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 eighth iteration of this analysis for the Bills’ Week 9 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
The Bills may have beaten the Packers by 10 points but the second half left a lot to be desired. Most particularly, for the first time this season, Quarterback Josh Allen looked human. His 2 interceptions both occurred on poor decisions resulting in Buffalo scoring just 3 second half points. Still, this looks to be an aberration in an otherwise nearly flawless season. Through seven games Allen is averaging a league-leading 350.3 Net Yards per Game and 3.0 Touchdowns per game. In what may be deemed a “bounce back” game, Allen and the Bills offense will head to New Jersey to take on a Jets defense that is playing surprisingly well at the midpoint of the season.
In the past few seasons, the Jets have been devoid of talent in the secondary, something they addressed in the most recent offseason. Jordan Whitehead (S) and D.J. Reed (CB) were each free agent signings, Sauce Gardner (CB) was selected 4th overall, and Lamarcus Joyner (S) returned from injury in 2021.
This complete overhaul in the secondary has paid dividends, as New York ranks 5th in Passer Rating against (77.7) and 8th in Pass Defense DVOA (-3.8%). The Cornerback position has been most impressive where Reed and Gardner are joined by slot corner Michael Carter producing a Passer Rating against of just 64.6 on 123 targets. This week, those three will be tasked with slowing down Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, and whoever lines up in the slot for the Bills (McKenzie/Shakir/Hines).
Buffalo has had an advantage over every secondary they have played in 2022 and while it may surprise some, the advantage this week may be their lowest of the season.
Making life easier on the Jets’ secondary is a pass rush that is comparable to the Bills. New York’s blitz rate is 28th most in the NFL (15.6%) but they are producing the 3rd highest pressure rate (26.4%). The trio of Carl Lawson (DE), John Franklin-Myers (DE), and Quinnen WIlliams (DT) have been a problem for opposing OLs accounting for 46 pressures and 12.5 sacks.
This is concerning for a Bills team that’s coming off their worst pass-pro game of the season. Against Green Bay, Josh Allen was pressured on a season-high 20.0% of his dropbacks. It’s no surprise that Allen’s three worst games of the Year (Green Bay, Baltimore, and Miami) are his three most pressured – which provides the Jets a recipe to contain the Bills’ offense on Sunday.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏👏
Bills Rush Offense vs. Jets Rush Defense
Over the past four games, Devin Singletary has been one of the most efficient RBs in the NFL. He is one of 20 RBs averaging 80.0+ scrimmage yards per game over that span, doing so with the 2nd fewest touches (Singletary – 58, Tony Pollard – 50). Singletary has more than earned the title of RB1 for Buffalo, but that didn’t stop the Bills from attempting to improve the RB position at the trade deadline.
The result was Buffalo executing a trade with Indianapolis to acquire Nyheim Hines – who projects to be Buffalo’s primary receiving threat out of the backfield. After moving on from Zack Moss, the Bills now have a trio of Singletary, Hines, and rookie James Cook – which is a more than sufficient group of ball carriers for the remainder of the 2022 season.
Against the Jets, the Bills RB trio could struggle to move the ball consistently on the ground. New York is giving up just 3.8 Yards per Rush Attempt, the 2nd fewest in the NFL. A primary reason for that is Defensive Tackle Quinnen Williams, who at the midpoint of the season is an unquestioned First Team All-Pro DT. A force in the trenches, Williams’ ability to dominate double teams makes life more difficult for opposing RBs and easier for their LBs. This means the Jets trio of C.J. Mosely, Quincy Williams, and Kwon Alexander are often able to run free and make plays on opposing RBs. One of the more underappreciated groups in the NFL, the Jets bet on a low floor for their LBs and a high ceiling and are currently receiving the latter.
Buffalo’s inability to move the ball traditionally on the ground may necessitate Josh Allen to use his legs more this week. In games that Allen has finished against the Jets, he is averaging 8.5 carries per game and 53.8 rushing yards. New York looked to address that this season by re-enforcing their front seven and bringing in supposed “Josh Allen Stopper”, Safety Jordan Whitehead.
Whitehead’s athleticism has spurred the Jets to contain mobile Quarterbacks resulting in outcomes like Lamar Jackson rushing for just 17 yards and Mitch Trubisky/Kenny Pickett for just 16 yards. By spying Josh Allen this weekend the Jets will look to produce a similar outcome, an outcome that could keep the Bills high powered offense from progressing down the field.
