This Jaguars-Jets showdown is a clash of AFC playoff hopefuls heading in opposite directions. 

On one side is Jacksonville (6-8), winners of four of its last six games and very much alive in the AFC South race with the reeling Titans. On a five-game losing streak at one point this season, the Jaguars are now just one game behind Tennessee for the division lead. 

On the other side are the Jets (7-7), on a three-game skid and losers of five of their last seven games after a 5-2 start. New York, already eliminated from AFC East contention, has seen its playoff odds slipping for weeks, now listed at just 21%, according to FiveThirtyEight. 

The headline of this matchup: Trevor Lawrence vs. Zach Wilson, the quarterbacks taken No. 1 and 2 in the 2021 draft, respectively. How differently their careers have gone to this point is stunning. 

After inconsistencies defined his first year and a half in the NFL, Lawrence has played like a franchise quarterback during the Jaguars’ recent run. Since Week 9, Lawrence leads all NFL quarterbacks in completion percentage (70.4%) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (14/1). He ranks second in passer rating (111.2) and EPA per pass attempt (0.32), according to TruMedia. In Jacksonville’s most recent game, an overtime victory over Dallas, he had his first career four-touchdown passing game. 

Time to crown Trevor Lawrence after Jaguars win over Cowboys?

Nick Wright, Chris Broussard and Kevin Wildes discuss the Dallas Cowboys’ loss to the Trevor Lawrence-led Jacksonville Jaguars. Jags QB Trevor Lawrence had a four-touchdown outing in the contest. The First Things First crew talks Cowboys-Jags.

Wilson, meanwhile, isn’t even the Jets’ definitive starting quarterback. He was benched for three games after an erratic start to 2022 and then elevated to the top backup role before being inserted back as the starter while Mike White dealt with fractured ribs. Wilson is set to make his second straight start against the Jaguars. 

In his first game back as a starter, Sunday’s loss to the Lions, Wilson flashed the mixed bag that has defined the start of his career. He completed 51.4% of his passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. 

Both quarterbacks will have their hands full. Targeting his receivers on the outside, Lawrence is faced with two great cornerbacks in Pro Bowl rookie Sauce Gardner and veteran D.J. Reed. The Jets’ defense ranks third in yards allowed and fourth in passing yards and points allowed. 

Wilson will be up against a Jacksonville defense that is tied for a league-high six takeaways the last two weeks, including safety Rayshawn Jenkins‘ game-winning pick-six in overtime against the Cowboys on Sunday. 

Matchup to watch: Jaguars OTs (including Walker Little) vs. Jets edge rushers Carl LawsonJohn Franklin-Myers

The Jaguars are vulnerable at the offensive tackle spots. Left tackle Cam Robinson is likely out for the season with a meniscus injury in his right knee, while right tackle Jawaan Taylor is dealing with a hamstring injury (he’s listed as questionable). So Jacksonville will be playing a backup left tackle (Little) and likely a hobbled Taylor in its biggest game of the season. That figures to have a big impact on Lawrence’s pass protection, which has been among the league’s best. Through Week 15, Jacksonville is tied for third in adjusted sack rate (4.8%), according to Football Outsiders. That accounts for opponent quality, down and distance. 

The Jets’ edge rushers have a big opportunity in front of them. Lawson and Franklin-Myers have a combined 10 sacks and 38 quarterback hits this season. Over the last two games, though, they have a combined zero sacks and four quarterback hits. That production will need to pick back up to slow Lawrence and Jacksonville’s hot passing attack. The Jaguars are averaging 269.8 passing yards per game since Week 9, which ranks third in the NFL over that span. 

X-Factor: WR Zay Jones (Jaguars)

Jones is the Jaguars’ No. 2 receiver, but he’s been one of the most productive wideouts in the entire NFL over the last several weeks. 

Since Week 12, he’s tied for fifth among all wide receivers in targets (41), sixth in receptions (27), fifth in receiving yards (347) and tied for first in receiving touchdowns (4). Jones is coming off a career-high three receiving touchdowns to go with six catches and 109 yards against the Cowboys last week. 

Matchups with Gardner and/or Reed will be a challenge, but if he continues his upward trajectory, Jacksonville’s offense is positioned to continue soaring. 

Prediction: Both defenses are playing well, so this will come down to which offense — and quarterback — can make more plays. The Jaguars have the clear advantage. Lawrence is the (much) better signal caller in the more effective offense. The Jaguars are sixth in total offense and ninth in scoring, while the Jets are 19th in total offense and 21st in scoring.

It’s always a good call betting on Jaguars coach Doug Pederson in primetime games, too. He has a 13-7 primetime record as a head coach, including 6-0 on Thursday Night Football. Three of those TNF games have been on the road. 

Jaguars 28, Jets 17

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Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur

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