The Buffalo Bills open the season on the road against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium to kick off the NFL’s 2023 schedule for Monday Night Football (MNF). As of this writing, the DraftKings Sportsbook odds have the Bills as 2.5-point favorites.
- Spread: Bills -2.5
- Over/Under: O/U 46.5
- Moneyline: Bills -142, Jets +120
Anyone who digests the game of professional football understands that the NFL is a quarterback and head-coach-driven league. Ask any Bills fan to weigh in about the biggest factor in their favorite team’s return to relevancy and they’ll say Josh Allen faster than a peak-era Mike Tyson’s right hook.
The Jets decided to test the quarterback waters this offseason, making a blockbuster trade to bring Aaron Rodgers to New Jersey after his cozy, isolated stay in a thought cave helped him discover his next path. The Green Bay Packers acquiesced to Rodgers’ requests to be traded, sending him packing after a somehow tumultuous and unforgettable NFL HOF-worthy career in Wisconsin.
There is no bigger story in the NFL at this point in 2023, though the Bills boast one of their own tales for the ages. That of course is the story of safety Damar Hamlin, and his bid to return to the NFL after a life-altering, near-death cardiac arrest he suffered on the field during the team’s Week 17 Monday Night Football game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The NFL waits for no one, and Rodgers is looking for another shot at greatness with a new team. Will his career finish the same as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady before him? Or has he misjudged how green things really are for Gang Green?
Make no mistake, the Jets were a force during the 2022 NFL season — head coach Robert Saleh appears to be building toward great things. That’s especially true on defense, and Buffalo was dealt all it could handle and more by the Jets last season. But sub-optimal quarterback play rendered a championship-caliber defense defenseless to stop its eventual fate.
On opening week under the lights of Monday Night Football, the next chapter unfolds for two great AFL originals. While only Week 1, every game in this league carries the weight of a playoff vibe. For the Bills, it’s an opportunity to prove they’re still highly relevant in Super Bowl circles. For the Jets, it’s a return to relevancy, too many years removed from the last trip there with head coach Rex Ryan and quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Josh Allen returns finally healthy after a UCL/elbow injury against the Jets altered his passing game for much of the 2022 NFL season. Will Allen look to avenge the pair of physical games against last season’s Jets? Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is also back, despite those in media circles and elsewhere claiming he wants out of Buffalo. While most Bills fans believe it’s nothing more than clickbait, there’s reason to expect Diggs will come out swinging in primetime — and ready to silence his biggest critics and doom sayers.
Will the Bills find more success with this year’s offensive line? Allen often fought for every yard he gained, through the air or on the ground. There’s a lot to prove for most of Buffalo’s O-line starters, and plenty of new faces. O’Cyrus Torrence will get his first start in the NFL, earning the opportunity to line up next to right tackle Spencer Brown in Week 1.
There’s just as much to prove with the team’s linebackers where, despite fielding just two, half of the unit will take to the gridiron, now among the league’s most inexperienced. Second-year linebacker Terrel Bernard will get the start next to All-Pro Matt Milano. Bernard spent nearly all of training camp and every preseason game sidelined with a hamstring injury. That’s a lot of starting reps to lose, and unfortunately Tyrel Dodson didn’t step up in his place. The Jets will provide a huge test for Buffalo’s revamped in-house linebacker solution.
In an interesting development, second-year cornerback Christian Benford was named the starter at CB2 to open the season. Benford continues to impress, finally leapfrogging cornerback Dane Jackson. Left in the back of the room for now is the team’s 2022 first-round draft pick, cornerback Kaiir Elam. Despite his play during last season’s postseason run, Elam will once again have to earn the trust of head coach Sean McDermott before he sees starter’s reps.
Will the Bills employ a greater variety of formations on offense? It appears to be the likely case, with a more pronounced commitment to “12” personnel during the preseason after being last in the NFL using that formation in 2022. The reason is clear: rookie first-round tight end Dalton Kincaid has looked like a stud early and often this summer. While not listed as the team’s starting TE for Week 1, expect to see him used often out of different formations against the Jets. Buffalo has the potential to re-define tight end play in the NFL during 2023.
All our coverage for the Buffalo Bills’ Week 1 matchup on Monday Night Football is linked below. Be sure to check it out and stay connected with us at Buffalo Rumblings!