Week 16 Crystal Ball - Thursday
The Jags and Jets square off
It’s time for Thursday night football and, while the sugar cookies baked with care by THE FAIR CLAUDINE and THE TRE MAN are my focus, viewers will likely hone in on the two quarterbacks picked at the top of the 2021 NFL Draft, Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence and the New York Jets’ Zach Wilson.
It’s a pivotal matchup for these teams with both, surprisingly, in the playoff race. The host Jets are 7-7, just one game out of the postseason, and the surging Jaguars are 6-8. And, as fate would have it, many observers believe the play of the aforementioned 23-year-old QBs will make or break their respective team’s 2022 hopes.
Last year - and even earlier this season - a lot of folks were hastily calling Lawrence a bust. But now, after leading Jacksonville to four wins in the past six games, the worm has turned. Yes, the Clemson alumnus is currently hotter than TOMMY BIRD on an NYC subway platform. That’s steaming, friends.
Similarly, scores of folks are ready to put Wilson out to pasture. Indeed, the media have been unrelenting in their criticism of the young man, who has just 21 NFL starts, including a victory over Lawrence and Jacksonville last season. Wilson certainly put himself in a bad spot in late November by not taking greater accountability for the offense’s struggles, but he promptly apologized and made some impressive plays in last Sunday’s close lost to red-hot Dee-troit.
And let’s not forget that he is 5-3 as a starter in 2022.
Here’s the way I look at it. Let’s say you went to school and were formally trained as an engineer. You were studious for four years and earned internships for two summers at excellent engineering firms. So, in four years, you learned a lot about engineering. That’s great stuff.
Next, after some interviewing and negotiating, you get hired by an engineering firm and, on day one, you’re asked to lead a department of 70 engineers, including many who are much older than you are. This is your first day and you’re 22 years old.
Now let’s assume two more things: (a) On a weekly basis, you and your team compete against major, experienced competitors for key business and (b) Everything you do will be placed under the media microscope and amplified on TV, online and through social media channels. Every day, 24 hours a day. Every week, 52 weeks a year.
How would you handle that? Well, such is life as a young NFL player at any position, a spotlight magnified at quarterback.
Yet, somehow, we expect these kids - ok, young adults - to thrive under this extreme pressure. Post haste. We want them to hit the ground running and make our teams relevant. Does this seem realistic?
I think we need to give these young men more time to grow into their roles. Time to earn the trust of teammates and coaches. Time to understand the playbook. Time to learn how to navigate a world where they can go from idols to pariahs in a flash. Hey, it worked for guys like Allen, Mahomes, and Rodgers.
In between sweety, sugary bites, I’m excited to watch and see how things shake out for these two young men and their teams. Tune in at 8:15 pm ET on Amazon Prime. Let’s go with Jacksonville by two.
As for THE GURU, the record is sitting at 134-88 (.604) as we prepare for Christmas weekend in NYC. Stay tuned for more picks soon and have a great evening! God bless!