Game Preview: Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets
After a lackluster and unsatisfying win against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football, and with the smoke finally clear from one the busiest NFL trade deadlines ever, the Buffalo Bills will look to grab their first divisional win of the season in New Jersey. Let’s dive into the matchup.
The Last Five
Bills 27 Jets 10 (2021)
Bills 45 Jets 17 (2021)
Bills 18 Jets 10 (2020)
Bills 27 Jets 17 (2020)
Jets 13 Bills 6 (2019)
The Bills have had their way with their AFC East companions since 2020, and the Jets are no exception. Buffalo is riding a four-game win streak against Jersey and dominated the Jets in both games last year. Buffalo has faced Wilson just once in his young career: the regular season finale last January, when the Bills clinched the AFC East. You can bet that Wilson will be eager to face the Bills on Sunday, especially since the neighboring Sabres are having a mom’s road trip this weekend. (No word on if the Bills invited their moms to Jersey for the game this weekend, too.)
What To Watch For: Buffalo Bills
Finally Tre Day? – After almost a calendar year, Tre’Davious White looks ready to make his return to live football action. Since his ACL tear on Thanksgiving Day against the Saints, the Bills have played 15 football games (including the playoffs). They are 11-4 in those games without their All-Pro cornerback. Starting the season without White and playing two rookie corners in Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam seemed daunting going into the regular season and was easily the Bills’ biggest question mark.
However, seven games in, we can confidently say that the two rookies did a phenomenal job filling in. Injuries in the month of September forced both players into the lineup and the results have been resoundingly positive. As good as the Buffalo Bills defense has been, getting White back will only elevate the secondary play further. The Bills are deep at the cornerback position, and adding an All-Pro back into the mix on a team that is 6-1 and looks primed for the top spot in the AFC is a luxury that 31 other teams can only dream out.
Injuries are back – Heading into the bye, the Bills were finally looking healthy; the injury bug that plagued the defense early in the year was letting up a bit. Well… that didn’t last long. Here is the Bills’ injury report as of Thursday:
Based on Buffalo’s conservative approach to injuries, the goals for this season, and their opponent this week, I do not expect to see Milano, Miller, or Poyer suit up this weekend. And frankly, I don’t think there is a need for them to if they are at risk of re-injury. The Bills can beat the Jets without the aforementioned trio. Furthermore, at this point in the year, I think caution is the best option for some of the impact veterans that will be called upon in January and (hopefully) February.
Nyheim Hines – The fans wanted Brandon Beane to make a trade on Tuesday and, in the waning minutes before the deadline, Big Baller Beane pulled the trigger on two trades. One brought RB Nyheim Hines to Buffalo and sent Zach Moss to Indianapolis. The other which welcomed S Dean Marlowe back to the team. While Marlowe is a much needed addition to an injury-plagued safety corps, Hines was the flashy trade; the player fans will be eager to see.
In Hines, the Bills get the receiving back that they have so desperately sought out over the past few years. While I wouldn’t expect much from Hines with only two days of practice this week, I do think the Bills will get him a few touches. I am curious to see how James Cook’s role is impacted by Hines. It may take a few weeks for us to get that answer.
What To Watch For: New York Jets
Contender or Pretender? – Some of the luster has come off of the Jets this week following their loss to the Patriots. One week ago, the Jets were 5-2 with a massive opportunity to contend, with the Patriots (twice) and Bills sitting on their schedule over the next three weeks. Fast forward a week and the Jets need an upset win against an 11-point favorite in their own house to avoid the dreadful feeling that the wheels are about to fall off. From the Jets’ perspective, this game will act as a barometer of where they stack up in the AFC. A win against the AFC’s elite and a playoff berth in Robert Saleh’s second season is a definite possibility. With a loss on Sunday, the Jets will look like a team that capitalized on opposing backup quarterbacks and a favorable schedule over the first two months of the season.
Some Sauce for Diggs – Sauce Gardner, the fourth pick in this year’s draft, is living up to the hype so far for the Jets. Gardner is tied for the NFL lead with 12 passes defended this year. While Sauce’s productivity might be a result of the below-average quarterback play that he has faced, he still has to make a play when the ball is thrown his way. And he has certainly done that through eight games.
Robert Saleh’s plan for Gardner this week will be interesting. He could have him shadow Stefon Diggs and attempt to limit his impact on the game, something that nobody has not done so far this season. If there is a secondary capable of slowing down Diggs, it is very possible that it could be the Jets. The Jets secondary did limit Ja’Marr Chase to 29 yards and Tyreek Hill to 47 yards earlier this year. Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen will be their hardest test yet.
Is Zach Wilson The Answer? – Questions regarding Zach Wilson and his outlook as the Jets’ franchise quarterback have already been circulating around the fanbase. In today’s NFL, young quarterbacks are not given the luxury of time that they had in the past. Rookies are expected to play early in their careers, with winning coming not too far down the line after that.
Wilson is 7-11 as a starter in the NFL and, despite winning his first four games this season after returning from injury, Wilson has taken heat for his performance against the Patriots. Wilson threw three interceptions last week, costing his team a chance to win a crucial divisional game and move to 6-2 on the year. Following his worst game of the year, Wilson will be tasked with facing the NFL’s best defense. Another ugly showing from Wilson this week and things could get worse for him among the fan base.
Bills 36 Jets 21 While I do think that the Jets are much improved from previous years and are better than most expected them to be this year, I don’t think they are quite ready to take down Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. After a sloppy second half against the Packers, I suspect the Bills offense will put together a complete game. The Bills will get their first divisional win of the season and tighten their grip on the AFC East with a win in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon.
Featured Image: Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press