We’re back at it this week! The Buffalo Bills square off against the New York Jets within the confines of the often anything-but-cozy Highmark Stadium, and both teams have one thing on the brain: win to remain relevant in the AFC playoff race. The Bills will find tough sledding from here on out, faced with a true gauntlet of opponents and only two home games in their last seven matchups. At 4-5, the Jets also face an uphill battle, but that’s nothing new for them this season after losing quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the first drive of Week 1.
Much has changed since these two teams met 10 weeks ago. They enter Sunday’s game only a game apart, which could rapidly increase should Buffalo emerge victorious in Orchard Park, NY.
Ahead of this weekend’s game, I once again chatted with MacGregor Wells, deputy manager of Gang Green Nation. We connected to catch up on all things Jets, from the potential return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2023, to players-only meetings and what’s up with the Jets’ offense — whether that be due to quarterback Zach Wilson, offensive coordinator Nate Hackett, both, or otherwise. MacGregor also spoke a bit about the current status of the Jets’ defense, and how he sees Sunday’s game playing out.
1. Aaron Rodgers. When last we spoke, Rodgers was gearing up to take the field for his first regular-season game with the Jets. Since that point, the season hasn’t played out like anyone expected — though the team still very much has a fighting chance to make noise down the stretch. But with Rodgers stating a return sometime in December, does it make sense for him to (my words) rush back this season, especially if the Jets find themselves on the outside looking in — do you believe Rodgers will return to the team next season?
If the Jets aren’t in the thick of the playoff race in mid-December, then I think it makes zero sense to get Rodgers back on the field. For what, some meaningless action that, even assuming Rodgers is still the good/great version of himself, would only hurt the Jets in terms of draft position? No thank you. If by some minor miracle the Jets turn things around and get themselves back in the race, then sure, it could make sense to bring Rodgers back, assuming he’s actually fully healthy sometime in December. But I doubt the Jets will be in the race by then, I doubt Rodgers will be fully healthy by then, and I doubt any 40 year old quarterback is going to have a ton of success behind this trash New York Jets offensive line.
Do I believe Rodgers will be back next season. Yep, I sure do. I don’t think this is how Rodgers wants to go out. I think he’ll be back and starting for the Jets. Now, how effective he’ll be in his age 41 season coming off a major injury and playing behind the Jets’ offensive line, that’s a major question mark. But I do believe he’ll be back.
2. Do you find it strange that Jets players would hold a players-only meeting? While the offense has observably struggled, it’s to be expected. But the defense has played phenomenal football. So... why the meeting — is head coach Robert Saleh losing the locker room?
I don’t think the meeting was about Saleh losing the players as much as it was about the potential fracture between the defense and the offense. The defense has mostly played very well, and they are getting frustrated. With the Jets never scoring touchdowns, it has begun to feel like the defense has to damn near pitch a shutout for the Jets to have a chance to win the game. There have been some rumblings about the defense being fed up, so I think the players only meeting was probably about trying to unify the team and not let these frustrations spiral out of control. How effective a meeting can be over the long run if the Jets continue to not score touchdowns remains to be seen.
3. While the Jets have failed to score a touchdown in three straight games now, what I’ve observed of the offense is a more confident and productive Zach Wilson at the helm. Still most fans seems ready for Wilson to hit the bench. Do you see a main issue on offense here, whether it be Zach Wilson or offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, or something else?
The main issue is a severe lack of talent. Zach Wilson has been playing better of late, though he’s still been a below average starting quarterback. But the Jets offensive line is trash, maybe the worst in the NFL. The Jets receivers, outside of Garrett Wilson, are trash. Really the Jets have just two players currently healthy on offense that are even NFL average. Breece Hall and Garrett Wilson are studs. The entire rest of the offense is varying levels of terrible.
That’s not to let offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett off the hook. He has also been bad. But the biggest problem is the lack of talent on offense. And the worst offenders are on the offensive line.
4. Should Bills Mafia expect to see more of the same from the Jets’ defense this week, or are there some new wrinkles you’ve observed that might catch the team’s just-named interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady and by surprise?
I doubt you’ll see a lot of new wrinkles on defense by the Jets. They’ll probably take an if it ain’t broke don’t fix it approach. Maybe you’ll see a little more blitzing. Saleh’s defenses traditionally blitz at a very low rate, but that has changed a bit recently. Also Bryce Huff, the best Jets pass rusher, is seeing more playing time recently. But in general I think it’ll be a very similar look to the last time these two teams met.
5. DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the Jets as 7-point road underdogs. Given the way the the last three games between these two teams played out, does the spread surprise you — especially considering the turmoil with the Bills’ offense and their current record, losing five games to AFC opponents?
No, the spread doesn’t surprise me too much. If anything I expected a larger spread. I know the Bills have been struggling a bit, but the Jets have been struggling more. I know the Jets have given Josh Allen problems, but he’s still an excellent quarterback and worlds better than Zach Wilson. It’s just difficult to see the Jets putting many points on the board these days, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a double digit Bills victory even if the Jets hold the Bills under 20 points.
Bonus question: We always talk about the teams, but there’s so much more beyond the field that involve us as fans. Whether this is for you directly as someone who has or does attend Jets’ home games or Gang Green Nation readers...
What makes a NYJ tailgate unique, great (including food) — and are their any signature spots fans flock to that feature bucket-list game-day experiences, whether in the lots or elsewhere?
My apologies. I’m going to have to follow the Jets lead here and do what they do nearly every offensive possession – punt. I just don’t participate in the tailgating. I’m responsible for all in-game coverage of the Jets games for Gang Green Nation each week. That keeps me home with my television and my computer.
As always, my continued thanks to MacGregor Wells for engaging with me to bring these Q/A sessions to our readers ahead of each Bills vs. Jets game. Be sure to head over to Gang Green Nation to read my responses to MacGregor’s Bills-focused questions this week.
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