Faced with a short and tumultuous week to prepare, the Buffalo Bills are set to take on the New York Jets for the second time this season. You likely recall the Bills lost the season-opener in overtime via a punt return touchdown. The Bills are certainly looking to avenge that loss and get back in the win column after dropping two straight. If the Bills want to climb back into playoff contention, they must start stacking wins, especially in the AFC where each of their five losses have happened. It starts this afternoon — in a game that suddenly carries a playoff vibe.
Here’s what to look for in what’s become an even more important game for the Bills’ as it relates to their postseason aspirations.
Interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady now calls the shots
To get a full breakdown of my thoughts on what we can expect from the offense with Joe Brady at the helm, check out my article here. It will be tough for Brady to implement many noticeable changes in a short week, especially against a top-notch defense like the New York Jets. I’d temper any major expectations this week but the biggest thing I’ll be looking for is a renewed energy on offense. For the past six weeks, quarterback Josh Allen and crew have looked disheveled. Admittedly, it’s tough to have “fun” when things aren’t going great. It would be encouraging to see some energy and passion, which usually comes when teams score points. Hopefully, a new change at offensive coordinator can give the offense the needed jolt.
Run the football
If you’ve followed my articles to this point, you likely know I’m a big proponent of passing the football. My overall thought process is that the Bills shouldn’t want to take the ball out of Josh Allen’s hands any more than they have to. Yet, here Buffalo is with a 5-5 record, Allen leads the league in turnovers, and running back James Cook is coming off a game where he looked stellar running the football.
The New York Jets currently rank 31st in opponent rushing yards per game. They give up on average 138.4 yards per game. They’re allowing an average of 7.2 first downs per game via a running play. Establishing an effective run game that the Bills can turn to on natural down situations would go a long way to helping them sustain drives and score points. I’d expect James Cook to get a good chunk of touches this week after showing some burst last week.
Different personnel packages
One way to throw a quick wrinkle into an offense is to run the same plays, but with different formation groupings. I would expect interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady to come out with some unique personnel groupings in an effort to catch the Jets’ defense off guard. The play-call selection may not be all that different this week, but the formation and personnel they run these plays with might look refreshed.
Party in the backfield
The Buffalo’s defense currently has 33 total sacks on the season, which is ranked second in the NFL. Conversely, the New York Jets’ offense has allowed 34 sacks this season, which is third-most in the league. The Bills’ defensive line will look to cause havoc for Jets QB Zach Wilson, who struggles under pressure. In their Week 1 matchup, the Buffalo was able to tally three sacks.
Defensive tackle Ed Oliver will be a big part of providing pressure on Wilson. Oliver currently leads all NFL defensive tackles in quarterback pressures with 41 (according to Next Gen Stats). Veteran edge rusher Von Miller has been quiet since his return. No doubt, he’s looking to get on the stat sheet with a sack this week.
Stopping Breece Hall
The Bills will have all hands on deck trying to stop New York Jets running back Breece Hall. In their first meeting, Hall exploited the Bills for 10 carries and 127 yards rushing. Most of those yards came on an 83-yard run in the second quarter. Hall currently has 42 evaded tackles on the season, which is most in the NFL according to Player Profiler. The shifty back also is fourth in juke rate and seventh in yards per touch (rushing or receiving) with 5.8 yards. I’d expect the Bills to focus on stopping Breece Hall and forcing the Jets to lean on QB Zach Wilson to make good decisions.
The Jets CB Duo
The Jets sport one of the best CB tandems in the league with Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed. It will be difficult, though not impossible, for the Bills to find consistent success targeting these defenders on the outside. This likely means Buffalo will move wide receiver Stefon Diggs around the formation to find favorable matchups in the slot, or use motion to help Diggs get a clean release. Not only will the Bills need Diggs to get open, but they’ll need another option to step up and take advantage over the middle. Rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid seems like the perfect man for the job. The 2023 first-round draft pick seems to be finding his stride and I would expect that he’s on the Jets’ radar as a person they need to pay attention to whenever he’s on the field.