The New York Jets have had a disappointing year to say the least. After starting their season with an early 16-0 lead over the Buffalo Bills, it looked like all would be well in New Jersey. However, fourth-quarter Josh Allen arrived just in time to derail New York’s hopes, as did the failures of kicker Kaare Vedvik, who missed an extra point and a 45-yard field goal.
Now, the Jets are 6-9, eliminated from the playoffs for the ninth consecutive year, and searching for a pride-only victory over their division rivals. Head coach Adam Gase is sure to have his players ready to fight, as the embattled first-year head coach would love to end the year on a high note.
Which Jets will help the team take flight in Orchard Park? Here’s our list of players to watch in the regular season finale.
QB Sam Darnold
After struggling through Week 1 against Buffalo, Darnold missed a month due to mononucleosis. The second-year man returned in October, and he has played pretty well in his second season. While his improvement may not be as vast as Josh Allen’s, it’s perhaps due to the fact that Darnold had a better rookie season than his fellow first-round pick. Darnold has eerily similar numbers this year to his rookie year, with almost the same yardage total (2,825 this year vs. 2,865 last year) on nearly the same number of attempts (405 this year compared to 414 last year), albeit over one game fewer. Darnold has three fewer interceptions this season, having thrown only 12 as compared to 15 last year; however, he has only one more touchdown this year, throwing 18 instead of 17. Against a Buffalo defense that will probably show some very vanilla looks, Darnold could have a big day, especially if the Bills pull most of their starters early on in the contest.
RB Le’Veon Bell
The former Pittsburgh Steelers star has struggled a bit in New Jersey, rushing 229 times for 748 yards, a career-worst 3.3 yards per carry, and three touchdowns in his first year with the Jets. He had his sixth-best game in terms of rushing yardage in the first match-up with Buffalo, gaining 60 yards on 17 attempts, adding six catches for 32 yards and a touchdown in the process. The fact that the game ranks in the upper-half of his performances this year tells you all you need to know about the kind of season he’s had. Again, it’s possible that Buffalo rotates some backups in much more frequently than usual, which could allow Bell to have a big day; however, it’s just as possible that Gase limits Bell’s touches in an effort to usher the runner out the door, as reports have indicated that Bell may be “one and done” with the Jets almost since the moment he signed with the team.
WR Jamison Crowder
The big star from the first match-up for the Jets on offense was the veteran slot receiver, who managed to catch 14 passes for 99 yards. Buffalo shut down the Jets’ outside receivers, giving Darnold only the underneath throws all afternoon. Crowder took advantage as a result. That Week 1 stat line represents 20% of his receptions and 13% of his receiving yardage for the season. Look for Siran Neal to see plenty of time in the slot as he did in Week 1 when Crowder was able to do so much damage. This is a match-up that once again skews in the Jets’ favor.
DL Henry Anderson
Come on, we’re all thinking it. This cheap-shot artist tried to kill Stephen Hauschka last season, then took two completely unnecessary dives at Josh Allen’s knees in Week 1 this year (here’s one and here’s a compilation that includes the other). I’ll be watching him for no other reason than he’s a dirty player who I suspect will be trying to do some damage prior to Buffalo going to the playoffs. He does have a calf issue, so it’s possible that he doesn’t play in a meaningless game. If he does, the Bills will need to know where he is at all times, which isn’t something that most teams would say about a player with such meager production (25 tackles, one sack, and nine quarterback hits in 12 games).
S Jamal Adams
The Jets’ phenomenal safety has had a great season overall. He leads the team in tackles with 72, and he’s second on the squad in sacks with 6.5 total. He also has six pass breakups, which is also second on the team, and 13 quarterback hits, which leads the team. He has one interception, which he returned for a touchdown, and a fumble recovery. When asked about this game, Adams said that they were “going hunting”...which sounds really bad when taken out of context, but he certainly meant that the team is hunting a win after blowing a golden opportunity against Buffalo in Week 1. Adams, who was voted to his second consecutive Pro Bowl, is also dealing with an injury, so his status is up in the air. If he is able to suit up despite his injured ankle, he’ll be worth watching on every play.