Of course, the Bills could very well win this game without excelling in EVERY area, but their chances of pulling out a week 1 victory should be greatly enhanced if they can win each of these battles. Steve Mathes will be releasing his full game preview later this week, but we are here to provide a Buffalo wing style appetizer to get fans ready for week 1!
1st Down – The Turnover Battle
As has typically been the case in recent Bills vs. Jets matchups, it goes without saying that the turnover battle should play a large role in the outcome of the game. When the Bills beat the Jets in Week 10 last year, they won the turnover battle 2-0. In their loss at home to the Jets in Week 14, the Bills gave away the football three times and lost the turnover battle 3-2.
This game should have a slightly different feel than either of the matchups from last season, as both Josh Allen and Sam Darnold have high hopes and high expectations heading into their second seasons. While the Jets defense is not spectacular, they do have a few playmakers within each layer of their unit. Leonard Williams, C.J. Mosley, and Jamal Adams are apparent cornerstone pieces of a defense that looks to improve on a 2018 unit that finished 19th in the NFL in takeaways. The Jets are hoping that the addition of rookie Quinnen Williams and defensive quarterback C.J. Mosley will allow them to improve on their lackluster defensive numbers from a year ago.
The Bills finished 2018 with an impressive 27 takeaways, which was good enough to rank 8th in the NFL. If there is one area of the game that should setup well for the Bills, it is the ability to create turnovers, especially given the continuity of both the personnel and coaching staff on that side of the ball.
2nd Down – The Bills Running Game without LeSean McCoy
Much has already been written about the Bills releasing LeSean McCoy, so the focus now needs to shift on how the Bills plan to deploy and utilize their new-look backfield. As of Monday morning (Sep. 2nd), the Bills are listing Frank Gore atop the running back depth chart.
Obviously, the prevailing thought from analysts and social media outlets is that Devin Singletary is likely in line to lead this backfield in touches during 2019. Singletary’s skillset appears to most closely aligned with McCoy’s, leaving Frank Gore’s projected role in the offense as relatively unchanged.
One of the most positive outcomes of the LeSean McCoy release is that veteran T.J. Yeldon earned a spot on the final 53-man roster. The Bills Guys have been supporters of T.J. Yeldon’s play throughout the offseason and into training camp. Yeldon should play a role on passing downs when the Bills want to give Singletary a breather. Yeldon’s ability in the passing game, both from a protection and receiving standpoint, should be an asset to the Bills in this game.
Having said that, I would expect that Frank Gore could play a larger than expected role in this game against the Jets, given this will be Devin Singletary’s first real game as a pro, and also given that Yeldon’s role will likely be limited to passing downs.
3rd Down – The Bills Run Defense Against Le’Veon Bell
The Jets do not have the same caliber run-blocking offensive line that Le’Veon Bell enjoyed during his time with the Steelers. With that said, Bell should still be one of the league’s top backs even after sitting out for a year. The Bills struggled immensely in 2016 the last time they faced Bell, but it’s not necessarily fair to expect the same outcome at the start of 2019.
The Buffalo Bills defense is much improved since Rex Ryan’s last year as their head coach, and Bell is obviously now with a new team. These changes alone should set up a clean slate for both sides to make a new mark on this individual battle.
If the Bills can keep Bell contained on early downs, and avoid giving up chunk plays in the screen game, they will have a good chance to keep the Jets in 3rd and long situations throughout the game. The Bills defense should thrive in obvious passing down situations, given the strength of their overall unit is the secondary.
4th Down – Josh Allen’s Poise and Command of the Offense
Make no mistake, the Jets faithful will bring the noise in week 1, and I expect the environment to be difficult and loud for the Bills. The outcome of this matchup could set up early season momentum in either direction for both teams, and the Bills can make a huge statement by beating a division opponent on the road.
It seems like an obvious point, but Josh Allen will need to show poise and confidence throughout this entire game, as I expect the score will be close throughout. Translating his solid preseason into a successful week 1 performance will go a long way into deciding the outcome of this game.
Ideally, the Bills can rely on their solid defense and a steady running game to help Allen, but there will be times throughout this game where he will need to make big plays with either his arm or his legs. I will be keenly observing how Allen handles the pressure, with special focus on his decision making when plays break down.
Protecting the football is of the utmost importance (see 1st down), and Allen needs to make good decisions with his throws (No errant throws across the body, please!) for the Bills to have an excellent chance to win this game.