EDGE: Jets 👏👏👏
Josh Allen's legs have killed the #Jets – he's averaging 53.8 rush YPG against them in 6 starts
Finally, they might have their Josh Allen stopper in Jordan Whitehead pic.twitter.com/WGWLWZyJf9
— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) March 16, 2022
Bills Pass Defense vs. Jets Pass Offense
While the Jets Pass Defense has been very good this season, the Bills have been even better.
While playing a schedule featuring games against the last 4 MVPs (Jackson, Mahomes, Rodgers), Buffalo is giving up the 3rd lowest Passer Rating at just 73.8. They have done this while dealing with a major injury bug, also – already losing Micah Hyde for the season, while concern for All-Pro Safety Jordan Poyer grows due to another injury.
The result is some combination of Damar Hamlin, Jaquan Johnson, and/or Dean Marlowe likely taking the field Sunday at the Safety positions for Buffalo. Where the Bills may be in for a secondary boon is at the Cornerback position where All-Pro Cornerback Tre White’s return seems imminent. It’s still up in the air whether or not White returns this weekend but against the Jets Quarterback, it’s likely he won’t be needed.
That Quarterback is the Jets’ second-year player, Zach Wilson. Wilson’s rookie season was among the worst of all time as his 25.14 QuBeR ranked 897th since 1994. Year two hasn’t been much better for Wilson as through five games his QuBeR of 29.93 would be good for 851st.
His inability to find open receivers downfield last week against the Patriots exposed his propensity to make bad decisions resulting in 3 interceptions. Wilson has produced these poor numbers despite having a solid stable of pass catchers in players like Garrett Wilson (WR), Tyler Conklin (TE), and Corey Davis (WR).
Wilson has proven to be the most dangerous of the bunch as a threat before and after the catch, while Conklin and Davis have been dependable players when on the field. Add these three to Michael Carter’s (RB) ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and Wilson needs to be much more efficient with the football if he intends to alter the perception of his detractors.
Against the Bills’ Palms Scheme that would be difficult for any Quarterback, succeeding against the Buffalo’s pass rush is even more difficult. Von Miller, Greg Rousseau, and Ed Oliver, among others, have the talent to test even the best of offensive lines, something the Jets simply don’t possess. Injuries to Mekhi Becton (T), George Fant (T), and Alijah Vera-Tucker (G) have left the Jets scrambling to sustain their pass-pro. This has resulted in players like Nate Herbig (RG), Cedric Ogbuehi (T), and Mike Remmers (T) being forced into action.
The Bills should be able to cause issues for the Jets up front because of this, thereby forcing Zach Wilson off his spot and into quick decisions. This means Wilson making unplanned throws and testing the integrity of Buffalo’s zone coverage – something that very few Quarterbacks have historically been able to do successfully.
EDGE: Bills 👏👏👏👏👏
Bills Rush Defense vs. Jets Rush Offense
There is an open debate among NFL and Bills fans about whether or not the Bills’ Run Defense was exposed against the Packers. It wasn’t. Up by three scores against Green Bay in the second half, the Bills implemented a pseudo protect scheme with the intention of preventing Green Bay from making big plays. The Packers countered this by surprisingly running the ball consistently which had the added benefit for Buffalo of running the clock. Green Bay would finish the game having rushed for 208 yards but in doing so ran out of time to mount an effective comeback. In situations where Buffalo is required to slow down the run, they have proven more than capable of doing so and against the Jets, they will need to do just that.
The biggest blow to the Jets’ season thus far has been the season-ending injury to standout RB Breece Hall. Prior to going down Hall was among the front runners for Offensive Rookie of the Year and is now set to miss the remainder of the season. This led to the Jets trading for the Jaguars’ James Robinson, who they now pair with second-year RB Michael Carter, forming an above-average backfield.
Carter is the more agile of the duo, while Robinson is the more explosive. Their skill sets should allow them to produce yardage regardless of the OL play in front of them and therefore test the Bills LBs in Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano. Neither may represent a back capable of hitting a homerun but each can give the Jets consistent singles and doubles.
The Jets will need to rely on Carter and Robinson to win this game but will also attempt to gain some bonus yards on the ground through their Quarterback and/or gadget plays. Coming out of college Zach Wilson’s athleticism was a major selling point, but through 1.5 seasons he has just 229 rushing yards.
