Mike White Credit: Bill Moore photo

The 7-7 Jets have reached must-win status. They have three games remaining, beginning tonight in Week 16 of the NFL schedule against the 6-8 Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium. Both teams are fighting for a spot in the playoffs but are in distinctly different circumstances.

The Jets are in last place in the AFC East. They have no chance of winning the division. They are not catching the 11-3 Buffalo Bills. The Jaguars, despite having a lesser record than the Jets, are just one game behind the 7-7 Tennessee Titans, who lead the AFC South division. The Jaguars and Titans face each other in Jacksonville on Jan. 8 in their last regular season game which could decide the division champion.

The Jets can only be a wildcard team. They are tied with the 7-7 Patriots for the No. 8 seed in the AFC and the Patriots currently hold the tie-breaker. Only seven teams from each conference make the postseason, so the Jets’ 20-17 loss to the Lions at home this past Sunday was painful and of major consequence. The 7-7 Lions are fighting for a wildcard berth in the NFC and came into New Jersey having won five of their previous six games. They are winners of six of their last seven after beating the Jets.

Quarterback Zach Wilson was back in the starting role due to Mike White—who replaced the benched Wilson after a 10-3 Week 11 loss to the Patriots—being out with a rib injury suffered against the Bills in Week 14. The 2021 No. 2 overall draft pick was mediocre and didn’t provide the Jets with the lift that could have changed fans and his teammates’ view of whether he can succeed at the position.

Wilson passing for 315 yards and two touchdowns looks good on paper. But he was just 18-35 and also had one interception which tells the entire story. The defense, which has been one of the best in the league for most of this season, collapsed, allowing the Lions to score a late go-ahead touchdown when quarterback Jared Goff tossed a 51-yard TD to tight end Brock Wright on fourth-and-1 with 1:49 left in the game.

The Jets still could have sent the game into overtime but kicker Greg Zuerlein’s 58-yard field goal attempt went wide left as time expired.

“We had our opportunities all game, and we missed it,” said Jets head coach Robert Saleh.

The Jaguars are in town now on a short work week for both them and the Jets after their 40-34 overtime defeat of the Dallas Cowboys and a 36-22 win over the Tennessee Titans the week before. Their quarterback, Trevor Lawrence, was chosen No. 1 ahead of Wilson. Unlike Wilson, Lawrence is emerging as a franchise quarterback after a difficult rookie season last year.

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