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Jaguars to stay hot against Jets? Can Raiders top Steelers on Saturday night?

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The Jets are officially playing for their playoff lives. New York fell in a heartbreaker last weekend to the white-hot Lions, losing for the fourth time in their last five games and dropping to 7-7 in a rugged AFC East that could produce three playoff teams if the Jets get back on track before it’s too late.

Such an effort begins against another team making an unexpected, late-season postseason push. Much like last week’s Jets-Lions matchup, this is a tale of two teams trending in opposite directions. Jacksonville has turned around its season and possibly its future in the last month and a half, winning three of its last four games and four of its last six. Trevor Lawrence has a whole lot to do with it, blossoming into the franchise quarterback Jacksonville hoped it was selecting first overall in 2021.

Thanks to his recent run of success, Lawrence has improved his passer rating by nearly 25 points from 2021 to 2022, the largest increase in that span for any quarterback in the NFL. He’s transformed from an overwhelmed, inexperienced signal-caller into one who’s clearly capable of throwing the Jaguars to victory, even if it requires a major comeback (just ask Dallas and Baltimore). 

Right now, the Jaguars are simply playing better football, flying high after an upset win over the Cowboys last week, and nipping at the heels of the Titans in the AFC South standings. Two paths to the postseason exist, but they must keep winning.

On the Jets’ side of things, there’s something to be said about a prevailing sense of urgency and its effects on a young team. New York essentially can’t afford another loss if it wants to put its 6-3 start — which feels like it happened ages ago — to good use. The Jets need to win just to keep pace with the Dolphins, a division rival above them in the standings, and to prove that start wasn’t a fluke.

After tossing a couple of touchdowns in a losing effort, Zach Wilson will make a second straight start for the Jets. He’s far from reliable, but he also owns a 1-0 record over Lawrence in head-to-head matchups. 

That record doesn’t matter much to me. What’s more important is what I’ve seen from the Jaguars since the start of November. This is a team that is not only starting to figure out how to win but also believes it can win, no matter the odds.

A clash of Jacksonville’s explosive offense (sixth in total offense) and New York’s stingy defense (third in total defense) is sure to produce some sparks. New York is going to need those sparks to light a fire under its offense in order to keep up with the blazing Jaguars.

With no remaining room for error, the time is now to finish the season strong. I’m envisioning another exciting win for the Jaguars, who got hot at the perfect time and could ride the blaze into a stunning playoff berth.

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