The Game Matchups Preview series is dedicated to breaking down how the Buffalo Bills match up with their opponent in each game of the 2022 NFL Season. This series will look at five key matchups; Bills Pass Offense vs. Opponent Pass Defense, Bills Rush Offense vs. Opponent Rush Defense, Bills Pass Defense vs. Opponent Pass Offense, Bills Rush Defense vs. Opponent Rush Offense, and Bills Special Teams vs. Opponent Special Teams. This entire analysis will conclude with three sections; “Why Buffalo Will Lose”, “Why Buffalo Will Win”, and a score prediction for the game.
Below I present 2022’s 13th iteration of this analysis for the Bills’ Week 14 clash versus the New York Jets. Included is a scale ranking the advantage in each matchup from 👏 (Minimal Advantage) to 👏👏👏👏👏 (Massive Advantage).
Bills Pass Offense vs. Jets Pass Defense
Angry Josh Allen is something of a mythical creature in Buffalo, but what if I told you that that mysticism is based in reality? Since 2020 when Allen takes on a team to which his Bills had most recently lost, he produces at an exceptionally high level. In 7 such games, Allen has accounted for 2574 Net Yards, 23 Touchdowns, 4 Turnovers, and a QuBeR of 78.85.
Buffalo may need Angry Josh Allen to manifest the next two weeks as Buffalo is set to take on two division rivals that have already beaten them this season. A loss in either of these games shrinks Buffalo’s margin for error, while a win in both all but secures the Bills’ third consecutive AFC East title. This stretch begins on Sunday at 1:00 PM in Orchard Park against a surprisingly dangerous team, the New York Jets.
In Round #1 of the 2022 Bills vs. Jets matchup, the Jets held the Bills to just 183 Net Passing Yards and Josh Allen to a Passer Rating of only 46.8. Sticky coverage by the Jets outside CBs, Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed, put the clamps on Bills WRs, Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis, while Jets slot CB, Michael Carter, helped shut down production out of the slot for Buffalo. The Jets safeties also played exceptionally well holding Allen to just 1/7 on passes of 20+ air yards on their way to leading Allen to his worst game since an ugly loss to Jacksonville in 2021. In Round #2 the Jets will look for similar production from their talented secondary, while the Bills will counter with some adjustments. Look for more short passes over the middle from Buffalo to the likes of Devin Singletary, Nyheim Hines, James Cook, and Dawson Knox. While the Jets’ DBs have proved dominant against the pass, New York’s LBs have been average at best.
The secondary will be difficult for the Bills to navigate and the trenches won’t be any more passable. The Jets’ dominance up front begins with Defensive Tackle, Quinnen Williams, who is well on his way to a 1st Team All-Pro selection. Players that play the 1-Tech/3-Tech are not expected to produce a high number of sacks, yet Williams has 0.5+ Sacks in 9 games this season and a total of 9.0 Sacks thus far. He’s joined on the DL most often by Carl Lawson and John Franklin-Myers who combine for another 10.0 Sacks producing concern for opposing Offensive Coordinators. The Bills trio of Saffold (LG), Morse (C), and Bates (RG) will be challenged by Williams in the middle, but the Jets may have a greater mismatch on the edge. With starting LT, Dion Dawkins, and Swing Tackle, David Quessenberry, both working back from injury, there is a very real possibility Buffalo may need to rely on a 3rd string Tackle to help solidify the trenches against a dominant Jets front.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏
Bills Rush Offense vs. Jets Rush Defense
The Buffalo Bills’ streak of 17 consecutive games with 100+ rushing yards is the longest in the NFL (Falcons/Ravens are second at 11). Much of this consistent success on the ground is owed to Josh Allen, but as of late, their Running Backs have kicked it into another gear. Over the past 3 weeks, the combination of James Cook and Devin Singletary is averaging 121 Rushing Yards per Game, as Buffalo has finally found a complement to Allen’s ability to throw the ball. As the season progresses and the weather worsens, what was once thought to be a weakness for the Bills may very well make their already dangerous offense even more potent.
Against the Jets, it may prove difficult for the Bills to lengthen their streak of games with 100+ rushing yards. New York has given up that total just 6 times this season while holding teams to a 4.1 Y/A with the 11th best Run Defense DVOA (-12.3%). MLB C.J. Mosely gets much of the shine for this while his companions at linebacker deserve significantly more credit than they have received. OLB’s Quincy Williams and Kwon Alexander have been surprisingly dominant this season. Williams, the more athletic of the two, is a quick sideline-to-sideline linebacker who helps clean up RBs that escape the Jets’ Defensive Line. Alexander is having somewhat of a career resurgence with the Jets as a player, who at one time, was your proverbial do-it-all linebacker. Rotating the two of them will provide the Jets with the talent and stamina to keep up with whoever is coming out of the backfield for Buffalo.
