Week 16 Fantasy Football: Thursday Night Football breakdown for New York Jets vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Hold on. Give me a second. I’m still jotting down notes from last week. I’m still trying to process the chaos from four days of fantasy action. And the fallout from a couple of those games has been equally mind-boggling. But let’s set that aside for a matchup with real and fantasy playoff implications tonight.

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Jacksonville pulled off a stunning upset on Sunday as the rest of the AFC South took on another loss. The Jaguars are one game back from the Titans, with a rematch against Tennessee coming in Week 18. Meanwhile, the Jets switched quarterbacks and playoff seeding after a loss to Detroit. We’ve got meaningful football with a few fantasy assets worth rostering, so let’s take a closer look at the matchup to kick off the semifinals.

The Jets make a final stand against the roaring Jaguars on TNF

I’m not sure what else there is to say about Trevor Lawrence. It’s not time to crown him the next elite passer. However, we should be past all of the early-season concerns.

Lawrence has been the fantasy QB3 since Jacksonville’s Week 11 bye. He’s seventh in EPA per play with the most passing touchdowns over this four-game stretch. To be fair, one-score games against Baltimore and Tennessee have buoyed some of his production. But the improvements we expected from the offense are there, as they rank eighth in yards per drive. Lawrence comes in as a fringe top-12 fantasy option at quarterback, but a matchup against the Jets' pass rush will be yet another tough test for the young signal-caller.

Josh Allen, Joe Burrow and Lamar Jackson are the only quarterbacks with QB1 finishes against New York. Burrow tilted the game in his favor on a couple of explosive plays, and Jackson did something similar in Week 1.

Trevor’s a big-game hunter though, with a 12.4 aDOT under pressure. Despite the offensive line injuries, I’ve got thoughts on how that aspect of their passing game is possible. But really, the game environment hinges on how well the Jets offense comes together for a potential last stand.

The downfield aggression is alive and well in the Jets offense, even after the quarterback change. I thought a conservative plan to ease Zach Wilson back in made some sense. But Mike LaFleur took a “grip it and rip it” approach — with mixed results.

Wilson finished as the QB9 in Week 15. It was his first time back in the top 12 since Week 4. But while the yardage and touchdown totals look impressive, some of the same underlying issues still exist.

Wilson was 21st in completion percentage over expected against a defense that came into the game ranked 27th in dropback success rate allowed. I’ll get to the interception shortly, but it highlighted one of his biggest flaws. He’s still inefficient in the best-case scenarios. With no pressure from a clean pocket, Wilson was 26th in EPA per play (with screens and RPOs removed).

So, even with ideal conditions, we still don’t know what to expect from him.

Garrett Wilson is the only trustworthy Jets option for those still alive in the fantasy playoffs. He led the team in routes and targets while securing one of their three red-zone looks. I still believe in the Jets’ ground game (more on Zonovan Knight later), but if the team has to keep up tonight, look for Wilson (and Wilson) to lead the charge.

Points of Interest for TNF

Trevor Lawrence under fire

We already got drama heading into the game, with both teams vying for a playoff spot. Nobody wanted injuries to ruin the excitement. But the football gods decided to increase the difficulty level for the Jaguars tonight:

And, of course, this comes on the heels of the Jets star rusher Quinnen Williams logging his first full practice since Week 14. The scenario puts even more stress on Lawrence’s pocket management. However, he’s already one of the best in the league at doing it.

Trevor Lawrence pressure-to-sack ratio for fantasy analysis. (Data courtesy of PFF)
Trevor Lawrence pressure-to-sack ratio for fantasy analysis. (Data courtesy of PFF)

Lawrence’s pressure-to-sack ratio is the eighth-lowest in the league, per PFF. And, for context, he has the 13th-most pressures of any starting quarterback. After watching him spin his way out of a jam against the Cowboys, I laughed (until I saw the result). He’s worked well at times out of structure throughout the season, but he still needs to improve with what happens after he avoids the defenders.

