The Buffalo Bills travel down to Duval County for what many are assuming will be one of their easiest games of the year. The Bills aren’t new to coming into games as huge favorites. They have already done so a few times in this year. After sweeping the Dolphins and dominating the Texans, can the Bills continue to beat up on the teams they are expected to beat? After a Week 8 highlighted by upsets, the Bills should remember that they must bring their best, even when playing the bottom feeders of the league. Let’s take a look at the matchup.
The Last Five
Bills 24 Jaguars 21 (2018)
Jaguars 10 Bills 3 (2017 – AFC Wild Card)
Bills 28 Jaguars 21 (2016)
Jaguars 34 Bills 31 (2015)
Bills 27 Jaguars 20 (2013)
This has been an extremely even series, as the Bills lead the all-time series 9-8. Even the games have always been close, as indicated above. The most recent time these two teams played, the Josh Allen arrival game, is the one that most fans remember. Allen was coming back from injury and dominated the game both in the air and on the ground. His touchdown pass that day to Robert Foster was the first of the countless “wow” moments we have come to love from him. It was also his first game against Jalen Ramsey, who he schooled quite easily that day. In an interesting stat, the average margin of victory in their 17 matchups is only 7.5 points; that includes 9 games decided by 4 points or less. Outside of only a few games, these two play each other tough.
What To Watch For: Buffalo Bills
Breakout Game for Stefon? – The Bills are winning. The team is a favorite to earn the #1 seed in the AFC. But yet, Stefon Diggs is well below his record-setting pace from last season. While many fans believe him when he says winning is all that he cares about, it would still be nice to have a breakout game from your #1 WR. Last year, Diggs earned the title of best receiver in football. This year, with his numbers down, you aren’t hearing as much noise outside of Buffalo saying the same. While the Bills have larger goals this season than re-setting franchise records they broke last year, there is some question as to why they aren’t force feeding the ball to Diggs much like they did last week to Beasley. You’d have to think one of these games will be a breakout for Diggs. And this week could be as good as any.
Play above Jacksonville – The Bills have faced inferior opponents often this year. I’m thinking of the Dolphins twice, the Texans, and the Washington Football Team. For fans who watch the game and not just the box score, in each of those games (outside of the Washington game) the case could be made that the Bills didn’t play up to their potential. Certainly not last week. Even in their 35 and 40 point shutout wins, the Bills offense seemed to be unsatisfied with their performance. It is a normal trend in sports to play down to the level of your opponent, and I think it is something the Bills have done a couple of times this year. The Bills have a few more opportunities to truly dominate another team on offense with games against the Jaguars and Jets still looming.
Cody Ford’s final shot? – With Spencer Brown sidelined last week, the Buffalo Bills opted to shuffle things around on the line and introduce Ike Boettger to the starting lineup. As the injuries mount, with Jon Feliciano now week-to-week, Cody Ford is going to have one final shot at proving he deserves a roster spot beyond this season. Ford will most likely get the start at guard this week. And, given the Jaguars’ pressure (or lack thereof) inside, he has a chance for a good outing. The Bills are adamant that they have not given up on Cody Ford. Personally, this smells a lot like the Zay Jones situation. The Bills said all the right things until they traded him away. As of today, I think the Bills are done with Ford. Will a strong showing this week be enough to turn the tide?
What To Watch For: Jacksonville Jaguars
Trevor Lawrence – Despite his rookie-season struggles, how can Lawrence not be someone to watch? The most highly coveted quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, according to media hype, was gifted to the Jaguars. Rookie seasons are often difficult and have their ups and downs, but for Lawrence it has been much more down than up. It is difficult to understand what Jacksonville is doing with Lawrence on a weekly basis. Most teams like to ease in their rookie quarterbacks. But, so far, Lawrence has two starts with more than 50 pass attempts. Many would say that is not ideal in any gameplan, not to mention for a rookie. In his first career start, he had 51 attempts and is coming off of a season-high 54 attempts last week.
With the Buffalo Bills offense as potent as it is, it is hard not to think he will have another heavy workload this week. For reference, Josh Allen has only surpassed the 50 attempt mark once: Week 1 against Pittsburgh. With a rookie QB, growing pains are expected. But I don’t think Jags fans were expecting this many growing pains, especially with the promise of an electric Lawrence-Meyer combination. Still, at any moment we can see the breakout game from Lawrence. Three years ago this November, we saw the breakout Josh Allen game against the Jaguars. What’s to say this week can’t be the time for Lawrence?
No, not THAT Josh Allen… not the one I’ve heard looks good in shorts. The “other” Josh Allen. Oddly enough, on consecutive years, Josh Allen was drafted with the 7th pick in the NFL Draft. Allen is leading the Jaguars in sacks and pressures this year. The Jags’ best pass rusher will face off against Dion Dawkins. Dawkins has had an up and down year as he returns from an off season COVID-19 diagnosis and subsequent recovery. If there is a player (and due to their lack of talent, I mean quite literally one player) who can impact this game on defense for the Jaguars, it is Josh Allen. Fortunately for the Bills, Dawkins is playing well enough to handle Allen. Even if Allen wins 25% of his snaps against Dawkins, I don’t think it will be enough to move the needle in this one.
Bills 41 Jaguars 17 I would really be surprised if we don’t see a dominate performance by the Bills offense in this game. Last year, the Buffalo Bills came out of their bye week (also wearing their throwbacks) with a lackluster performance against the Chargers. After that game the team and offense exploded down the stretch. I think we see something similar tomorrow from the Bills. This will be the first game that the Bills can truly look back on and say they domianted offensively. I think Diggs will finally have his ”big game”. The Bills will continue to take care of business against the teams they are supposed to beat up on.