The New York Jets host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in a battle of AFC East teams on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Bills are 4-2, 2-0 in the division, and sitting in first place. The Jets are 0-6 and dealing with speculation about every part of the future of their franchise.
The teams have already met once, with Buffalo defeating the Jets 27-17 in the season opener. That game is the only one where the Jets managed over 200 passing yards this season, squeaking by that barrier at 202 yards overall. It’s also the only game where the Jets didn’t run for 100 yards as a team, as they managed a paltry 54 in that loss.
Which players are we watching this week? Here’s our list.
QB Sam Darnold
After missing consecutive games due to injury, the 2018 first-round draft choice should return to face his friend Josh Allen this week. Darnold is in an unfortunate spot, with a head coach set to lose his job and a team set to have the No. 1 overall pick in a year where a surefire stud quarterback in Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is expected to declare. Darnold has no offensive weapons, no offensive line, and no hope in New Jersey, as the Jets have failed at every turn to provide their quarterback with a supporting cast that could supplement his growth. Darnold has completed 59% of his passes this year for 792 yards, three touchdowns, and four interceptions. We’ll see if he looks rusty this week.
RB La’Mical Perine
The Jets can’t keep running 37-year old Frank Gore for double-figure touches all year...can they? Perine is a rookie with some promise, and the Bills have really struggled (to put it lightly) against the run at times this year. Perine saw his most extensive action of the season last week, and with veteran Le’Veon Bell having been released, Perine’s role should continue to increase. Against a Bills defense that was just shredded on the ground against Bell’s new team, the Kansas City Chiefs, last week, Perine could have a big day unless the Bills tighten up their gap control.
WR Jamison Crowder
Death, taxes, and the Bills’ defense ceding plenty of open space over the middle. These are three things to be sure of in 2020. Buffalo has been horrendous against tight ends and slot players this year, and with Taron Johnson continuing to play even though he’s struggled mightily, Crowder could be in line for another huge day against Buffalo. Over his last three games against the Bills, Crowder has caught 29 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. If he’s available in your fantasy league, he’s probably a great plug-and-play option even with the groin injury he’s currently enduring.
CB Pierre Desir
On the surface, Desir’s numbers look pretty good. He has three interceptions already, one that he returned for a touchdown, and four pass breakups to go with 34 total tackles. A deeper dive into his season, however, shows a different story. Desir has been targeted 28 times, and he’s allowed 22 receptions for 309 yards and four touchdowns. Yikes. When the Bills and Jets met in September, he was abused badly enough that he found himself on the bench during the latter portion of the game. If he is matched up with Stefon Diggs again on Sunday, I’d expect a similar result, with or without John Brown, who’s dealing with a knee injury.
S Marcus Maye
The stud safety is one of the best players on New York’s defense, and he could have an easier assignment this week with Dawson Knox looking like he’ll miss a second straight game thanks to a calf injury. Maye has 34 tackles, two sacks, four pass breakups, one interception, and two tackles for loss on the year. While he isn’t as talented as former teammate Jamal Adams, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has used Maye in a similar way since Adams was traded to the Seattle Seahawks. Maye’s versatility makes him tough to plan for, as he will line up all over the defensive formation, disguising the Jets’ intentions as a result. Reading him and forcing him to bite on some misdirection and strong route combinations is essential for the Bills to hit on some big plays, which have been sorely lacking over the last few weeks.