For most teams, “whoever is coming out of the backfield” is almost exclusively referencing Running Backs, for the Bills that’s about 75% true. Josh Allen currently accounts for 27.7% of rushing attempts and 35.5% of rushing yards for the Bills as one of the premier runners in the NFL. This all but mandates that the opposition spy Allen at all times, allowing the Bills to be more effective in RPOs.
Expect a significant amount of option work from Buffalo against the Jets on Sunday as they attempt to force players like Quincy Williams onto their heels. Finding success in this regard often leads to opposing safeties creeping into the box and opening up downfield throws. Against the Patriots last Thursday this was highly evident and while the Bills didn’t (need to) take advantage of it, don’t be surprised if the game flow on Sunday leverages the option game to open up some deep passes.
EDGE: Jets 👏
Bills Pass Defense vs. Jets Pass Offense
Questions have been whirling for the Bills’ secondary the past week after the possible benching of 2022 first-round pick, Kaiir Elam. The result was the recent 53-Man addition, Xavier Rhodes, leading all outside corners with 87% of snaps played against the Patriots. The 32-year-old Rhodes has been impressive for the Bills in his two appearances, considering his age (32) and short tenure with the team. He’s given up just 49 yards in those 2 games while being targeted only 7 times. The rotation against the Jets will be of high interest as the snap share between Xavier Rhodes, Dane Jackson, Tre White, and Kaiir Elam will be heavily monitored and equally scrutinized. Buffalo will be looking for the best combination at Cornerback for the stretch run of the season while the Jets will be looking to take advantage of inconsistent groupings on the outside.
Since the last meeting between the Bills and Jets, the latter has seen a major shakeup at Quarterback. After a disastrous 70 net-yard performance against the Patriots and an equally awful press conference, the Jets elected to bench Zach Wilson in favor of Mike White. White has answered the bell by throwing for 300+ yards in each of his first 2 games while producing a respectable 89.5 Passer Rating.
Much less erratic than Wilson, White relies on quick short passes to keep the ball moving for the Jets. 92.9% of his passes have traveled under 20 air yards while 76.5% have gone under 10 air yards. This plays directly into the skillset of his two young receivers, Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore, each of whom excels at getting open quickly. Add to that pass-catching back Ty Johnson as well as a solid Tight End duo in C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin and the Jets’ pass plan is clear. Attack short, and quick, and rely on their receivers to make plays after the catch.
The Bills will try to use that exact plan against Mike White and the Jets by goading him into bad passing lanes. What makes that more feasible for the Bills is a defensive line that even sans Von Miller should find success. In their first full game without Miller, the Bills were still able to pressure Patriots Quarterback, Mac Jones, on 21.1% of dropbacks as Greg Rousseau, Boogie Basham, and Shaq Lawson picked up production off the edge. Just like the Bills, this will be cause for concern for the Jets with their Left Tackle position in flux due to injuries to Duane Brown and George Fant resulting in a possible 3rd (arguably 4th) string LT protecting Mike White’s blindside. Add to that Ed Oliver’s recent ascension and nearly identical concerns that the Jets will levy on the Bills passing attack the Bills will levy on the Jets.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏👏
Bills Rush Defense vs. Jets Rush Offense
In 2019, the Bills had the 22nd-ranked Rush Defense by DVOA, in 2020 the 17th, in 2021 the 11th, and now in 2022 the 3rd. The come-up took longer than most in Buffalo wanted, but the Bills have finally improved upon what has been their greatest weakness in years past. The additions of DaQuan Jones, Jordan Phillips, Tim Settle, and Shaq Lawson have paid dividends up front, while the second level has improved as well. Both Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano are playing their best football, when healthy, while Damar Hamlin has filled in well for injured All-Pro Micah Hyde. Add to all of this expert game planning by DC Leslie Frazier and suddenly the great running teams in the NFL are having their greatest struggles against the Buffalo Bills.
In facing the New York Jets, the Bills will have the unique challenge of facing a deep committee of Running Backs. With Breece Hall out for the season, most of the touches have been going to Michael Carter and Zonovan “Bam” Knight as of late, while James Robinson has yet to catch on in New York. Carter impressed in his rookie season, amassing 639 yards on 147 rushes for a Y/A of 4.3. A back that is good at everything and not bad/elite at anything has been a consistent contributor over that period and now, when healthy, is the primary option for the Jets.
Bam Knight has been the surprise of the group, as the undrafted rookie has amassed 159 yards in his first 2 NFL games. Knight has exceptional vision which allowed him to excel as a kick returner in college – a skillset he is now using to find running lanes out of the backfield in the NFL. He has emerged as a dangerous option for the Jets, however, he did have a propensity to fumble in college, something worth keeping an eye on Sunday.
