinson earlier in the season but has been a little disappointing in recent weeks before bouncing back for over 100 yards against the Cowboys, albeit with a lost fumble. The Jets don’t often give up a lot of yardage on the ground, so I’d lean the under on his 71.5 yard line, aside from a five game stretch from Week 5 to 9, last week was the only time he’s gone over that number.

Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Jets

The early season momentum has somewhat disappeared for the Jets after losing their last three, the change to Mike White at QB looked like it might be enough to get them to the playoffs but his injury a couple of weeks ago looks to have derailed things again. Wilson has been pretty awful but while he certainly didn’t look good last week, it was actually probably his best game of the season. It was only the second time this year he has had multiple touchdowns and over 300 yards and the previous time he did that he also had three interceptions (compared to just one last week). The Jags have one of the worst pass defenses in the league so it’s definitely possible he goes over his 192.5 yard line tonight, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

Rookie wide receiver Garrett Wilson has shown he can produce regardless of which of the three Jets QB’s is throwing him the ball. He now has the lead for most receiving yards by a rookie this season and is averaging 69 yards per game. The numbers are understandably lower when Zach is the QB as he doesn’t attempt as many passes but he has gone over 90 yards in three of the last four games his namesake has been under center. Again, I don’t know if we can take the over on a line that is dependent on Zach Wilson but 53.5 receiving yards for plus money (11/10 Bet365) is tempting. Corey Davis looks to be back in the lineup which probably means Elijah Moore goes back to just a couple of catches for 20 or so yards.

Zonovan Knight has been the early down back for the Jets in recent weeks and after some solid games he managed just 1.8 yards per carry last week while dealing with an ankle injury. He should bounce back against a softer Jags defense but I don’t think I can take the over on 59.5 yards but I don’t mind him to score a touchdown at 13/8 (Knight anytime TD). Michael Carter will likely be involved in the passing game and has a low line of 10.5 receiving yards.

Who wins?

The momentum is firmly with the Jaguars heading into this game and I think they notch up their fourth win in five to take them level on wins with the Titans in the AFC South. The Jets defense will do their best to make Lawrence’s life difficult but I just don’t think an offense led by Zach Wilson can control the ball long enough to keep the Jags off the field. It looks like the weather should keep the scoring low but I’d lean the over on the 36.5 total.

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