Jaguars vs Jets Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Calls on Zay Jones, Zach Wilson, More
Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images. Pictured: Zay Jones.
Week 16 of the 2022 NFL season kicks off with a Thursday Night Football showdown between two teams that finished bottom four in 2021.
It has been a rough stretch of years for both squads. The Jaguars entered last year with “zero-to-hero” aspirations equipped with No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence, first-round running back Travis Etienne Jr. and new head coach Urban Meyer. The Jets also had a new signal-caller in 2021, No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson, which unfortunately did not translate to many wins. Jacksonville ended the season at 3-14 and New York ended the year at 4-13.
This year has been better for both squads. The Jaguars currently sit at 6-8 and second in the AFC South. Their defense has been a major pain point, however, and ranks 28th in defensive DVOA and fourth worst in passing yards allowed.
On the other side of the ball, the Jets will try to halt a three-game skid that’s knocked them into last place in the AFC East at 7-7. Once in playoff contention, they sit on the bubble along with the Patriots (also 7-7).
Virtually no lineup decisions involving players on these teams will be easy. Below are some fringe players at each position who you may be on the fence about starting.
Jaguars Week 16 Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em
QB Trevor Lawrence
Despite battling injury, Lawrence has been nothing short of phenomenal. Lawrence is the QB6 on the season, and since the Jaguars’ Week 11 bye, he is the QB3 behind only Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen. He finished as the QB1 and QB5 in the last two weeks and led Jacksonville to a massive upset win over Dallas in Week 15.
Verdict: Start with confidence as a QB1. Lawrence already has twice the number of passing touchdowns and fewer than half of the interceptions than he had in 17 starts last season. I consider him a locked-in QB1 the rest of tge way, even against a Jets defense that ranks sixth in pass DVOA and has allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
RB Travis Etienne Jr.
Etienne bounced back from a four-game cold streak in Week 15 and logged 21 touches for 127 all-purpose yards. He finished as the RB22 in half PPR — his first top-24 finish since Week 9. Prior to that, he was RB51 in Weeks 10 to 14 and was losing his must-start status (at least in my book).
Etienne was touted as a strong pass-catcher coming out of college — a quality that intrigued fantasy managers with most leagues moving to some form of PPR scoring. Interestingly, he has not been very involved in that way (he has logged a season high of three catches in a game), which means he has not reaped the benefits of the Jaguars’ pass-happy game plan (as say, Zay Jones or Evan Engram have).
Verdict: Start as a low-end RB2. I feel far from great starting Etienne against a Jets defense that ranks seventh in rush DVOA and has allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs this year. He still falls into the start category for me (unless you happen to be ridiculously stacked at RB), but I would suggest tempering expectations based on his recent struggles.
WR Christian Kirk and Zay Jones
Kirk has slowed down of late due to the ascendance of Jones.
Since the Jaguars’ bye in Week 11, Kirk is the WR26 in half-PPR scoring, while Jones is the WR4 behind only Justin Jefferson, A.J. Brown and Amon-Ra St. Brown. In that span, Jones has seen more targets than Kirk by a count of 41 to 34. Jones even out-snapped Kirk 67 to 62 in Week 15.
Verdict: Both are high-end WR3/flex plays. There exists a universe where both are fantasy relevant given the sheer volume of passing in this offense. Rest of season, I may actually prefer Jones to Kirk based on how the two have been trending, though I consider both to be WR2s.
This week, however, Jones may get the full “Sauce Island” treatment with Kirk primarily lining up in the slot. Shutdown cornerback Ahmad Gardner is currently the 5/1 favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year and is the No. 1 cornerback, according to PFF. This, combined with the threat of heavy precipitation, makes me wary of Jones for Thursday night.
TE Evan Engram
To put the state of the tight end position this season into perspective, Engram is somehow the TE4 in half PPR behind Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews and T.J. Hockenson.
In Engram’s defense, he has finished as the TE5, TE1 and TE13 in the last three weeks and handled a difficult Week 15 matchup against the Cowboys better than expected. He caught 8-of-10 targets for 62 yards, tying Kirk for the most targets on the team.
Verdict: Start as a low-end TE1. Engram has been one heck of a waiver wire pickup given his recent production. The matchup is far from easy, and the weather does give me pause, but I would challenge anyone to name 12 tight ends they would rather start in what could be a sloppy Week 16.
Jets Week 16 Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em
QB Zach Wilson
Credit where credit is due: Wilson came back strong from his three-week timeout. He completed 18-of-35 attempts for 317 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and finished as the QB9 against the Lions. The performance was so satisfactory that he was subsequently named the team’s Week 16 starter — ahead of Joe Flacco — as the Jets cling to their dwindling playoff hopes.
Verdict: Sit in one-quarterback leagues; start in two-quarterback/superflex leagues.
It may be tempting to fire up Wilson after a solid first game back and in a dreamy matchup against the Jaguars, who have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and rank last in pass DVOA. And perhaps you just lost Hurts, or have been piecing things together with waiver-wire QBs while Lamar Jackson or Kyler Murray have been sidelined.
Even in light of these considerations, I would definitely adjust expectations for Wilson, who could easily turn back into a pumpkin.
RB Zonovan Knight and Michael Carter
Knight’s hot streak came to a screeching halt in Week 15 against the Lions, who are no longer pushovers against the run. He logged 13 carries for 23 yards, did not catch a pass and finished as the RB58 in half-PPR scoring. It was by far his worst game of the year and to add insult to injury, he was banged up in the game and is now on the injury report with an ankle issue.
Carter fared only slightly better and logged four carries for 15 yards and caught a pass for 16 yards, finishing as the RB49. He did not seize the opportunity presented when Breece Hall went down earlier this year and should be considered a complementary/change-of-pace back.
Zach Wilson was solid in his first game back, but this offense looked a lot better (at least for fantasy purposes) with Mike White under center. Wilson getting the Week 16 start lowers the upside for all of the Jets’ players.
Verdict: Start Knight as a low-end RB3 and sit Carter. Assuming he is healthy, I have slightly more faith in Knight, who was the RB10 from Weeks 12 to 14, and may be leaned on more than last week given the suboptimal weather forecast. Jacksonville is middle of the road in rush DVOA and slightly below average against running backs.
Carter, on the other hand, has given me no reason to trust him. He seems to have limited chemistry with Wilson in the passing game, which is really his bread and butter, and he is essentially dead weight at this point.
WR Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore
Garrett Wilson has lost some of his upside and appeal with Zach Wilson at quarterback.
Garrett Wilson still led the team in receiving in Week 15 against the Lions, hauling in 4-of-9 targets (26% share) for 98 yards. He finished as the WR26 and logging his fourth consecutive double-digit fantasy performance in half-PPR scoring.
Moore was less impressive in Week 15 and caught 4-of-7 targets for 51 yards. Not terrible considering how things went early this season for Moore, who wanted to be traded because of his low target share. I am slightly concerned that he was outperformed by Jeff Smith, who caught 4-of-5 targets for 77 yards.
Verdict: Start Wilson as a WR2 and sit Moore. Wilson remains a must-start even in light of the sloppy weather and Zach Wilson’s return. As previously mentioned, the Jaguars rank 32nd in pass DVOA and have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. However, this is still not enough for me to feel comfortable starting Moore, who belongs on the bench until White returns.