In the first game against the Bills, the Jets were able to grind out 174 yards on the ground, so why should it be any different on Sunday? In that game, the Bills were without arguably their two best defensive players in Jordan Poyer and Matt Milano and while Milano’s availability remains up in the air Poyer is expected to play. The combination of Poyer and Milano in the 2nd and 3rd level of the defense helps to prevent big runs against Buffalo. Often times, Poyer will play up in the box on rushing downs, providing the Bills with a pseudo 4-4 defense as slot corner Taron Johnson almost always plays the faux third LB in Buffalo’s base nickel defense. With the Jets expected to run a decent amount this game in an effort to maintain the clock and keep the crowd noise to a minimum, the presence of one or both of Poyer and Milano has the ability to make a major difference. A major difference that very well may determine the outcome of this game.
EDGE: Bills 👏
Bills Special Teams vs. Jets Special Teams
Tyler Bass continued his All-Pro campaign against the Patriots in Week #13, drilling all 3 of his XPs and adding a 48-yard FG. He has become an unsung hero for the Bills as one of their most consistent performers week in and week out. Like Bass, Punter Sam Martin has been underappreciated as well. While he is averaging just 2.25 Punts per game he has impressed with a 48.1 gross Y/P and 41.7 net Y/P. Lastly, newcomer Nyheim Hines has been impressive in returns for Buffalo flipping the field multiple times and averaging 10.5 Y/PR and 21.3 Y/KR. The Bills’ core special teamers are among the NFL’s best, and that’s before considering their elite kick coverage specialists.
For the Jets, Greg “the Leg” Zuerlein has been impressive in his eleventh season in the NFL. At 23/27 on FGs, while missing just 1 XP, he may not be in the same tier as Tyler Bass but at worst, is in the one directly below. Punting for the Jets has been slightly less impressive, with Braden Mann holding a 47.5 gross Y/P and a 41.5 net Y/P. While those numbers are in the same ball park as the Bills Sam Martin the 84-yard return that Mann gave up to Marcus Jones, albeit in bad weather, does work against him. Last is 2021 All-Pro return man Braxton Berrios, who may not be having the same season in 2022 that he had last year, but he is still a weapon. He’s currently averaging 12.4 Y/PR and 23.6 Y/KR however, it seems like only a matter of time until he breaks off a massive game-changing return for the Jets.
EDGE: Bills 👏
Why Buffalo Will Lose
The Jets already beat the Bills so why can’t they do it again? In fact, Mike White is a massive upgrade at Quarterback over the travesty that was Zach Wilson. White plays more directly into the Jets gameplan and has allowed Garrett Wilson to begin to show why the Jets selected him 10th overall. This sets up a situation where the Jets should be able to move the ball on the Bills by relying on the YAC of their receivers. Add to that a solid duo of running backs out of the backfield and the Jets have the talent to push north of the 21-point barrier.
On defense, the Jets are dominant, and it took a lot of the NFL too long to realize that. Even in Week #1 against the Baltimore Ravens, the Jets played fast, physical, and dominant, giving up 24 points primarily because most 50/50 balls didn’t go their way. As they have gotten deeper into the season, they have only gotten better as their young talent begins to gel more and more. Sauce and Reed have an argument for the best CB duo in the NFL while Quinnen Williams is a certified game wrecker up front. How do you beat Josh Allen? Pressure up the middle and sticky coverage deep.
Why Buffalo Will Win
The Bills played arguably their worst game of the season against the Jets. That’s not to take anything away from New York, but moreso to say that it’s not often that Josh Allen plays bad football anymore. Allen has slowly been recovering from that game, both physically and mentally, lining up for this game to be his re-emergence as the top-tier Quarterback he is. The Bills are angry about that loss earlier in the season and as mentioned earlier, when Buffalo plays angry they are playing at their best. That means Josh Allen should take his game to another level and with a running game that is only getting better, the Bills are set to test this elite Jets defense.
On the other side of the ball, Mike White is the perfect quarterback for Leslie Frazier and Sean McDermott to toy with. Going into the game they know the Jets’ plan, as does everyone else, so expect them to build some counters into a defense that is built to do just that. With Jordan Poyer and possibly Matt Milano also seeing the field this week what’s an improved Jets Offense due to the White for Wilson move will likely struggle more this week than they did earlier this season. Oh yea, that All-Pro CB the Bills have that didn’t play against the Jets earlier this year is back, and getting healthier, meaning New York will have to contend with Tre White.
Prediction: Bills 28 – Jets 17
Last time around I picked the Bills to win 28-10, and while that was very clearly wrong, the logic was sound. This time around it might be a bit tighter but I expect this game to be one the Bills dominate. That’s not to say the Jets can’t win, they obviously can, but with the Bills’ eyes on a bigger prize which may mandate them running the table, they will be all in on this one. Angry Josh Allen, a healthier defense, and a rabid fan base have all the makings of a two-score win including 3 offensive touchdowns for the Bills as well as a defensive one.