Jets have path to No. 1 overall pick, which could change everything

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Big trade or Bosa: At 3-9, there's still hope for the Jets. We're talking about the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft, which could be a franchise-altering development.

To land the golden ticket, they must lose their remaining games and hope the San Francisco 49ers (2-10) and Oakland Raiders (2-10) each win one. The Jets are in good shape in a tiebreaker situation because it's based on strength of schedule, and the Jets have played the easiest schedule of the three to date. Currently, they hold the No. 3 pick.

They have a 31 percent chance of losing out, according to ESPN analytics. They could ruin that scenario by pulling off a revenge win over the Buffalo Bills in what looms as their best chance for victory over the final four weeks.

The Jets have landed the top pick only twice in the Super Bowl era -- 1996 (wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson) and 1997 (traded down). Typical Jets luck: Neither draft had a top quarterback prospect. The 1997 draft almost had Peyton Manning, but he decided he liked college more than the prospect of playing for the Jets. I'd say it worked out well for him.

The 2019 draft could be different. The Jets don't need a quarterback, but they could parlay the top pick into a major windfall if Oregon's Justin Herbert and/or Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins -- the top quarterback prospects -- decide to leave college early. The Jets could make a killing by trading off the pick to a quarterback-hungry team. The downside is that it probably would cost them the consensus No. 1 player in the draft, Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa. The upside is they'd be able to fill multiple holes on their roster.

The "race" for No. 1 could go down to Week 17. If it does, the Jets would be in terrific shape. The 49ers and Raiders finish with the playoff-bound Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively, both of whom could be resting starters. The Jets are on the road against the New England Patriots.

The analytics people say the Jets have an 18 percent chance for the No. 1 pick, compared to 44 percent for the 49ers and 30 percent for the Raiders. But, hey, you never know. Maybe, just maybe, there's a rainbow at the end of this dark and miserable season.

2. Passing the buck: You don't need me to tell you Jeremy Bates hasn't done a good job as the offensive coordinator. It shows up every week with predictable playcalling and curious game plans that have eroded the locker room's faith in him. In last week's loss, the Jets had nine plays inside the Tennessee Titans' 22-yard line -- and they threw the ball on every play, even though they had been running the ball effectively. It was a disaster.

Worse, Bates' explanation was a case of passing the buck. He said they used RPOs (run-pass options) that turned into passes, an indirect way of blaming quarterback Josh McCown for making the decisions to throw every down.

"I'm not going to go into the plays because I don't want to talk about scheme, but the RPOs ... when you call run, the defensive structure forces us to throw it sometimes," Bates said. "It looks like we're throwing it every time. I thought the offensive line and the running backs ran the ball extremely hard, and we want to run it when we're down there."

In fact, the Jets ran one RPO the entire game. Anybody who watches the tape can see that. It was a red zone play that resulted in a sack. Mild-mannered tackle Kelvin Beachum wasn't responsible for the sack, but he was so enraged by the overall breakdown that he stomped around with his fists clenched, yelling. On the next play, they had to burn a timeout because the play came in late. After the timeout, McCown was sacked again because Bates had wide receiver Quincy Enunwa blocking a pass-rusher.

The offense, which has scored only three touchdowns in the past five games, is a mess.

3. California cool turns cold: Sam Darnold will play in the coldest game of his life Sunday at New Era Field, where the expected high will be 30 degrees. We're not talking Ice Bowl, but everything is relative. He was born and raised in Southern California, so, no, there weren't any games that required hand warmers.

His coldest college game was a hardly-frosty 45 degrees (at Utah). Until now, this season's low was 46 degrees (39 wind chill) for a home game against the Minnesota Vikings. Afterward, Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson remarked that Darnold appeared "cold" during the game.

Preparing for the Western New York chill, Darnold practiced this week in short sleeves, although he did wear a "wet" suit underneath his uniform. He doesn't expect it to be a problem. Neither does Bowles.

"I think he'll be fine," Bowles said. "He's 21. He'll shake it quick."

Darnold's alma mater offered its take on the "cold" talk -- a lighthearted tweet from the San Clemente High School football program:

4.Cream-puff schedule: Whenever a team suffers a season like this, the coaching-versus-personnel debate invariably emerges. Is it bad coaching or bad players? Sometimes a team with decent talent can have a disappointing year because of a brutal schedule. That, folks, is not the case with the Jets.

Get this: They're ranked 28th in strength-of-schedule, which means they've stumbled through this season against one of the easiest schedules in the league. A 3-9 record is awful under any circumstances, but this is a special kind of awful.

5. Hurry up and screw up: One of the Jets' primary shortcomings is they're not good at situational football -- specifically, two-minute situations. When things speed up -- when coaches and players are required to think and react quickly -- the Jets often fall apart. Last week was an extreme example, but it wasn't isolated.

The Jets have been outscored 58-29 in the final two minutes of the first and second halves, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The minus-29 point differential is the fifth worst in the league, behind the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers. Detect a trend? They're all losing teams. The Jets' turnover margin is minus-4, worse than every team except the Jacksonville Jaguars.

I pin this on coaching more than anything else. The Jets spend a lot of time practicing situational football, but no one cares what they do from Wednesday to Friday. It's all about Sunday. As Bill Parcells used to say, "Don't tell me about the labor, show me the baby."

6. Ugly stat of the week: The Jets' starting cornerbacks, Trumaine Johnson and Morris Claiborne, have scored as many touchdowns (two) as their two leading wide receivers (based on catches), Enunwa and Jermaine Kearse.

7. The last word: "We got taken into the backyard and beat down real good. We can't allow that to happen again. I think Jamal [Adams] said it best: 'It's personal.'" -- Beachum, reflecting on last month's 41-10 loss to the Bills.