You would be hard pressed to remember a more anticipated Buffalo Bills regular season than this one. It is tough to believe we are at the end of the regular season already. The NFL’s first 17-game regular season flew by. While it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the Bills, they enter their regular season finale with a chance to accomplish their regular season goal: win back-to-back AFC East titles. Let’s dive into the Bills’ ninth home game of the season.
The Last Five
Bills 45 Jets 17 (2021)
Bills 18 Jets 10 (2020)
Bills 27 Jets 17 (2020)
Jets 13 Bills 6 (2019)
Bills 17 Jets 16 (2019)
While the Bills’ dominance over the Miami Dolphins has been highly noted during since Sean McDermott took over, his impressive record against the Jets has often been overlooked. McDermott is 6-3 in his first nine meetings against the division rival. One of those losses, the 2019 season finale, was a meaningless game for the Bills. Most recently, the Bills dominated the Jets back in November one week after an embarrassing loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
What To Watch For: Buffalo Bills
Finish The Job
It looked bleak sitting at 7-6 last month and having to rely on an additional Patriots loss. However, the Buffalo Bills are 60 minutes away from winning their second straight AFC East title. The Bills have faltered in winnable games this season. With the Jaguars loss still puzzling fans, it would be foolish to say the Bills have the division in the bag already. I am sure the Bills know it will take 60 minutes of complimentary football to wrap up the division. With the ability to win the division at home, I do not think the Bills will suffer another inexplicable loss.
Get Out Healthy
If you were to talk to fans from any of the teams that have already clinched playoff berths you are likely to hear the same thing: “whatever happens, I hope nobody gets hurt.” While the Bills don’t have the luxury of resting their starters the entire game, Sean McDermott will have some choices to make if his team builds a considerable lead against New Jersey. Will we see Mitchell Trubisky for some of this game? I would suspect so.
Of course, the Bills’ health goes beyond Allen. The secondary has been playing exceptional, given the loss of Tre’Davious White on Thanksgiving Day. But they cannot afford another injury as they head into the playoffs. The offensive line has finally started to settle in, and another shuffle up front could prove to be costly next week. Late in last week’s game, Stefon Diggs took a hit to the helmet and went into the injury tent. While he cleared concussion protocol, that could have been a kill shot to their offense. I’d say if the Bills are up by 20 at halftime, the majority of the starters should sit the rest of the way.
The Other Games
My three “What To Watch For’s” are cheesy, but I can’t think of anything else that Bills fans will be watching for on Sunday. We could break down the X’s and O’s but, at this point, we know who the Bills are and how they match up against other teams. While we are hoping the players aren’t overlooking this Jets team, the majority of the fanbase is more concerned about who will be traveling to Orchard Park next weekend.
Games of significance this week are Kansas City @ Denver (Saturday), Cincinnati @ Cleveland, Indianapolis @ Jacksonville, and New England @ Miami. Right now, the Bills have the best chance to play the Patriots next weekend. We will know more on Saturday night. If the Chiefs lose to the Broncos later today, the Bills will most likely play the Colts. I will be keeping the playoff simulators and scenarios close by all weekend as the final puzzle pieces fall into place.
What To Watch For: New York Jets
The Bills are yet to face the Jets’ franchise quarterback as he was injured for their first matchup. Much like the trajectory that Allen took after his rookie season injury, Wilson has been better since returning from injury. He has cut back on his interceptions, throwing only four in his six starts after the injury, compared to nine in his first six starts. His final test as a rookie will come against the league’s best statistical defense. The Bills secondary is first in passer rating, completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdowns, and yards per game allowed. Pitifully, they are third-best in interceptions. Slackers.
The turnover of AFC East quarterbacks is now complete with the Jets starting over with Zach Wilson and the Patriots drafting the best rookie quarterback of all time and future Hall of Famer McCorkle Jones. It will be nice to see how Wilson fares against the Bills and for the Bills to get an idea of how to defend the quarterback they will see twice a year for the foreseeable future.
Dynamic Rookie Duo
If there is a place where the Bills defense is vulnerable, it is against the run. Rookie running back Michael Carter has a chance to go over 1,000 yards from scrimmage on Sunday. While Carter’s numbers aren’t eye popping, those who have watched Jets games this year have seen his explosiveness and big-play ability. With the Jets playing from behind quite often, Carter’s opportunities as a runner have been limited.
After clearing the concussion protocol this week, Carter should see a heavy workload on Sunday. If the Jets make some roster improvements in the offseason, I predict Carter breaks out in fantasy next year. Also returning from injury is rookie wide receiver Elijah Moore, who has quickly become a favorite target for Wilson. In weeks 8-13, Moore caught 34 passes for nearly 500 yards and found the endzone five times. The rookie trio of Wilson, Carter, and Moore should have Jets fans excited as the team wraps up their first year under Robert Saleh.
Prediction: Bills 36 Jets 20
The Buffalo Bills will win their first back-to-back AFC East titles since the ‘88/89-‘90/91 seasons. After this rollercoaster season, it would be fitting for the Bills to win the division at home in front of the fans. I predict the Bills will win this one easily. And that we will see Mitchell Trubisky for the majority of the second half. Additionally, I predict the Bills will end up playing the Patriots next Sunday Night as the four-seed at Highmark Stadium.