Three things on my mind as the Bills get ready for contest number two from the right side of the Atlantic…
The Come Down
The Bills just got done with a huge win. An emotional win. A battle with a long time division rival with first place on the line. Not only did the Bills win, they dominated. They made a statement. Dion Dawkins seemed to savor pulling up the receipts on anyone who may have dismissed the Bills after the season opening loss. Good chance that was only the tip of the satisfaction iceberg in Orchard Park.
This week could not help but be unusual. It’s a home game with a flight that leaves 36 hours earlier than it would for a typical road game. It’s only the second game this franchise has ever played in a time zone ahead of Buffalo. Most players on the team have never experienced a time change like this. The jet lag isn’t debilitating, but it’s real in a way most east coast Americans rarely experience.
On top of all that, the Jags are the first NFL team ever to play back to back games in London. Will it help them become better acclimated? Will they be ornery from all the time away from home? No one has any idea, but the Bills are now the guinea pigs for this experiment.
It’s a perfect recipe for a letdown game. There’s almost no way Buffalo will match the emotion from a home win over the Dolphins where the crowd noise got historically complimented. The question is how far will the Bills drop and could it turn what should be a decisive win on paper into another Jacksonville surprise.
Elite Skill Set
The concern for an upset gets amped up after a review of the Jaguars skill players. They have a team that should be able to keep up with any NFL offense.
Calvin Ridley is a legit #1 receiver. Or at least he used to be before he bet himself out of football for a year. Christian Kirk is a well compensated and plenty competent number two. In a tight end landscape that’s excessively barren, Evan Engram is easily one of the league’s most productive. Travis Etienne is a potential home run on any touch and there’s plenty of smart football people salivating over his backup, Tank Bigsby. Running point is Trevor Lawrence who is still a top talent at the NFL’s most important position.
Jacksonville might be top ten across the board at the skill positions. They aren’t top five in any of them, but there’s no doubt the Jags have dudes on offense.
Is It Miller Time?
Von Miller has participated in one full practice since Thanksgiving. He’s talked at length this week about how much time and training camp it usually takes to get a player into proper NFL game shape. This is not the ideal situation to roll out your 51 million dollar asset for his first contest since suffering an ACL tear.
However, Miller was cleared for football activity before the season started. He’s come back from an ACL tear before and should be more comfortable for game one after a rehab than most players. No matter how much us social media doctors speculate, the only opinions that matter are the doctors employed by the Bills. Whatever decision those doctors make, the only thing that matters is that decision being right.
Despite Sean McDermott’s assertion that Greg Rousseau’s absence from Sunday’s game having no impact on the decision to play Miller, I can’t help but think the urgency to give Miller a uniform accelerates at least a touch. The Bills could (and likely would) put Miller on a snap count limit. It would allow Miller, as he put it, “dip my toe in the water before I start swimming”.
The Buffalo defensive line has been plenty good without Miller. Without Miller and Rousseau would be a new task, but there is quality depth that lets him rest a little longer. It’s a good problem to have, but one without an easy solution.
The prop bet continues to be a weekly ATM. I’m now 4-0 and in the black 4.3 units.
I’m going with a hunch this week. Ridley has the pedigree of a #1 receiver, but it’s not a given he’ll regain that level of production after a year suspension and in a new offense. He caught eight passes for 101 yards in the season opener, but has totaled only seven catches for 110 yards since.
I think the Jags will make an effort to get Ridley the ball. He had early targets in the last two games, only to be forgotten later. With Tre’Davious White out for the season, the Bills don’t have an elite corner to hang with Ridley. Not only is the matchup and the motivation there, but Josh Allen and company should score plenty of points to keep the Jags throwing.
The line for receptions is 4.5 on Ridley. I’ll take the over. It’s plus money on FanDuel (+102) as of this writing Friday evening. I’ll track it there.
When the schedule came out, this was supposed to be one of the tough games for the Bills. The Jags were an ascending team. They may still be that.
However, Jacksonville is yet to play a full game anywhere close to their preseason expectations. They struggled with a rookie quarterback making his first start before rallying to beat the Colts. Their offense was a dud against the Chiefs, failing to reach nine points. They fell on their faces against the Texans (a condition which may be contagious) and unimpressively dispatched the lowly Falcons in the first half of their London doubleheader.
Josh Allen (the other one) is a stud on defense, but the Jags don’t have a ton more on that side of the ball that’s threatening. Last year’s first round pick, Trevon Walker, has not ascended. Jacksonville is currently the NFL’s “mid” poster child. They don’t rank in the top or bottom ten in almost every statistical category, with turnovers forced and scoring percentage against being the notable exceptions of success.
The Bills are absolutely dialed in as they head across the pond. They are the sixth team in NFL history to score 135 points and allow less than 60 through four games. The other five teams all went to the Super Bowl. Buffalo has won their last three games by at least four touchdowns. It’s only the second time that’s happened in team history. The first was, of course, also authored by Allen at the tail end of 2020.
While there is good reason to expect less than total domination in London, I’m going to ride this bronco until it bucks. Give me the Bills in a history making fourth straight 28-point blowout, with a final score of 41-13.