When the Bills throw: Josh Allen nearly led a fourth-quarter comeback last week, but tight end Charles Clay couldn’t haul in what would have been the go-ahead score. Here’s my take on the play: It was an incredible effort by Allen to get into position to even make the throw. Could that have been better? Of course. But Clay had a chance. That’s a play he needs to make. Allen’s second-half performance was promising. So, too, was that of Zay Jones. The Bills’ new unquestioned No. 1 receiver after the release of Kelvin Benjamin, Jones had a pair of touchdown catches and was wide open for another that Allen missed. The Bills still need to add a wide receiver (or three) in the offseason, but if Jones can continue to progress over the last month and show he can be no worse than a No. 2 option next year, that would be a huge boost heading into free agency and the draft. The Jets are having buyer’s remorse over the money they spent on cornerback Trumaine Johnson. Although he had a pick-six last week, he took a crucial facemask penalty in the loss to Tennessee and has generally not been worth the six-year contract he received in the offseason. EDGE: Jets.
When the Bills run: LeSean McCoy’s only 100-yard game of the season came against New York in Week 10. While that means good things could be in store, it’s a sobering reminder of what a down year it has been for the Bills’ star running back. The Jets avoided having to deal with Allen’s rushing ability in Week 10, but won’t be so lucky Sunday. The rookie has topped 100 yards in consecutive weeks (we’re counting the technical 99 against Jacksonville after kneel downs). It was encouraging to see Allen know when to slide or duck out of bounds in Miami a week after he took some unnecessary hits against the Jaguars. His ability on the ground is bad news for a New York run defense that ranks 26th in the NFL, allowing 128.3 yards per game. The Jets have been even worse in their two games following a Week 11 bye, allowing a combined 345 rushing yards to New England and Tennessee. EDGE: Bills.
When the Jets throw: Sam Darnold’s return means we’ll get our first look at a pair of top-seven draft picks going head-to-head. Both teams hope this is a rivalry that only gets better over time. Darnold has missed three games with a sprained foot. Like Allen, he’s dealing with a less-than-average supporting cast. New York’s leading receiver, Quincy Enunwa, has just 35 catches for 427 yards and one touchdown. Darnold is completing 55 percent of his passes, and has thrown 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He’s been sacked 21 times and has a passer rating of 68.3. The Bills’ secondary is coming off a disappointing performance against the Dolphins, allowing three passing touchdowns. Buffalo still leads the NFL in passing yards against, though, at 187.2. EDGE: Bills.
When the Jets run: New York ranks 20th in rushing, gaining 108.6 yards per game. The analytics are even worse. New York ranks 28th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards, at 3.86. That takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line. The Jets have been stuffed (stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage) on 22.8 percent of their runs, which ranks 29th in the league. Isaiah Crowell had 219 rushing yards in Week 5 against Denver, but has yet to crack 100 yards since. The Bills continue to have a top-10 rushing defense in yards allowed per play, ranking ninth at 4.1. Shaq Lawson ranks 11th among edge defenders in Pro Football Focus’ run defense grading. EDGE: Bills.
Special teams: Maybe the third time is the charm for the Bills with a punter. Matt Darr did a nice job last week against Miami, although kicker Stephen Hauschka missed an extra point and a 55-yard field goal in his first game with a new holder – his third of the season. Miscommunication led to a costly muffed punt by Isaiah McKenzie that set up a Miami touchdown. That type of thing can’t happen in Week 13. The Jets were solid in special teams against Tennessee last week. Kicker Jason Myers went 5 for 5 on field goals, while Kevin Pierre-Louis blocked a punt, Henry Anderson blocked an extra point and Andre Roberts had a 59-yard kickoff return. EDGE: Jets.
Coaching: Todd Bowles is a dead man walking. The Jets are expected to fire him after this season. Last week, Bowles said it was “disgusting” how many penalties his team took against the Titans. New York has lost six straight, and looked undisciplined in doing it. Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates has been criticized for being too conservative – an illness that’s common in the NFL. Bills coach Sean McDermott needs to revamp how he does challenges after losing another last week in Miami. It would also be nice if he’d abandon the “try to make them jump offside” play and actually go for it on fourth and short. EDGE: Bills.