Jaguars raise playoff hopes behind stifling defense

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — It was supposed to be a duel between top two-ranked quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson in the 2021 draft. In the end, the star was the Jaguars’ defense.

The Jaguars limited the Jets to 227 yards and forced two turnovers. 2 in the general election, Wilson failed to get the New York Jets’ offense back on track and was replaced in the third quarter by backup Chris Streveler. The Jaguars beat the Jets 19-3.

According to ESPN Analytics, the Jaguars’ playoff odds jumped to 51% with the win.

The Jaguars are on the rise and – as surprising as it sounds – they’re two games away from potentially winning the AFC South and making it to the playoffs.

This was unthinkable when the Jaguars returned from London on October 30 after losing to the Denver Broncos. It was their fifth consecutive defeat. They have since lost twice, and it was their third consecutive win on Thursday night, 13-15 of 2017. It’s the first time they’ve had three wins in a row since their week.

They accomplished this by dominating one of the best defenses in the league. The Jets allowed 299.1 yards per game, and the Jaguars nearly reached that at halftime (251 yards). The Jaguars finished with 368 yards, the second most the Jets have allowed all season. The defense had some trouble when the Jets backed Wilson up for Streveler in the second half, but they allowed only 66 yards in the first half after the average 200 yards allowed in the first half, the third most in the NFL after coming in.

The Jaguars (7-8) now beat the Tennessee Titans (7-7) half a game and could take over the division lead if the Titans lose to the Houston Texans at home on Saturday. The Titans lost four games in a row and played against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17.

The Jaguars and Titans wrap up the regular season in Jacksonville in what could be a league title and playoff berth.

Promising trend: Tight end Evan Engram made a debut two games ago against Tennessee with 11 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and has been a key part of the offense ever since. He made seven catches out of 113 against the Jets and now has 68 catches this season, which is a single-season franchise record for a tight end. Twenty-six of his catches and 337 of his 723 yards have come in the last three games. The jaguars pick him up with short, quick passes and let him run after the catch. Engram has 95 yards after catching the Jets and now has 444 yards after being caught this season.

important game: The Jets had a chance to gain some early momentum after correcting Lawrence’s failure at the Jaguars’ 16-yard line, but Jaguars safety Andre Cisco sacked Wilson for an 8-yard loss, which forced the Jets to score a field goal. When the Jaguars do a security attack, it’s usually Rayshawn Jenkins, so Cisco caught the Jets off guard as they arrived and left him untouched. Cisco hit a quarterback for the first time in an entire season. Despite the Jets scoring, not giving up on the touchdown was a boost for the defense, who lost 34 points last week.

Underestimated statistics to know: When Lawrence played in rainy and windy conditions like the one he last faced on Thursday night, he flipped the ball five times in Week 4, including four drop-offs in a loss in Philadelphia. So naturally ball safety was a big priority this week. Things got off to a rocky start when Lawrence was fired and failed in the third game of the game, but the Jaguars didn’t return the ball (though Travis Etienne was nearly inept late in the first half). The Jaguars are currently 6-2 in games this season where they have positive and even turnover rates. — Michael DiRocco

next game: In Texans (January 1 ET, January 1)

New York Jets

Wilson hit a new low on Thursday night. Not only was it booed off the field at MetLife Stadium, it was replaced and staged by a former practice team quarterback at Streveler.

The Jets (7-8) defeat almost completely ruined their playoff hopes, but the big story was Wilson’s flare up. It’s fair to wonder if he played his last game with the Jets.

In a virtually winnable game, Wilson played to pre-deck level, completing only nine of 18 92-yard passes and one blocking (a long promotion at the end of the first half). It needs a reset again but it will be hard to come back from that.

Wanting to ignite his running game, coach Robert Saleh pulled Wilson down 16-3 with 3:31 left in the third quarter. Saleh said it was supposed to be a temporary “speed change,” but he spoke volumes about using Streveler for the rest of the game.

Rising from the practice team before the game, Streveler provided instant energy as he ran a college-style, zone-ready offense. The crowd roared as Wilson stood on the sidelines, apparently waiting to return. He never did. As a preseason hero, Streveler didn’t put any points on the board, but his performance shed light on the Jets’ frenzied quarterback status.

Quite simply, the team responded better to Streveler than Wilson. It was the same with Mike White (his ribs broken) on the show. What does this say?

disturbing trend: The Jets met their goal of playing meaningful games in December, but lost them all — the first four-game losing streak of the Saleh era. According to ESPN Analytics, they have a 6% chance of staying postseason for the first time in 12 years. The season looked very promising a month ago, but the quarterback circus and hopes of not producing much offense were dashed. They have only scored 32 points in the last three games, not quite worthy of the playoffs.

describe the game in two words: Typical Jets. When it comes to prime time, they are fine not to show up. It was their eighth consecutive defeat in the NFL’s longest active streak. They dropped 19 of the last 25 based on “Butt Fumble” from 2012. When the lights come on, the Jets get smaller.

The biggest gap in the game plan: In monsoon-like conditions, against a defenseless seven fronts, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur leaned too much into the passing game in the first half. The Jets rushed just five times for 4 yards in the first half, putting too much on Wilson’s plate. A quarterback’s best friend, especially a struggling quarterback, is a running game. The situation has not been the same for a month as the aging offensive line has lost its effect.

Bold prediction for next week: White will return to the roster against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 17 if he receives a contact clearance. That’s not wise, really. If he’s not acquitted, will Saleh go with Wilson? Joe Flacco? Streveler? He has a little good-bye time to think about his choices. — Rich Someone

Underestimated statistics to know: Wilson’s deepest finish on Thursday was 7 airfields, and he was 0 out of 5 with an interception of 10 or more airfield shots.

next game: At Seahawks (January 1, 4:05 pm ET)

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