By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer
Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars face Zach Wilson and the New York Jets in Week 16 for the second straight season.
Both teams have come a long way since the previous meeting.
This year, the Jaguars (6-8) and Jets (7-7) are in the middle of a playoff race in a jumbled AFC so there’s plenty at stake Thursday night.
The resurgent Jaguars are one game behind the Titans in the AFC South. The Jets are one game behind the Dolphins and Chargers for a wild-card spot.
Lawrence and Wilson were the 1-2 picks in the 2021 draft. While Lawrence has been outstanding over the past month, Wilson is only starting because Mike White is injured. He outdueled Lawrence in a 26-21 win at home on Dec. 26, 2021.
“I’m not playing against Zach, I’m playing against the Jets defense,” Lawrence said. “It’s annoying when people always compare it to all that because that’s not what it’s about. That’s not how the game should be played. You just do whatever it takes to win the game.”
That Jets defense presents quite a challenge for Lawrence and the Jags. New York is ranked No. 3 overall, and rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner leads a secondary that allows just 193.9 yards passing per game.
Coming off an impressive comeback win against Dallas, the Jaguars are 1 1/2-point favorites, per FanDuel Sportsbook.
Home teams have lost five of the past seven games on Thursday Picks. Pro Picks leans slightly toward Jacksonville.
Buffalo (minus 8 1/2) at Chicago
The Bears’ only hope is to use the NFL’s top rushing offense to control the clock and keep Josh Allen and Buffalo’s playmakers on the sideline for at least 40 minutes.
BEST BET: BILLS, 32-17
Philadelphia (plus 4 1/2) at Dallas
Minshew Mania! The Eagles (13-1) need one more win to lock up the No. 1 seed and will turn to Gardner Minshew if Jalen Hurts can’t play because of a sprained shoulder. Minshew can prove Cowboys star Micah Parsons was right when he credited the system for Hurts’ success.
UPSET SPECIAL: EAGLES, 26-23
New York Giants (plus 3 1/2) at Minnesota
Coming off the biggest comeback in NFL history, the Vikings (11-3) somehow are winning with the league’s lowest-ranked defense. The Giants (8-5-1) need big games from Saquon Barkley and Kayvon Thibodeaux to win on the road.
New Orleans (plus 2 1/2) at Cleveland
The Browns (6-8) are 2-1 with Deshaun Watson and still have a shot at a winning season. The Saints (5-9) still have a shot to win the dreadful NFC South.
Detroit (minus 2 1/2) at Carolina
Jared Goff and the Lions (7-7) are streaking after a 1-6 start. The Panthers (5-9) still can catch the Buccaneers, but must figure out a way to stop Detroit’s high-flying offense.
Cincinnati (minus 3 1/2) at New England
Joe Burrow and the Bengals (10-4) are rolling with six straight wins after Tom Brady and the Buccaneers handed them a victory. The Patriots (7-7) gave away a game to the Raiders, decreasing their playoff hopes.
Houston (plus 4 1/2) at Tennessee
Lovie Smith has the Texans (1-12-1) staying close. The Titans (7-7) are in danger of losing the division after losing four in a row.
Seattle (plus 10) at Kansas City
The Seahawks (7-7) have lost four of five and are fading in the wild-card race. The Chiefs (11-3) needed overtime to beat lowly Houston and are fighting for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Patrick Mahomes and the NFL’s No. 1 offense against the league’s 29th-ranked defense is a mismatch.
Atlanta (plus 7 1/2) at Baltimore
The Ravens (9-5) desperately need Lamar Jackson to return. The Falcons (5-9) need the season to end.
Washington (plus 7 1/2) at San Francisco
Brock Purdy may never lose with the 49ers (10-4) stacked around him and playing tenacious defense. According to coach Ron Rivera, Taylor Heinicke could land on the bench this week for the Commanders (7-6-1).
Las Vegas (plus 2 1/2) at Pittsburgh
The Steelers (6-8) will celebrate the 50th anniversary of “The Immaculate Reception” without Franco Harris after the Hall of Fame running back passed away this week, just days before the team retires his No. 32. The Raiders (6-8) are aiming for their fifth win in six games.
Tampa Bay (minus 6 1/2) at Arizona
The Buccaneers (6-8) have lost to P.J. Walker, Jacoby Brissett, Brock Purdy and Kenny Pickett/Mitch Trubisky. Whether it’s Colt McCoy or Trace McSorley starting for the Cardinals (4-10), the Bucs aren’t good enough to beat anyone by a touchdown.
Green Bay (plus 4 1/2) at Miami
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (6-8) need to win out and get a lot of help to make the playoffs. Tua Tagovailoa need to get the Dolphins (8-6) back on track after three straight losses.
Denver (minus 2 1/2) at Los Angeles Rams
A pair of 4-10 teams few could’ve figured would have awful seasons.
Los Angeles Chargers (minus 3 1/2) at Indianapolis
The Chargers (8-6) are making a playoff push. The Colts (4-9-1) already had a nightmarish season before blowing a 33-0 lead last week.
Last Week: Straight up: 12-4 Against spread: 7-8-1.
Season: Straight up: 137-86. Against spread: 113-105-5.
Thursday: Straight up: 11-6. Against spread: 7-10.
Monday: Straight up: 9-7. Against spread: 7-9.
Best Bet: Straight up: 8-7. Against spread: 8-7.
Upset Special: Straight up: 5-10. Against spread: 7-7-1.
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