The Buffalo Bills host the New York Jets this week in a game that both teams need desperately for their playoff hopes. Now, honestly, looking at this game before the season, many of us might have thought that lead would be something possible. Perhaps both of these teams would be seven or eight-win clubs fighting for supremacy in the AFC East.
Well, that’s not the case, as both teams are holding on for dear life in the AFC Playoff picture. The Jets lost their quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, to an Achilles tendon tear at the beginning of the first game of the year. They’re 4-5 with a toothless offense led by quarterback Zach Wilson. The Bills, on the other hand, are 5-5 with a maddeningly inconsistent offense led by their starting quarterback.
What has to happen in order for Buffalo to win this week? Well, for starters, they could remember that they’re wearing blue jerseys this week, so the ball should go to those guys. The Bills have turned it over 13 times in their last six games, a stretch where they’ve gone 2-4. They’ll also need their top players to step up and play well.
Here are our five Bills to watch this week.
QB Josh Allen
Does anyone remember Mad Libs? Well, here’s a Mad Lib for us all, since I can’t write the sentence I’d like to write without breaking our community guidelines:
“Josh Allen needs to throw the (adjective) ball to the guys wearing blue jerseys.”
That’s it. That’s the crux of it, the long and short of it, the whole kit and caboodle. If Josh Allen throws the ball to the guys in the blue shirts, Buffalo probably wins. If he doesn’t, their chances of losing become exponentially greater. Allen has a great opportunity in front of him this week. There are more doubters than there have been around him since before his meteoric star turn in 2020. Unfortunately, one of those doubters seems to be Josh Allen himself. Allen is too good to doubt himself. He needs to find that mojo. Interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady needs to give him some easy looks early to start the flow of good vibes.
WR Stefon Diggs
Sure, the Jets have great corners all over the field. Sauce Gardner is as good as it gets in the NFL, and D.J. Reed is no slouch. Safety Jordan Whitehead had three interceptions in the first meeting, and he’ll be lurking around in the defensive backfield all night long. It doesn’t matter. Diggs needs the ball if this offense is to perform optimally. Brady needs to move No. 14 around the formation, whether that means using pre-snap motion, putting him in the slot, or some other looks, the Bills need to find ways to keep their top receiver involved. Using the secondary options like tight end Dalton Kincaid is great throughout the game, but Diggs needs his, too. In the first meeting, Diggs had 10 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown. Replicating that while also exploring Allen’s trust in Kincaid could make for a much different offensive result.
WR Gabe Davis
“Big Game Gabe” disappears an awful lot throughout a season, and while there are plenty of mouths to feed in the offense, Davis can’t be a ghost for weeks on end. His drop last week cost the Bills a chance at points in the first quarter, and he’s caught just two passes on eight targets over the last two weeks. That’s an important line of delineation because Davis caught nine balls for 87 yards and a score in the game prior to this two-game return to invisibility. If the Jets choose to use the bracket on Diggs and put Gardner on Davis, then Davis has to find a way to win at the line of scrimmage or at least draw some holding penalties on the grabby Gardner.
DT Linval Joseph
The big fella needs to set the tone in the middle, because the Jets’ best chance at success on offense involves establishing the run and keeping the game in 3rd & Manageable. Joseph is playing around 30 snaps per week since signing with the team, and Buffalo has allowed just 2.9 yards per rush in those two contests. This comes after a three-game stretch where they allowed 4.1 yards per rush to the New York Giants, New England Patriots, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Joseph has been a big presence — literally and figuratively — in the middle of the Bills’ defense. As he’s done to this point, he needs to keep his linebackers clean, and free up space for his teammate, defensive tackle Ed Oliver, to continue wreaking havoc up the middle.
CB Dane Jackson
This is an appreciation post, if anything, for No. 30. Jackson has been one of the guys who fans love to hate over the years, mostly because he was replacing an in-his-prime Tre’Davious White and he wasn’t playing like Tre’Davious White. However, especially of late, Jackson has been pretty good in coverage. Remember, this is Buffalo’s CB4 entering the year, and over the last two games, he’s had some pretty tough matchups and acquitted himself well. Jackson was good in coverage against Ja’Marr Chase when the Bills played the Cincinnati Bengals, and he was solid last week playing on wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Judy for the Denver Broncos. Whatever Jackson is asked to do this week, whether he’s starting and covering wide receiver Garrett Wilson or acting as a reserve while playing special teams, he’ll be ready. Jackson needs to continue his recent solid play.