Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
With just three games remaining in the regular season, many 4-9 teams would be going through the motions and playing out the string.
Yet there are valuable insights to be gained from these games for the Jets, which may play into decisions about staffing changes once the season is over.
Let's consider what the organization can get out of the rest of the year:
Can the Jets carry some momentum over into 2019?
Earlier this week, Sam Darnold spoke about how important it is to finish the season with as much momentum as possible. Darnold suggested that a strong finish to the season could be a springboard to starting next season well.
This will bother some Jets fans who probably would rather the team loses out to secure the best draft pick possible. However, this is a different situation to last year, where the Jets didn't put up much resistance in their last four games. Firstly, it was vital that the Jets secured enough draft capital to be able to select their future franchise quarterback. Secondly, with Darnold now starting, it's considered more important to give him reps in competitive games and learn as much as you can about which players to keep around. The Jets also have plenty of cap space.
In any case, the Jets are facing three tough opponents and are likely to be underdogs in each game, so it's not impossible that they could play well and build some momentum without even adding to their win total. However, it's important for them to at least be competitive.
Will Darnold continue to show improved ball security?
Darnold also said that he wants to show some consistency over the last month. Having played well and helped the team win with some clutch plays down the stretch in Buffalo, it would be good for him to follow that up with another good performance.
Ball security is one area where Darnold can be more consistent, as he leads the NFL with 15 interceptions.
However, he's had one or fewer interceptions in five of his last seven starts. He just needs to avoid forcing throws like the one Tremaine Edmunds intercepted last week.
Darnold has already made dramatic improvements in terms of his ball security within the pocket, which was a major concern for him coming out of college. Darnold's four fumbles have all come either on misplayed handoffs or the center exchange, so he's yet to lose the ball while being tackled.
Can the recent improvements in terms of the chemistry with Darnold's receivers continue?
Early in the season, Darnold seemed to struggle to get on the same page with his receivers, other than Quincy Enunwa, but he had some good connections with Robby Anderson last week. Anderson will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but if they have a few more games like the one in Buffalo, that increases the likelihood the Jets will look to bring him back.
In a recent interview, Anderson said that Darnold throws the ball on a different trajectory than Josh McCown and that this took some time to make an adjustment. Now they seem to be on the same page and it would be good to see them develop this connection over the next few weeks.
Can Darnold lead the Jets to a win over a playoff team?
The Jets' four wins this year have all come against teams that are currently out of the playoff mix, although Denver and Indianapolis are not yet mathematically eliminated. With matchups still ahead against Houston and New England, this is a good chance for Darnold to lead the Jets to an impressive win over a good team.
As noted above, even being competitive in these games would be a positive step forward, but the chance to play spoiler - especially in New England - gives the Jets something to motivate them.
Could Darnold put up some more impressive numbers?
While it was good to see Darnold play well against the Bills, he still had a modest output statistically.
In fact, Darnold has only surpassed 250 passing yards twice all season. While he's shown he can be a game manager and win a few games with a conservative gameplan, it would be good for Darnold's confidence if they were able to lean on him more and have more aerial success down the stretch.
Jets fans will be wary of overreacting to a strong statistical finish because they've seen that before from the likes of Geno Smith, but it would still be a confidence boost for Darnold to have this kind of success and could inform how the offense operates next year.