The Buffalo Bills host the New York Jets this week in the regular-season finale. While Buffalo has already clinched a spot in the postseason, they need a win over the 4-12 Jets to clinch their second consecutive AFC East Division championship. The Jets, meanwhile, are on pace to have two top-ten picks in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
This won’t be a situation where the guys in green are going to come out to Western New York and phone in a weak performance, however. The Jets nearly beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, dropping a game 28-24 that they led all the way until there were 30 seconds left in the contest. New York has scored at least 24 points in three straight games after having hit that total just three times all season prior to Week 15.
Which players will we be watching in this week’s matchup? Here’s our list this week.
QB Zach Wilson
In the first meeting between these two teams, Wilson was out, so the Jets started Mike White. That didn’t go well for White, as Buffalo’s defense was able to confuse the young backup and force Joe Flacco into the game. Buffalo’s defense is nightmarish on rookie quarterbacks, as they’ve feasted on the younger signal-callers since head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier began working together in 2017. Wilson has a strong arm and good mobility, but I expect that with a depleted offensive line and a subpar receiving corps, he is going to have a tough time doing much of anything on Sunday. Wilson does have good mobility, so the Bills will have to make sure that they can keep him in the pocket. If they do that, they’ll be able to beat him up like they did White earlier this year.
WR Jamison Crowder
I was going to write about Braxton Berrios here, but given that the top option in the slot has missed two straight practices with a quad injury, I’ll defer to the reliable veteran in Crowder, who is limited himself thanks to a calf injury. Regardless of who plays, the Jets’ three best wideouts all operate best from the slot—Berrios, Crowder, and Elijah Moore, who may be able to return this week if he clears COVID-19 protocols. Crowder leads the Jets in receptions this year with 50 grabs, and he was held to a three-catch, 20-yard day the last time these teams met. Slot corner Taron Johnson will need to continue his streak of excellent play this week, forcing Wilson to throw the ball outside the numbers.
[Insert Left Tackle Here]
Who is healthy enough to play left tackle? Mekhi Becton is out for the year. George Fant, his replacement, was placed on injured reserve this week. Chuma Edoga, the third-string tackle, missed practice on Wednesday before logging a full practice on Thursday, so he’s the likely candidate. However, if that ankle acts up during the game, it will be Greg Senat lining up at left tackle against a Buffalo defensive front that logged five sacks last week against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. Either way, it could be a big day for Buffalo’s pass rush.
DT John Franklin-Meyers
Since Quinnen Williams is the guy who normally receives all the attention, let’s give some love to the man lining up next to Q on a snap-by-snap basis. While he doesn’t have the draft pedigree of his linemate, Franklin-Meyers has had just as effective a season, if not better, based on the numbers. Granted, Williams is the one fending off the double-teams, but Franklin-Meyers has capitalized on the opportunities he’s had. He’s tied with Williams for the team lead in sacks with six, and he’s also tied with Williams for the team lead in quarterback hits with 12. He trails Williams by one in tackles for a loss, notching six on the season. Franklin-Meyers has more hurries (eight vs. two), knockdowns (seven vs. five), and pressures (21 vs. 14) when compared to Williams. Depending on who lines up at left guard for the Bills, this could be a very interesting spot on the line to watch.
CB Bryce Hall
Picture this: It’s the 2020 NFL Draft. Buffalo’s spot is coming up in the fifth round. I want the team to draft a depth corner, and I think Hall, the 6’1” corner out of Virginia Tech, would be a good fit in Buffalo’s zone-heavy operation. Instead, the Bills go with quarterback Jake Fromm, and to add insult to injury, the Jets take the corner I wanted. I think time will prove me right on Fromm being a wasted draft choice, but time has definitely proven me wrong about Hall, at least in the early going here. This season alone, Hall has allowed 66 catches for 744 yards and seven touchdowns. Yikes. Sure, he has 16 pass breakups, but he’s been targeted 97 times and is allowing 68 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed. Something tells me that quarterbacks aren’t shy about attacking him, and I don’t think Josh Allen will be afraid to fire the ball in his zone when given the chance.