Three things on my mind (other than, “Holy Bleep! Football is back!) as the Bills get ready to open the season against the Jets…
A Money Game?
This NFL preseason is going to be like a college preseason because there are no practice games. The Bills will take that analogy one step further.
Many top college powers open against a Central Connecticut State or an Austin Peay–a lower level or simply lower division team that’s paid to get on a bus and get their butts whooped by the power team.
The Jets are not lower division, but they certainly aren’t at the same level as the Bills. I think Joe Douglas has Gang Green headed in the right direction, but their rebuild is Bills circa 2018.
On top of that, their preseason has been inundated with injuries, especially at wide receiver and corner. They’ll head to Buffalo without the top weapon from their draft (Denzel Mims) and a starting inside linebacker (Avery Williamson). Even Marcus Maye, who had an eye opening camp replacing the Jamal Adams role, is questionable after spending all week on the Jets limited or no practice list.
There is just no excuse for the Bills losing this game. I won’t go so far as to say Buffalo must win convincingly. Any division win is a good win. However, I will say slamming the panic button is not an overreaction after an injury free loss.
Still Allen Season
Bills fans have every right to let Super Bowl sugar plums dance in their heads thinking about this season. Buffalo is not an AFC championship favorite, but hardly anyone would blink an eye if they made a championship game appearance.
That said, priority A-1 for this season is still figuring out if Josh Allen is the long term answer at quarterback. I think that’s part of the reason Brandon Beane did not chase a more competent, veteran answer behind Allen. This roster might be good enough to drag an average QB to a Super Bowl. Not having one (I like Matt Barkley in a pinch, but he’s no Nick Foles) in case Allen regresses could waste all the sterling work Beane has done outside of quarterback.
Instead, the Bills spent all those resources to give Allen one of the league’s best supporting casts. There are no more excuses for him. When we get to December, no matter how many games the Bills win, we should know everything we need to know about Josh Allen.
All throughout this Covid limited preseason, the Bills have been lauded for their continuity. The coaching staff, the system, the players are all, largely, unchanged. Then, the Jon Feliciano injury happened. Though, I’m not sure it would have mattered.
Now, Sean McDermott could start the year with a shuffled right side of the offensive line. Some combo of Cody Ford, Daryl Williams, Ty Nsekhe and Brian Winters will get the first offensive snap.
The Bills invested a ton of draft capital in Ford and my gut strongly says he’ll be out there at one position or the other. Williams has been good enough at tackle during camp that it’s possible the plan was always Ford at guard next to him, with or without Feliciano on the field. There’s been enough mixing and matching to hide the Bills true intentions.
I don’t think Ford is among the best five linemen when Feliciano is healthy. He may not be better than Winters at guard right this second. The Jets best and deepest position group is defensive line. We’ll get a good look at Ford’s improvement from his rookie season and he’ll be the guy I’m interested to watch most closely snap to snap.
Not much drama here. As I pointed out above, it’s hard to land in a spot where the Jets come out on top. There’s always, obviously, the chance a multi-turnover game from the Bills offense wrecks things or some unexpected injury.
If the Jets have any “I didn’t think they were this good” potential, it’s on the offensive line. There are four brand new starters, including behemoth left tackle Mekhi Becton who’s been everything the Jets could ask from a first round pick (Eric Wood also loves the former Louisville star).
Could the Jets get a running game going, spin the clock and keep Sam Darnold clean enough to win ugly? Sure, it’s possible. But there ain’t no way I’m picking it. Give me the Bills 30-13. (My Buffalo Kickoff Live pick will be 23-9, but I’ve seen enough since from Vegas smarts to think picking overs is the right call).