The Buffalo Bills are going to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at the New Era Field this Sunday. After looking at how the defense matches up versus its opponent’s offense, it’s time to flip sides and look at Josh Allen and company’s chances versus the loaded Jaguars defensive unit. Jacksonville has the 6th-best defense in the NFL in 2018, according to the Football Outsiders DVOA stat. On paper, it’s a huge mismatch versus the Bills’ 32nd-ranked offense, but their performance against the Jets and the return of their promising QB does give some hope to Buffalo. Let’s look at the matchups:
After being near the top of the league in all rushing categories the last three years, the Bills have just the 29th rushing attack in 2018. The offensive line’s struggles aren’t news at this point, and the lack of any type of consistency in the passing game obviously makes things worse. The good news is, for at least one day, the running game remembered the last few seasons’ performances versus the Jets. LeSean McCoy finally ran for more than 100 yards and scored his first TD on the year (and his second). With Chris Ivory out injured, Marcus Murphy took advantage of the opportunity and ran for 69 yards on a healthy 4.9 yards per carry average.
Bills WR Zay Jones does an excellent job of sealing off Jets S Jamal Adams on LeSean McCoy’s TD run on the 2nd play from scrimmage. Created the cutback lane. pic.twitter.com/JrqM4F9JS2
— Sal Capaccio 🏈 (@SalSports) November 13, 2018
Another important wrinkle inserted by OC Brian Daboll in the running game was the Jet motions run by Ray-Ray McCloud and especially recently-signed WR Isiah McKenzie. The new addition was able to gain 32 yards on just three carries, having a huge impact even when used just as a decoy. His speed opens up a lot of possibilities for Daboll in the play-calling department.
Last but not least, Josh Allen’s return adds another dimension in the running game. The rookie QB has 155 yards and three scores on the ground already and needs to be accounted for as a threat on the ground.
Josh Allen is an athletic quarterback. #Titans know this going into the game. They have to contain better. Kamalei Correa overpursues the run inside and allows Allen to break contain. Then Kendrick Lewis gets juked out of his shoes. Bills take an early 7-0 lead #TENvsBUF pic.twitter.com/MIc041wrXJ
— Justin Graver (@titansfilmroom) October 7, 2018
The Jags have the 8th-ranked rushing defense in DVOA and will present a huge challenge to Buffalo. Their front seven is absolutely loaded with talent, with a disruptive defensive line and linebackers who can fly to the ball. Old friend Marcell Dareus is getting some snaps at the three-technique DT position over Malik Jackson on some early downs, and the move is paying dividends against the run. The Jaguars allow only 3.6 yards per rush on average on first downs, tied for the 2nd-best mark in the league.
— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) November 19, 2018
Buffalo is coming off of its bye week, and Chris Ivory should be back for his revenge game. Shady finally looked like Shady and Daboll has more weapons to be creative with in the running game. Be that as it may, the Jaguars have the personnel to give fits to this Buffalo offense.
The biggest reason for the Bills’ offense finally looking good for the first time this season was Matt Barkley’s play. The free agent came in and offered the best QB performance by a Bills QB in 2018. The possibility of him being able to keep that level of play during a long stretch would be slim, so the decision to start Josh Allen is the right one for the team’s future. He will have a major challenge, though, against the Jaguars’ 7th-ranked passing defense.
Allen has the mobility to give problems to this defense, which could open up the passing game. The speed added at the WR group in McKenzie, Robert Foster, and newly signed Deonte Thompson, should help him versus the best competition he’ll face all year long. No other team has a pair of cornerbacks as talented as Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) November 19, 2018
The pair can shut down the passing options along both boundaries, not ideal for a QB who still wants to avoid the middle of the field at this point to decrease turnover opportunities. With Kelvin Benjamin a non-factor, it’ll be crucial for Foster or Thompson to beat one of those guys on deep passes. They need to respect the threat of the long ball or it could be a very long afternoon for the rookie QB. Ramsey is coming off of a two-interception performance and, after badmouthing the Bills’ QB early in the year, he will want to back up his words this weekend.
We hear about how WR Zay Jones has improved, but not many sites show you how he has improved. Things are a little different @TheAthleticBuf, we take you into the film room to show you what he has learned over the last year.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) November 21, 2018
The key matchup for Buffalo in the passing game is WR Zay Jones versus nickel CB D.J. Hayden, in the slot. Jones is coming off of his best game as a pro and should have the most favorable matchup next Sunday. The second-year receiver being able to get open on a consistent basis can make all the difference in the world, not just for Allen, but for the offense’s success as a whole. Jason Croom is another player who’s seeing his role grow since Charles Clay’s latest injury, but the Jags’ linebackers and safeties are capable of holding their own against the inexperienced tight end.
Jacksonville holds the advantage in this matchup, as they may have the most talented defense in the NFL. Buffalo’s offense’s latest performance gives hope to fans, but we can’t be so quick to forget how awful this unit has looked all year long. It’ll be a good test to see if Allen was able to take advantage of his time off and learn some lessons from the veteran QBs on the roster. In a game of defenses, he could be the difference between a Bills win and loss.