I want to see how the sophomore quarterback responds under (extra) fire. Over the last month, Lawrence’s on-target passing rate has dropped from 79.8 percent from a clean pocket to 65.9% when pressured. His 12.4 aDOT may be a factor, but the Jets’ perimeter coverage may limit those shots downfield. But if Lawrence can adapt, as he’s shown, we may get another highlight-reel performance against a tough defense.

Elijah Moore: Vibes Check

It’s been a rollercoaster of a season for Elijah Moore. He dropped from the starting rotation as trade rumors picked up around midseason, and then he found the end zone for the first time in Week 12. But the pass came from Mike White, not Wilson. Wilson’s chemistry with Moore was the subject of much conversation back in October. And I’m wondering if anything’s changed with the playoffs on the line.

Moore’s Week 15 box score looks fine (7-51-0), and he ran the second-most routes on the team. But a closer look gives off bad vibes. He didn’t see his first target until midway through the second quarter. Denzel Mims and Jeff Smith mixed in earlier, along with C.J. Uzomah. Moore got two looks on the team’s fifth drive, and then, Wilson performed a self-parody:

If you notice, as the Lions’ defenders go duck hunting, Moore was the intended target. Afterward, he didn’t see another until the fourth quarter as the team trailed. Moore tallied 20 of his 51 yards on a last-second dart to set up the potential game-tying field goal. Without context, Braxton Berrios (six targets) and Smith (77 yards) either had the same opportunity or got more yards. So, Moore becomes a tough player to trust for the fantasy playoffs.

Smith will miss the game, but Corey Davis will be back in the lineup. And we just watched a shifty interior receiver from the Cowboys dice up the Jaguars for 126 yards a few days ago. Moore’s talent isn’t in question, but I’m interested to see if his role solidifies at a critical point for the team.

Don’t Bench These Guys

It’s a Thursday night game, and the playoffs are on the line. Those two things alone would make any fantasy manager second-guess themselves. But let’s not lineup tinker too much. A couple of players have entered the fantasy spotlight over the last few weeks. And, despite the short week, they should still be on our starting roster unless you’ve got top-tier options to use instead.

Zay Jones

Since their bye, Zay Jones has led all Jacksonville pass catchers in targets, yards and touchdowns. He even ranks between DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle with a 2.25 YPRR. But Christian Kirk’s the slot guy, and his role increases Jones’ chances of getting “lost in the sauce.” However, I’m not as concerned.

I don’t think Doug Pederson will completely scheme the veteran receiver away from Sauce Gardner. But alignment versatility is already built into how Jacksonville deploys Jones. He’s not a static target like other players in less creative offenses.

Zay Jones route alignment. (Data courtesy of Sports Info Solutions)
Zay Jones route alignment. (Data courtesy of Sports Info Solutions)

According to SIS, Gardner has played 56.2% of his coverage snaps from the left defensive position. Meanwhile, Jones has moved around the formation with similar route rates on both sides of the field. So, fantasy managers don’t have to imagine a scenario where Jones doesn’t see Gardner every play. It’s already a feature of the offense.

Zonovan Knight

Many folks might feel burned by “Bam” Knight after his 23-yard dud on Sunday. But they probably didn’t know the “roar is restored” in Detroit. The Lions are fourth in rushing EPA allowed over the last month. So, I can forgive a setback in production, considering his opportunity share is still intact.

Zonovan Knight rushing share. (Photo by Chris Allen/Yahoo Sports)
Zonovan Knight rushing share. (Photo by Chris Allen/Yahoo Sports)

Knight dominates the touch count in the areas we need for an RB2. He’s carried the ball on 29 of the 36 early downs and left just one tote for Michael Carter with three or fewer yards to go. He’s even earned the majority of the red-zone work. The quarterback change, and the ensuing game script, likely affected Knight’s Week 15 usage. But there’s no question who the better backfield option is for the Jets.

Since Carter’s return to the lineup, Knight is first in forced missed tackles and ninth in explosive runs. With Jacksonville ranking 29th in rushing success rate, Knight should be a top-24 option for any fantasy manager.

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