You might have joined the chorus of NFL fans who poked fun at the New York Jets for their franchise-altering win against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
On the one hand, the improbable victory was a relief to the locker room, and it prevented the 2020 Jets from going down in infamy as one of the few winless teams in NFL history. And yes, ex-Jets head coach Herm Edwards did famously declare, “You play to win the game!”
However, in this case, New York’s 23-20 upset over L.A. will likely be remembered as one of the most unfortunate developments in franchise history.
The win matched the Jets with the 1-13 Jacksonville Jaguars, dropping the wayward franchise out of pole position to earn the no. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft — and a chance to draft Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, a generational prospect regarded on the level of John Elway, Peyton Manning, and Andrew Luck.
Since Sam Darnold took a knee on the SoFi Stadium field, the football community has essentially concluded that the Jets officially blew it, and that Lawrence can begin eyeing real estate in North Florida. (The Jaguars got walloped, 40-14, by the Baltimore Ravens, who were 8-5 heading into Week 15.)
So, if you’re wondering why the Jaguars, despite sharing the Jets’ record, are suddenly the front-runners to land Lawrence, here’s a quick breakdown.
Entering Week 15, the Jaguars have lost 13 in a row after winning in Week 1, while the Jets lost 13 in a row before winning last week. If both teams end the season 0-2 — as expected — the top pick will be determined by a tiebreaker based on strength of schedule. In this case, the easier schedule earns the higher pick.
The Jaguars have a slightly softer SOS than New York, and that’s unlikely to change. According to Tankathon, the Jets’ final strength of schedule is .593, far and away the hardest in football. Jacksonville’s remaining SOS has a winning percentage of .554, the third-highest in the league.
The Jets host the 10-4 Cleveland Browns in Week 16, who are fighting for playoff positioning and a division title. Then, they face the New England Patriots in Week 17, potentially giving Bill Belichick legitimate say in whether he’ll be game-planning for Lawrence twice per season in the future.
Jacksonville hosts the 7-7 Chicago Bears on Sunday, who are suddenly back in the playoff picture. In Week 17, the Jaguars will take on the 10-4 Indianapolis Colts, for whom a win could deliver an AFC South crown. (Plus, Indy surely won’t fall to Jacksonville two times this season, right?).
In other words, for Lawrence to end up in the Big Apple after all, the Jets would need to lose both remaining games, and the Jaguars would need to play spoiler — for a playoff contender and themselves.
Can either team foolishly win one more game? They wouldn’t dare … right?