After last week’s debacle in Duval, the Buffalo Bills look to right the ship in a divisional contest against the New York Jets. Similarly to last week, Buffalo is heavily favored on the road. Their opponent has played poorly, to put it lightly, and the Bills should be able to go out and earn a victory.
The operative word in that phrase, of course, is “should.”
After Buffalo laid the egg of all eggs last weekend, the team should absolutely be ready to take out their frustration on the Jets. However, as we saw last week, expecting a blowout isn’t necessarily the way to be. If the Bills play like they did against the Jacksonville Jaguars last weekend, they will be in trouble regardless of what the Jets’ record is.
Which players need to step up this week? I can think of at least 11 on one side of the ball, but this space gives us room for just five. Here are our players to watch this week.
QB Josh Allen
After arguably his worst performance in two years, Allen needs to come out firing on Sunday. Sure, his offensive line was a tire fire contained inside a flaming dumpster, but Allen made poor decisions all day. He eschewed the checkdown when he should have taken it, he kept on read-option plays when he should have handed it off, and he forced passes into windows that just didn’t exist. If all of those negative plays were caused by the bad offensive line play, then hopefully a better showing from that unit will allow Allen to revert back to his MVP-caliber form. Another reversion to his 2018 self is not what the team needs right now. Look for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to call some quick throws early to establish rhythm, perhaps even (gasp!) using some screens, play-action passes, and bootlegs as well.
RB Devin Singletary
Head coach Sean McDermott has not minced words with regard to the offense, and it’s clear that he wants the team to be less one-dimensional than they have been. With Zack Moss still looking to emerge from concussion protocol, that means we should see a healthy dose of Motor early in this one. Against a Jets squad that allows 4.6 yards per carry and has surrendered a league-worst 15 rushing touchdowns thus far, this could be as good an opportunity as any for Singletary to have a 100-yard game on the ground. Singletary has only hit that number once, gaining 106 yards in a 20-3 victory over the Denver Broncos in 2019. If all goes to plan, I think he’ll flirt with that total on Sunday.
TE Dawson Knox
After practicing in full on Thursday, I expect that Buffalo’s TE1 returns to the lineup on Sunday. That gives the Bills a much-needed safety valve on offense, as well as a solid in-line blocker. Kudos to Tommy Sweeney for filling in and working hard, but Knox has developed into one of the league’s better options at tight end, and he was on pace to break at least the team’s franchise record for touchdown receptions by a tight end prior to breaking his hand. Even if he only makes four catches, he’s a dynamite red zone threat and someone that teams have to respect thanks to his athleticism. His return will help tremendously.
The Whole Offensive Line
So we really could have singled out all five of the big fellas up front, but that would have made for a dull piece. The Bills need to block better, plain and simple. Whether that means Cody Ford’s return to the bench with Spencer Brown, who also practiced in full on Thursday, back in the fold makes things better or the coaching staff tries yet another new combination, the Bills can’t afford to protect as poorly as they did last weekend. Given that they’re still down Jon Feliciano, the left guard spot may become the focal point, as Ike Boettger didn’t exactly look like he belonged in the starting lineup on Sunday either. Will we see Ryan Bates or Jamil Douglas this weekend? Will Ford move to left guard? Will anyone be able to slow Quinnen Williams? The last of those questions may be the key to the whole game for Buffalo on offense.
LB Matt Milano
Especially if Tremaine Edmunds can’t go thanks to the hamstring injury he’s nursing, Milano becomes especially important. If Tremaine can play, then it gives the Bills one of the league’s best one-two punches at linebacker. Milano was great last weekend, and with a young quarterback in Mike White starting for the Jets, defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier will look to use all of his versatile “move-pieces” to create confusion and chaos. Milano is a great cover guy, but he’s also an effective blitzer, so White will need to keep an eye on him all day.