After a close loss versus the Dolphins in Miami, the Buffalo Bills will be back on the field Sunday, at home, taking on the New York Jets. The teams met each other four weeks ago, where we looked at the defensive and offensive matchups closely. Despite the majority of the matchups remaining the same, this time we’ll have the first Josh Allen versus Sam Darnold battle, which adds a lot of expectation to this game between two teams out of the playoff contention. With that, I’ll be focusing on what changed since the last tilt and how it can impact this week’s duel between the two division rivals at New Era Field.
Bills offense vs. Jets defense
In the previous matchup between these teams, the Bills’ Matt Barkley-led offense steamrolled the Jets’ defense from the first drive of the game, resulting in a dominant 41-10 win at MetLife Stadium. Despite the success in the previous matchup and the recent boost added by the Josh Allen’s comeback after injury, it’ll be tough to repeat the same of result Sunday.
First of all, not taking away anything from Barkley’s big day, but the Jets’ defense was expecting to face Allen in that game. Barkley was a complete unknown for them at that point, and it showed on the field. The veteran was able to take advantage of it and led the Bills’ offense to a big day. Now, with Allen back under center and two more weeks of tape to help the Jets’ defense in preparation, it should allow them to perform better.
Jamal Adams is good at football 🔥 pic.twitter.com/WQXniygLMZ
— Athlete Swag (@AthleteSwag) November 29, 2018
Despite being the 18th-ranked defense in the Football Outsiders DVOA metric this season, New York has the 12th-best pass defense DVOA in the league. They’ve lost free safety Marcus Maye to injury, but Jamal Adams is still there roaming all over the field making plays. According to Pro Football Focus’s grading system, he’s the best player on the team and one of the top safeties in the NFL this year, with an 88.3 overall grade. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sent after Allen on blitzes and even being used as a QB spy. Another player who has the athleticism to play this role is linebacker Darron Lee, and don’t forget about Leonard Williams having the talent to single-handedly dominate the Bills’ interior OL. Add this to their solid starting cornerbacks in Trumaine Johnson and Morris Claiborne, and it’s a unit that can give problems to the Buffalo’s rookie QB.
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
The key for the Bills’ offense will be establishing the running game early. LeSean McCoy had his best game on the season against New York, and Chris Ivory will be available this time, after missing the previous encounter against his former team. If they can find success against a suspect unit stopping the run, it’ll open up the play-action opportunities for Allen, and WR Robert Foster already showed the Jets’ CBs he can beat them over the top.
— Bills QB Watch (@BillsQBwatch) November 12, 2018
It’s going to be a fun matchup and, with the recent success on the offensive side of the ball, I think the Bills will be favored there, but not by a wide margin. If you’re expecting another 41-point afternoon, take it easy, Bills fans, it should be a bit different this time. The Jets’ defense is better than what they showed in the first game.
Bills defense vs. Jets offense
The Jets should have Sam Darnold back under center for the first time since week 9, when he threw four interceptions in a 13-6 loss versus the Miami Dolphins. New York hopes Darnold will have, like Allen, taken advantage of his time out of the lineup to watch and learn from a veteran preparing and playing in his place. He will need to be at his best because the number three-ranked defense in the NFL will be going hard after him, trying to pressure a turnover-prone rookie.
4th interception from Darnold on the day. Could have had 2 more if not for drops pic.twitter.com/57yncsdRbx
— Ian (@NFLFilmStudy) November 4, 2018
Darnold’s talent is unquestionable, but his tendency to make mistakes could be a huge problem in this game. Jerry Hughes continues to have a career year and dominated New York’s LT, Kelvin Beachum, in their previous meeting. Kyle Williams, Lorenzo Alexander, Trent Murphy and Shaq Lawson are too much for the Jets’ OL, which should mean trouble for the rookie. On the other hand, Darnold will have deep-threat WR Robby Anderson back in the lineup. He’s a dangerous weapon with home run potential, and he wasn’t available in the previous matchup. Those two, alongside TE Chris Herndon and team-leading WR Quincy Enunwa, are the biggest challenges the Bills’ pass defense will face in this game.
#Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold plans to suit up for their Week 14 matchup vs. the Bills. Darnold's best two game stretch of the season came in Weeks 5 and 6 where he posted a combined 87.4 overall grade which ranked 3rd among QB's during that period. #JetUp pic.twitter.com/SDjoJNWXDs
— PFF NY Jets (@PFF_Jets) December 6, 2018
The Jets’ offense’s best hope, just like in the Bills’ offense’s case, is the ground game. Former Cleveland Browns RB Isiah Crowell is enjoying a fine first season in New York, rushing for 680 yards and 6 TDs so far. They lost Bilal Powell to injury, but Elijah McGuire and Trenton Cannon have stepped up nicely in his place. The trio will need to be productive to help their rookie QB, and the Bills’ defense was vulnerable against the run during some stretches this year.
— Chris Nimbley (@Cnimbley) October 8, 2018
I think Crowell will have a good day, but not good enough to single-handedly beat the Bills’ defense. Darnold’s performance will dictate the Jets’ chances in this one, and I don’t trust him to avoid turnovers, especially against this Bills defense.
Despite giving Buffalo the advantage on offense and defense, I don’t think it’ll be an easy game. The Bills’ offense is a work in progress and, on the other side of the ball, the Jets’ running game is dangerous, and Darnold is unpredictable. I’m trusting the Bills’ defense to create turnovers and the offense to be efficient enough to win this game, but it’s the first of many Allen versus Darnold matchups; anything can happen.
Prediction: Bills win, 21-14