Three things on my mind as the Bills try to right the ship against the Jets…
I’ve been driving the bandwagon this week for this game being a walk in the park that the Bills can’t possibly lose. The Buffalo injury situation makes that assessment way too presumptuous.
It’s possible the Bills starting corners will be rookie Dane Jackson and Cam Lewis, who has been wearing a wrap this week on his injured wrist that looks like a club.
It’s possible the Bills starting guards will be Brian Winters (who didn’t show up in Buffalo until just before the season) and Ike Boettger (who has never started a game).
Matt Milano might still be out and the defense has not looked nearly the same without him. John Brown will be out and the passing offense has not looked nearly the same without him.
The Jets have their own injury issues: top receiver Jamison Crowder is doubtful and the offensive line could be reshuffling three of five starting spots. However, New York is getting Sam Darnold back. As unintimidating as that sounds, he’s a huge upgrade from Joe Flacco and will give the team a lift. The Jets beat Dallas at home riding a similar lift last year.
This game still falls firmly in the “should win” category for the Bills, but they’ll have to work for it like every other week. And there will be no vitriol from this keyboard if Buffalo does not win by a gazillion.
Where’s MVP Josh?
The one thing the Bills could hang their hat on in the 4-0 start was a dominant passing game and a quarterback who seemed poised to become one of the league’s elite. Along with just about everything else, that aerial attack has been shooting far too many blanks the last two weeks.
The script for a Bills win this week, whether by a lot or a little, needs to include another big Josh Allen day. I think 300 yards is almost a must. Multiple touchdowns passing for sure. The NFL needs to be worried again about this passing group by 4:30pm Sunday.
Micah Hyde said this week it takes a while to figure out an identity on defense. There’s no doubt the Bills are still searching there. The offensive identity is damn sure not going to be about the running game. This team needs something they can depend on going forward. Allen needs to re-assure that, no matter what, the Bills can get the job done by going to the air.
Lead From In Front
The only position group on the Bills that has not been decimated by injuries or Covid issues is the defensive line. However, that doesn’t mean we know who will be in uniform come Sunday.
Trent Murphy and Harrison Phillips were surprise healthy scratches against Kansas City. My guess was that the Bills were looking for faster, quicker players who could better chase the Chiefs passing game. The way Buffalo spent 60 minutes rolling out a red carpet for Clyde Edwards-Helaire seemed to confirm that hypothesis.
Practice squad call-up Justin Zimmer played pretty darn well Monday night and earned a spot on the 53-man roster. I’d expect him to be active again this week. Does this mean Phillips remains inactive? Or is it someone else? The depleted Bills could also keep both players active since they’re down so many capable guys elsewhere.
Regardless, the Bills may need the full-strength defensive line to play like it. If the aforementioned Jackson-Lewis duo is at corner, even Darnold could make some plays through the air with time to throw.
I still buy into the idea that all the new faces on the D-line need time to gel and there’s good reason to be patient. But…. if they can’t wreak havoc this week against this Jets offense, it’s hard to imagine when it might ever happen.
There’s no way I’m predicting a Buffalo loss. The Bills should be able to move the ball and score points passing, if not any way they want. The Bills should be able to put pressure on Darnold. Sean McDermott should be able to coach the pants off Adam Gase.
There’s some uncertainty about how all the various replacement players will fare, but there’s still more than enough talent to carry Buffalo this week.
You can’t overlook the possibility that this is the week the Jets put something resembling an effort together. Teams rarely go 0-16 for a reason. They’re still a professional football team and, assumably, could have a good day. Bills fans can only hope their team doesn’t happen to be on the other sideline when that day arrives.
I don’t think there’s all that much to worry about. My Buffalo Kickoff Live pick was submitted early in the week and reads Bills 34-6. I’m going to revise that to a still convincing, but less one sided prediction of Bills 30-17.