When the Bills run: Don’t expect to see a lot of rookie Devin Singletary. That means Frank Gore and maybe even T.J. Yeldon will get the bulk of the work. It would be meaningful if the Bills could get Gore going heading into the playoffs. He’s coming off the first game of his 15-year career in which he did not log a single rushing attempt. Yeldon, meanwhile, has been a healthy inactive in every game since the team’s bye in Week 6, but should see time as the Bills rest their starters. Buffalo is likely to finish without a 1,000-yard rusher for the second consecutive season. Quarterback Josh Allen led the team with 631 rushing yards in 2018. Singletary’s 775 leads the team this year. The Jets’ run defense is elite, averaging 3.32 yards per carry and 87.9 yards per game allowed, both of which rank second in the NFL. EDGE: Jets.
When the Bills pass: Similar to Singletary, don’t expect to see a lot of Allen. The Bills don’t want to expose their starting quarterback to any unnecessary hits, so short dropbacks and quick throws figure to be in the game plan as long as Allen’s on the field. He needs one touchdown to reach 30 total (passing and rushing) for the season. Hall of Famer Jim Kelly holds the franchise record with 34. Once Allen exits the game, expect receivers John Brown and Cole Beasley to follow. That should mean more playing time for Robert Foster and Duke Williams, provided he’s active. With Andre Roberts likely not playing because of a foot injury, Williams has a good chance of getting in the lineup for the first time since Week 7 against Philadelphia. EDGE: Jets.
When the Jets run: Le’Veon Bell has been a bust as a free-agent signing. He’s averaging 3.3 yards per carry, which ranks 45th of 46 qualified runners. Bell has a fully guaranteed, $13.5 million contract next season, making him difficult, if not impossible, to trade. Jets coach Adam Gase never wanted Bell in the first place, preferring a backfield by committee, but he’s probably stuck with him again next season. If the Jets cut Bell, it would cost them $19 million in dead money on next year’s salary cap, so that’s not happening. Bell, 28, does not fit Gase’s scheme particularly well. He’s still carried the ball way more than anyone else on the roster, though. Bell has 229 carries. Bilal Powell is next with just 52 rushing attempts. As a team, the Jets are last in the NFL in yards per carry, at 3.29. Their 78.1 rushing yards per game ranks 31st. EDGE: Bills.
When the Jets pass: The jury remains out on Sam Darnold. The Jets’ 22-year-old quarterback has shown flashes of the player whom New York moved up in the draft to select third overall in 2018, but has also had some ugly outings. He’s played 25 games in his first two seasons, missing six due to injury or illness. He’s had to learn two offenses and has played behind a bad offensive line and with a lackluster group of wide receivers. It’s expected Jets General Manager Joe Douglas will address both those areas in the offseason, with the expectation that Darnold takes a big jump in his third season. Darnold’s favorite receiver this season has been Jamison Crowder. He has 70 catches for 767 yards and five touchdowns working out of the slot. Robby Anderson is the Jets’ top threat on the outside but is dealing with a calf injury. He has 49 catches for 761 yards and five touchdowns. Bell remains an excellent receiver out of the backfield, with 61 catches for 425 yards. EDGE: Bills.
Special teams: Roberts signed with the Bills with the idea of getting to play the Jets twice in a season. He might not end up playing his former team at all this year. Roberts missed the season opener with an injury, and did not practice this week with a foot injury. If he does sit out, he’ll finish his first season with the Bills averaging 26.6 yards per kick return and 8.0 yards per punt return. The Bills’ punt coverage will be tested by New York’s Braxton Berrios. He’s averaging 11.6 yards per punt return, which leads the NFL. The Jets also have a strong kick coverage team, allowing just 19.0 yards per return, which ranks third. New York’s kicker, Sam Ficken, took over when the Jets released Kaare Vedvik after he struggled in the opener against the Bills. Ficken has hit all eight of his field goals from inside 39 yards, but is just 9 of 15 on attempts from 40-plus yards. EDGE: Jets.
Coaching: Sean McDermott has decided that his starters will get at least some playing time. The Bills’ coach knows that decision was going to get second-guessed either way. As long as those starters come out of the game healthy, the decision will be forgotten. If one or more of them happens to get hurt, though, McDermott will absolutely face criticism for having them in the game in the first place. The Jets, meanwhile, have probably done enough to save Gase’s job for a second season by winning five of their last seven games. There’s a good chance that’s just delaying the inevitable. Gase comes across as a terrible leader who is quick to point fingers at anyone but himself. Players seem to get better when Gase is no longer their coach. It feels like only a matter of time before the New York tabloids run him out of town – which is good news for the Bills. EDGE: Bills.
Prediction: Bills 22, Jets 18.