It’s almost time, Bills Mafia! The Buffalo Bills take on the New York Jets to open their 2023 NFL season. The first Monday Night Football game of the year comes with much anticipation as a revamped Jets team looks to steal some spotlight from the three-time defending AFC East champion Bills. Here are some things to look for in this primetime matchup featuring two playoff hopefuls.
Josh Allen vs. Aaron Rodgers
The premier matchup of the night is the superstar quarterbacks, Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers. The game will most likely go how these QBs go. Let’s take a look at Allen and Rodgers’ statistics on Monday Night Football.
- Josh Allen: 6 games played, 1,632 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 113.9 passer rating
- Aaron Rodgers: 20 games played, 4,936 passing yards, 38 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 103.2 passer rating.
It is clear both quarterbacks shine under the bright lights of primetime football. It shall be an entertaining matchup to watch this season.
Stefon Diggs vs. Sauce Gardner?
One might expect that Stefon Diggs, alpha WR, would be shadowed by up-and-coming superstar corner, Sauce Gardner, right? If last year was any indication, that won’t be the case. In their two matchups last year, Gardner was actually primarily matched up against Gabe Davis. According to Player Profiler, in Week 9 Gardner matched up against Davis 78.7% of the time, with a shadow rate of 54.6%. In Week 14, Gardner matched up against Davis 88.9% of the time, with a shadow rate of 37%. This likely means Buffalo’s offensive coordinator, Ken Dorsey, found creative ways to get Diggs away from Gardner.
For what it’s worth if you remember correctly, Diggs burned Gardner for a big gain on the first play of the Week 9 matchup. I’d expect Dorsey to get Diggs into favorable matchups away from Gardner this year too. But, honestly, I’d take Diggs one-on-one versus anyone. Bring it on.
Terrel Bernard gets the start at MLB
Check out my article earlier this week for a more in-depth breakdown of Bernard’s starter status. Bernard is a greenhorn at the MLB position, especially after missing the entire preseason with an injury. Buffalo invested a third-round draft pick last season on him and they chose him over more experienced players like Tyrel Dodson and A.J. Klein, so they must see some special traits in him. I’m excited to see his fast and aggressive play style show up on tape, but the biggest hurdle for him is reading his keys and playing free. If Bernard doesn’t “stick out” for bad reasons, I will consider it a win, but hopefully he “sticks out” for good reasons.
Christian Benford gets the start at CB2
I’ll refer back to my article again from earlier this week for a more in-depth breakdown of Benford’s starter status. It stinks that I’m not writing about Buffalo’s first-round draft pick from last season, Kaiir Elam, here — but honestly, I don’t really care. Benford has flashed this preseason and I credit Buffalo’s staff for sticking with the player who earned this spot. Benford is athletic and has some ball-hawking tendencies. Benford won the starting CB2 position at the beginning of last year when Tre’Davious White was out, but his stint was cut short by injury. I think Benford has a real chance to turn into something special for Buffalo’s defense. I’m intrigued to see how he responds to the spotlight. Something tells me he’s ready to make a name for himself.
Cook brothers showdown
Bills running back, James Cook, will be going up against his older brother, Dalvin Cook. This isn’t the first time this has happened, the first matchup between the Cook brothers was last season when the Bills played the Vikings. James Cook posted five carries for 22 yards, while his brother Dalvin turned in a stellar performance of 14 carries for 119 yards and a touchdown along with 27 yards receiving.
Expect James Cook to get more than double his touches in this year's matchup. Dalvin has a little more competition this year with Breece Hall and Michael Carter in the backfield, but I would expect Dalvin to get the lion's share of the workload.
Usually, this would be pretty straightforward with ESPN airing the game, but Spectrum customers will be without that service this week, and perhaps much longer. Spectrum and Disney, who owns ESPN, are fighting — which has lead to Disney removing its channels and properties from Spectrum’s services. Luckily for Bills fans, the game will be aired on ABC.
However, the popular “Manning Cast” will not be available on ESPN 2 for Spectrum customers. Personally, this is a bummer, I enjoy hearing the Manning brothers’ thoughts on the games. Hopefully, there will be some highlights of the Manning Cast to watch later on.