Three things on my mind as the Bills try to remember how to be the Bills against the Jets…
Here Comes The Cavalry
The offense that failed badly last weekend in Jacksonville will get two surprisingly important pieces back this week. Spencer Brown returns from a back injury and Dawson Knox has recovered from his broken hand. Both players missed both games after the bye.
The hope for some fans is that Knox becomes a cure-all to the Bills passing game woes. I think that’s a lot to ask. His breakout season has still only included one game with five catches and one game with more than 50 yards receiving. Knox is certainly a more dynamic weapon at Tommy Sweeney and there’s no reason to believe his ascendant season will not continue. However, the Bills offensive problems against Jacksonville run deeper than just missing a tight end who had a nice third of a season.
I really think the more important return is, stunningly, Brown. Not necessarily because the rookie has been stellar. He has been very promising along with some of the normal ups and downs you see from a first-year player. Brown’s return does allow Darrel Williams to slide inside to guard where he has been better this year. Maybe more importantly, it puts Cody Ford back on the bench. Ford has just been absolutely lost the last two games he’s played. It’s likely a huge addition by subtraction.
You Good? I’m Good
The Jets will start Mike White at quarterback for the third game in a row and it could create a curious matchup against the Bills.
White’s 400 yard game against the Bengals included more than half of that yardage coming in run after catch. He threw only one ball 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage the entire game. White’s strength is quick decision making and an ability to get the ball out on time within the framework of the offense. It might even be too early to know if that’s actually his ‘game’, but I would think that’s where the Jets will likely start with their passing attack Sunday.
Buffalo’s defense generally has been known as bend, but don’t break. They play zone. They prevent the big play. Put that style together with White and you might get a situation where the Jets pass game is one giant compromise. The Bills will be happy to give up the short pass and the Jets will be happy to take it. It does make tackling a priority for Buffalo and the Jets do have a pair of very young, elusive weapons in running back Michael Carter and wideout Elijah Moore.
I do think the Bills defense will throw a healthy amount of pressure at White. He is just as inexperienced as any rookie even though he was drafted in 2018 and has multiple years experience on an NFL roster. The Bills should have plenty of success confusing him as they did Tua, Davis Mills and Taylor Heinicke. No matter what button Leslie Frazier decides to push, they all have worked out pretty well so far this season. Even last week in the loss to the Jags.
It’s Not Easy Seeing Green
While Josh Allen has inexplicably dominated the Dolphins, he has just as mysteriously struggled against the Jets. In four games, Allen has six touchdowns (3 rushing, 3 passing) against 10 turnovers (5 interceptions, 5 fumbles). The woeful tank for Trevor Jets last season were still the only NFL team to prevent Allen from scoring a red zone touchdown in 2020.
Allen’s dominance of Miami did not quite carry into this season, even if the Bills won both games fairly handily. There is, similarly, no reason to believe the small sample size against the Jets is predictive of what will happen this weekend. For Bills fans who like to see Allen as Superman, it’s still worth a chuckle to note that both the Jets and Kryptonite come bathed in green.
If the Bills had not lost at Jacksonville last week, I could see this game being the same kind of surprise letdown. Even with the Bills closer to fielding the normal starting offensive line, they still aren’t a super group so far this season. The Jets defense can’t do much, but they do have two players on a near ten sack pace in tackle Quinnen Williams and end John Franklin-Myers. Couple that with the potential for more Mike F’in White dink-and-dunk magic and it’s possible the Jets give Buffalo a game on Sunday.
Following what happened in Jacksonville last weekend I don’t think the Bills will be allowing any more bottom-feeders to cause trouble. Very often when NFL teams hire a new head coach, that man is almost a complete 180 from the previous coach. That was no different in Buffalo when the Bills hired Sean McDermott. While Rex Ryan had the ability to full throttle motivate a team and have them flying sky high on a particular Sunday, McDermott has been the picture of even keel and remaining in control.
I don’t think the Bills show up at MetLife Stadium like crazy animals hungry for blood. What I think the Bills will be is ruthlessly focused and relentlessly prepared to make sure what happened last weekend will not happen again. McDermott only lost three games to non playoff teams in 2019 and 2020. There is just no way he is going to lose back to back games against teams that will be picking in the top 10 in next year’s draft.
I expect Allen to be much more careful and aware of what he’s doing with the football. Don’t be surprised if the Bills have a big time game running the ball. The Jets are bottom five in yards per carry allowed and no team has allowed more rushing touchdowns. I think the Bills get things back to normal on Sunday and restore their march to the playoffs. Give me Buffalo 31-20.