A couple of teams just playing out the season will meet in Week 16 as the New York Jets host the Green Bay Packers. Game time is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 23, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Fans in local markets can watch the game on Fox.
Oddsmakers view the Packers as 2.5-point favorites on the road. The over/under is set at 46 points. Click here to check out betting odds for all of this week’s NFL games.
Heading into last week, the Packers were still technically alive in the playoff race. However, a loss to the Bears dropped the Packers to 5-8-1 and mathematically eliminated them from the playoff chase. This is the first time the Packers have missed the playoffs in back-to-back years since Aaron Rodgers became their quarterback.
Green Bay experienced an initial boost after head coach Mike McCarthy was fired, beating the Falcons 34-20 a couple of weeks ago. However, they looked like the same old lackluster Packers last week against the Bears. They have now lost four of their last five games and have already assured themselves of a losing record in 2018. However, despite having nothing to play for the final two weeks of the season, Rodgers insists that he will play in Green Bay’s last two games.
As for the Jets, they have now lost seven of their last eight games after losing to the Texans last week. On the bright side, Sam Darnold has provided a little bit of a spark for the offense since returning from injury a couple of weeks ago. Barring another injury, he’ll get another two starts to finish off his rookie season.
Of course, at 4-10 there’s nothing on the line for the Jets late in the season. There is heavy speculation that Todd Bowles will be fired after the season, and even winning their final two games may not be enough to save his job. However, winning their final two games could at least keep the Jets from finishing last in the AFC for the third consecutive year.
Despite this being a meaningless game for both sides, there’s actually a good chance it becomes a high-scoring, entertaining affair. Neither defense is particularly good and both quarterbacks are talented enough to take advantage of that fact. However, the fact that Rodgers is playing makes me more confident in Green Bay. He’s not going to let himself get out-dueled by a rookie. I like the Packers to win by a field goal and cover.
Of course, the Green Bay offense suffered a huge blow last week when Aaron Jones left with a knee injury after just four carries. Jones has been placed on IR, so the Packers will go back to Jamaal Williams as their primary running back. However, that shouldn’t be a huge issue for Green Bay. The Packers haven’t asked too much of their running game this year. Williams also had a decent game in place of Jones last week and will be facing a lackluster rush defense this week.
More importantly, the Packers still have Rodgers. He and Davante Adams have formed a lethal combination all year, regardless of the opponent. Even against a strong Chicago defense last week, Adams had 119 yards receiving on eight catches. Adams is now poised to take advantage of a young New York secondary that has been susceptible to the big play all season. Last week, they gave up 170 yards on 10 catches to DeAndre Hopkins of the Texans, including a 45-yard touchdown. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Adams post similar numbers against the Jets this week.
In fairness, Darnold has looked much improved over the last two games since missing time due to injury. He’s completed over 64% of his passes with three touchdowns to just one interception. Obviously, that’s a small sample, but he fared well against a strong Houston defense on the road last week and braved the cold in Buffalo the week before. Back at home against a Green Bay defense that’s average at best, Darnold could have another nice game, especially given his recent chemistry with Robby Anderson.
However, I do have some lingering concerns about the Jets offensively. First, they are down to third-string running back Elijah McGuire. He’s gotten a lot of touches during the last two weeks, but the production hasn’t been there. McGuire is also dealing with a minor ankle injury, so I’m not sure how much the Jets can expect out of their running game this week.
Also, Darnold is still turnover prone. He’s thrown just one over the past two weeks, but he’s tossed 15 picks in 11 games this year. Rodgers, on the other hand, has just two interceptions this season. He threw one last week against the Bears so Rodgers isn’t due to throw another pick until the middle of next season. That tells me that the Jets are likely to lose the turnover battle, which is something they can’t afford to do.
In the end, this game is all about picking either Rodgers or Darnold. Neither team has a great rushing attack or a particularly strong defense, so it comes down to the quarterbacks. Even on the road, I’ll always take Rodgers over Darnold. That means picking the Packers to cover the 2.5-point spread.