I love divisional football, and this week, we have another fun matchup with playoff implications in the AFC East. The Buffalo Bills are comfortably favored as they host the New York Jets in one of the most anticipated games of the year.
The AFC East is very competitive this season, and is considered one of the best divisions in football. Each team currently has a record of .500 or above, and each game feels more important than the last. The Bills are 1-2 in the division, opening with two losses to the Miami Dolphins and the Jets earlier this season, but defeating the New England Patriots in Week 13.
The Jets are currently third in the division, but only one game behind the Dolphins, and can make things very interesting with a win against the division- and conference-leading Bills.
AFC East Standings
|3||New England Patriots||7-7||2-2||5-4||+31||L1||2-3|
|4||New York Jets||7-7||2-3||5-5||+18||L3||1-4|
The weather is what most Buffalonians call “football weather” — I call it disgusting. Thirty-eight degrees at kickoff, with up to a 65% chance of showers throughout the game. Winds up to 12 mph should make for a wet, sloppy game of football that could mean turnovers and a strong run effort for both teams.
On the injury front, the Jets don’t have anyone ruled out as of Friday’s final injury report of the week. Defensive end Micheal Clemons was listed as questionable with the same illness that seemed to sweep through Buffalo’s locker room recently. Everyone else is good to go. On the Bills’ injury report, fullback Reggie Gilliam and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips are both out. Linebacker Matt Milano and left tackle Dion Dawkins are both listed as questionable, although it did sound like head coach Sean McDermott was confident both would play. We’ll see what the game-time decisions on both players are.
Here are my thoughts and things to look for during this game:
- As usual, things start and end with quarterback Josh Allen for me. What kind of matchup will we see at quarterback? Two Thursdays ago, we saw Allen appear to be the healthiest he’s been since the fourth quarter of the first Jets game, right before he sprained his UCL. Ever since, he has not had the same zip and power on throws throughout the entirety of games. We’ve seen moments and certain throws that reminded us that he is a unicorn and seemingly not of this world, but the injury made him a lot more human than Bills fans are used to seeing. The hope is that everything has come full circle for him, and this is the game that we will see him make plays and look like the offensive weapon he was for the first month and a half of the season. I would also like to see Allen used more in the run game, specifically on third downs and in the red zone. I am not a fan of Allen being the second-leading rusher for the team through this point of the season, but I would like to convert more in the red zone, and Allen’s legs are the key to that success, in my opinion. For the season, the Bills are scoring touchdowns in the red zone at 56.52% and only 47.73% at home. That number has risen to the middle of the league, at 14th best due to their success over the last three games. That has to continue to improve, and needs to be consistent going into the playoffs if the Bills want to make it to the Super Bowl and win the franchise’s first championship.
- Last time the Bills played the Jets, Zach Wilson was the starting quarterback, and the Bills were missing key players on defense. This time, safety Jordan Poyer and Milano are both expected to play and be key contributors against a run game that kept the ball away from the Bills in the fourth quarter and led them to victory. It wasn’t Wilson who won the game, but a strong run game and good defense that forced Allen to make two head-scratching turnovers. Mike White is now the Jets’ starting quarterback, and through two games, he appears to be the needed spark that has the offense moving the ball and playing complementary football for a team with a high-caliber defense. Is he the long term answer? I wouldn’t bet on it, but the team feels more confident in him at the moment than they do Wilson. When you have a defense that can stop the other offense from putting up big points, you should be able to win in this league. The thing for me to watch when the Jets have the ball is the maturation of White, and which quarterback plays better overall. They won’t dominate the Bills with the run. Even without Von Miller and Phillips, I find it hard to believe they can duplicate their success in the first matchup on the ground when the Bills have Poyer and Milano in the game. White will need to make big plays to win this game. I am not sure I trust him to do so.
- The Jets come into this game with the sixth-ranked defense in the league. We can call it what we want, but they are good, with great defensive line play, very good linebackers, and their secondary makes it hard for anyone to throw the ball on them successfully. There are three players outside of Allen they will need to stop in order to beat the Bills: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, and James Cook. Devin Singletary is RB1, and I am comfortable with him keeping that role until the end of the year. But we can’t ignore the emergence of rookie running back Cook, who in Week 13 against the New England Patriots had over 100 total yards of offense, with 64 on the ground and 41 in the passing game. The production Bills fans were hoping for when he was drafted is finally starting to happen, and now Cook is a key piece of the offense. Diggs is a Top 5 receiver in the NFL this season in almost every category. But the one that matters in this conversation is that he is third for receiving touchdowns with 10 on the year. If Diggs finds any amount of separation, he will find the end zone — and if he doesn’t, that means the Jets will have dedicated plenty of resources to shut Diggs down, which will open the door for Davis to have a big game. Davis has been playing through an ankle injury all season, but when he gets opportunities to step up when Diggs isn’t able to thrive, he takes them, and has not let Allen down. Who wins these matchups? The Jets’ defense, or the Bills’ weapons?
The Bills seek revenge and redemption in the division after losing to the Jets early in the season as well as the Dolphins. They were 0-2 for the better part of the season in a division they were supposed to dominate and win easily. After beating the Patriots in Week 13, they now shift their focus to the Jets — and I think they take care of business to bring their record to 2-2, and look to carry momentum into the game next week against the Dolphins. Bills win big and cover the spread at home. Hide your tables from Bills fans around the country.
DraftKings “The Big Hat” SGP
- Mike White under 224.5 passing yards
- Gabe Davis anytime touchdown
- Stefon Diggs over 64.5 receiving yards
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