Still, with Wilson’s recent struggles through the air, it wouldn’t be surprising if he were to tuck the ball and run more this week in an effort to extend drives and reduce turnovers. The Jets may also look to get All-Pro returner Braxton Berrios more involved in the offense. Through eight games, Berrios has just 7 rushes but is averaging 11.7 yards per attempt. If New York wants to slow down the Bills’ pass rush, handing the ball off to Berrios on some jet sweeps may be the perfect opportunity to accomplish just that.
EDGE: Jets 👏
Bills Special Teams vs. Jets Special Teams
The NFL XP was moved back to the 15-yard line in 2015. Since then, the record for consecutive XPs made is 112 by Justin Tucker. The NFL’s longest active streak belongs to Tyler Bass at 95. In just his third season, Bass has become one of the league’s most automatic kickers. Nearly as automatic is Buffalo’s rarely-used Punter, Sam Martin.
Martin has just 13 punts this season but is averaging a respectable 46.4 Gross Yards per Punt and 41.8 Net Yards per Punt. Both Martin and Bass have been staples of the Bills’ special teams this season, but where they will likely see a change against the Jets is at Return. Expect newly acquired Nyheim Hines to return punts for the Bills, where he is averaging 10.1 Y/PR this season, while Isaiah McKenzie continues to return Kicks.
For the Jets, Greg “the Leg” Zuerlein handles Kicking duties where he has made 32 of 36 kicks this season with all of his misses coming from 35+. Punter Braden Mann has also been dependable for the Jets averaging 47.5 Gross Yards per Punt and 42.5 Net Yards per Punt on his 40 attempts. Where the Jets Special Teams jump to the next level is via All-Pro returner Braxton Berrios. Heading into their 9th game of the season Berrios ranks 1st in Y/KR at 24.5 and 5th in Y/PR at 12.9. The Jets will likely need a few explosive plays to beat the Bills and Berrios is a player more than capable of providing just that.
EDGE: Jets 👏
Why Buffalo Will Lose
Since Week #1 the Jets Defense has been playing at a high level. This didn’t automatically translate into wins and/or positive stats but the speed and intensity at which they play jumped off the screen. Whether it be a DL that wreaks havoc, an LB group delivering big hits, or DBs shutting down opposing receivers the Jets defense has it all. In fact, as crazy as this sounds, the Jets may just have the best defense the Bills have faced thus far in 2022. A few timely turnovers and New York will keep this game closer than Bills Mafia would be comfortable with.
On offense, the Jets do have an issue at Quarterback but they are dangerous when it comes to running the ball. Both Michael Carter and James Robinson should be able to keep drives alive, which can result in points with the added benefit of keeping Josh Allen off the field.
The Jets will need to rely on Zach Wilson to make a play or two this game though and assuming the Jets coaching staff puts him in risk-averse situations, he may be capable. A big play to Garrett Wilson here and a pass or two to Conklin/Davis there and the Jets may be capable of putting up 20+ against the Buffalo Bills.
Why Buffalo Will Win
What Bills fans saw in the first half of Bills vs. Packers was the real Bills, not the second half. Josh Allen is still very much the MVP front-runner for good reason, as he has become the most indefensible player in the NFL. Add to that Stefon Diggs who has 5 games this season with 6+ catches, 100+ yards, and 1+ touchdowns, and opposing defenses are going to have issues. Sauce Gardner may be talented but is he ready to shut down possibly the best WR in the NFL. The Bills will put up points against the Jets the question is how many, and how few turnovers with they have?
On defense, Buffalo should dominate the Jets. The Bills can stack the box – even in their Nickel Base – thanks to the versatility of Taron Johnson. This alone should reduce the efficiency of the Jets’ rushing attack and force them to rely on Zach Wilson. To this point in his career, relying on Wilson hasn’t proven to be an effective strategy and this week should be no different. Buffalo’s pass rush will frustrate Wilson and their coverage schemes will confuse him. This means the Bills will force turnovers against the Jets the question is how many, and how few points will they score?
Prediction: Bills 28 – Jets 10
New York’s defense may be good enough to prevent the Bills from blowing them out but their offense just isn’t ready for this game. Barring a few defensive scores this should be an easy victory for the Bills but not one that will come without a few annoyances. The Jets’ defense is going to surprise a few Bills fans that aren’t ready to admit how good they are, but their offense will look every bit as abysmal as they have in seasons past, as long as Zach Wilson is lined up behind center.