TNF winners, losers: 2021’s top 2 picks going in opposite directions

At the start of this season, this Thursday night matchup was easy to overlook. 

But both the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars have played well enough to put themselves on the precipice of AFC wild card spots. Entering Week 16, the Jaguars were surging. The Jets were stumbling. 

The trends continued to play out that way at a rainy and windy MetLife Stadium, with the Jaguars defeating the Jets 19-3 and pulling within a half game of the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South. 

For the Jets, it marked their fifth loss in six games and was emblematic of their spiral. Quarterback Zach Wilson was benched – once again – in the third quarter for the little-known Chris Streveler. 

Here are the winners and losers from the second-to-last ‘Thursday Night Football’ game of the season.  

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Evan Engram

For five seasons, Engram called MetLife home. As a member of the New York Giants, he was booed at the stadium on several occasions. 

This time the boos weren’t for him. 

Engram caught seven passes on eight targets for 113 receiving yards, often showing his ability to pick up yardage after the catch. 

The former first-round pick, who signed a one-year deal with Jacksonville this offseason, had 11 catches, 162 yards and two touchdowns two weekends ago against the Titans. Last Sunday, in a win over the Cowboys, he had 62 yards on eight catches.  

Trevor Lawrence

Lawrence keeps growing into the potentially franchise-changing quarterback the Jaguars hoped they acquired when they took him at the top of the 2021 draft. He was 20 of 31 for 229 yards through the air. But Lawrence was even more impressive on the ground, with seven rushes for 51 yards (7.3 yards per carry). 

In the second quarter, he scored the lone touchdown of the game with a quarterback sneak, stretching the ball over the goal line right after the snap. 

Doug Pederson 

The Jaguars have had losing seasons in 10 of the last 11 years. They’re not .500 yet, but have won three of their last four and only seem to be improving with each week. 

Pederson’s slick play call in the first quarter to spring Engram loose to counter a Jets’ blitz set them up for their opening score of the game, a 32-yard field goal by Riley Patterson. On the touchdown drive, the Jaguars went 96 yards over 16 plays. The sequence took 8 minutes, 15 seconds of game time and Jacksonville had eight first downs – and didn’t face a third down until Lawrence’s touchdown reach. 

Pederson has his quarterback playing the best he’s looked in the NFL and his team believing in itself. 

Quinnen Williams

There were not many highlights for the Jets in this one, but Williams put the Jets in the driver’s seat on the third play of the game. It also showed why he is one of the most underrated, yet dominant, defensive players in the league. 

The interior defensive lineman bulldozed by lineman Tyler Shatley and sacked Lawrence, who fumbled. Carl Lawson recovered and set the Jets up with prime field position at the Jaguars’ 16-yard line. It led to New York’s lone score of the game, a 37-yard field goal by Greg Zuerlein. 

Riley Patterson

Patterson could have beat the Jets by himself. He was 4-for-5 on field goals in a game that did not have the best kicking weather. His miss came from 44 yards out just before halftime. 

Chris Streveler

The Jets put a package of plays featuring Streveler in this week to emphasize the run game and counter the potentially nasty weather conditions. Streveler made an early appearance with roughly five minutes to go in the first quarter but the play was negated by a false start. 

With 3:31 left in the third quarter, Streveler relieved Wilson for the rest of the game. He made plays with his legs (nine rushes for 54 yards) and went 10-for-15 with 90 passing yards. 


Zach Wilson

Streveler’s performance highlighted the fact the Jets offense looks more competent with anybody other than Wilson at quarterback. The No. 2 overall pick from a year ago has now been benched a second time, in this instance by a different quarterback with Mike White – the original backup – sidelined for the second straight game with an injury to his ribs. 

Wilson went 9-for-18 for 92 yards with an interception on a long pass as the first half ended. 

Asked why the offense seems to work with any quarterback other than Wilson, Jets head coach Robert Saleh said “I don’t have that answer right now.”

Jets fans

This fanbase has not had a postseason game to cheer for in 11 seasons. Looks like that streak will reach 12. 

The fans, which braved conditions that were severe at times, made their displeasure known several times throughout the contest. The boos – and chants for Joe Flacco or Streveler – were clearly audible on the Prime Video broadcast. 

“I don’t blame them. We have a very passionate fanbase,’ Wilson said after the game. ‘They’re here to watch us score touchdowns. And we’re not scoring touchdowns. We’re not getting first downs. We’re not moving the ball.’

After Thursday, it looks like another long offseason beckons the Jets – and their fans. 

Zonovan Knight

The Jets were ineffective on the ground with the exception of some Streveler runs late, when the game felt out of reach. A few weeks ago, Knight looked like a potential breakout star. On Thursday, he had just six rushes for -2 yards. 

Jets defense

What had been an elite unit this season looked average at best against the Jaguars. They gave up 365 total yards, forced two punts and also allowed Jacksonville to convert seven of 16 third-down attempts. 

Tennessee Titans 

The Titans now officially have the Jaguars breathing down their neck in the AFC South standings. At 7-7, the Titans have to win Saturday at home against the lowly Houston Texans to remain on top of the division. This division race looks like it will come down to the teams’ Week 18 matchup – and Jacksonville currently owns the head-to-head advantage thanks to their Week 14 victory. 

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY