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Game Preview: Buffalo Bills
The weeks are absolutely flying by now, Christmas adverts are starting to appear on the TV and I even saw some decorations go up in the village I live in, it’s far too early for that in my opinion but it is a good indication that we’re motoring through this NFL season.
After a disappointing loss to the Patriots and a worrying game from Zach, the Jets get an opportunity to make a statement this week against arguably the best team in football. The Bills are 6-1 with their sole loss coming against the Dolphins in week three, they have one of the most dynamic offenses in football and a stellar defense…in short, it’s going to be a challenge.
🏆 Quinnen Williams was named the AFC defensive player of the month for October. Q registered 13 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 12 QB hits, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery in the month of October and he continues to improve every single week.
🏆 The Jets also won their 5th consecutive Pepsi rookie of the week award with Garrett Wilson taking home the belt again. Wilson caught 6 passes for 115 yards against New England. At this point, they should probably just rename it to the Jets rookie of the week award.
💰 After sending a package to Denver which included their first-round pick, the Miami Dolphins wasted no time in inking pass-rusher Bradley Chubb into a new deal. Officially it’s a 5-year $110 million extension with $63.2 million guaranteed. It does mean that with his remaining rookie salary included, Miami is paying around $119 million to keep him through 2027. When you give up first-rounders you need to get long-term value, the Dolphins hope they will. It’s a good deal for Chubb as it places him in the top 6 edge rushers in terms of annual value. Will he live up to it? Let’s hope not.
If you asked me a couple of weeks ago if I feared playing the Bills, without hesitation I would have said no. I respect Buffalo and what they’ve achieved so far, but at that point, I was confident with our direction and my prevailing statement was “We’ve got a chance against anyone” - Fast forward a couple of weeks and the goalposts have shifted, I’m dreading this game. Maybe that’s a good thing, with no expectations the only possible surprise is a positive one.
Why has my optimism shifted? Three key factors:
Breece Hall’s injury
Alijah Vera-Tuckers injury
Zach Wilson’s performance against New England, and the season as a whole.
I’m not going to say we don’t have a shot, anyone can beat anyone. Remember the Jaguars shut out the Bills last year? Nobody would have predicted that. It’s also a divisional game and the Jets and Wilson have been reading that negative press this week. Players often say they don’t pay attention, but having spoken to numerous players over the years, that’s a lie. They absolutely pay attention.
Like with weeks past, we’re going to focus on some things the Jets need to do on offense and some things they need to do on defense if they’re to stand a chance.
Goal #1 - Protect Zach Wilson
If you’ve seen a Zach Wilson performance this year, this one will be obvious. Dating back to 2006 when PFF first started charting passing under pressure numbers, no QB has ever finished a season with a completion percentage less than 20%, and very few have finished with a completion percentage less than 30%. Zach Wilson is currently at 19.1% on the year, which is obviously very bad. Mentally Zach falls apart when pressured, he rushes his mechanic, he can’t recapture his timing and when he leaves the pocket his accuracy plummets. The Jets will be starting Duane Brown and Cedric Ogbuehi at the tackle spots and they combined to allow 10 pressures and a sack against New England, that can’t happen again. Buffalo is 5th in the league with an average of 3 sacks a game, this is going to be a tough test.
Goal #2 - Spread the ball around
Here is another theme from the newsletters this week, Zach seems to have two targets he likes to use, Garrett Wilson and Tyler Conklin, but the Jets have more weapons that he needs to utilize. We need to get the ball into Moore’s hands in space, we also need to test the boundary with Mims. Zach is struggling to move off his first read at the moment and Wilson is often his first read, we need to mix in some different first reads for him and get some timing routes over the middle. Asking Zach right now to do a full-field read is asking for trouble, but he should be capable of some half-field reads with some bunch formations. Buffalo allow 203.1 yards passing per game, good for 9th in the league, that’s even better when you consider they’re ahead in most of their games. Taron Johnson is the weakest link in their secondary and he covers the slot, so I’d mix in Wilson and Moore there to keep things fresh and target them early and often.
Goal #3 - Establish & Maintain the ground game
Against New England, I thought we went away from the ground game too quickly. We had 15 rushing attempts vs 43 dropbacks, that’s not sustainable with a struggling QB. James Robinson has had another week to learn the playbook and Michael Carter needs to be used more, he was going at 3.7 yards a carry against New England before we became one-dimensional. Buffalo only allow 95 yards per game on average on the ground, that’s good for the 4th best in the league, they have a physical and active linebacking core led by Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano. We may not get a huge amount of success early, but we need to stick with it. Making your offense one-dimensional is a sure way to get beat when playing a defense like Buffalo.
Goal #4 - Keep it simple
This is going to be harder than it sounds. Buffalo’s whole defense is designed to confuse and it usually achieves that. The Bills blitz just 14.7% of the time, that’s the 2nd lowest rate in the league, yet they have 21 sacks to their name…in a way, they’re very similar to the Jets there. The Bills will drop 7 into coverage and they will disguise their zone/man looks and switch post-snap, they also do a good job of not offering any tells pre-snap, so a cover-2 pre-snap can change to a single high once the ball has been snapped, this is extremely difficult for the best QBs (see Matt Stafford in week one) so Zach is going to have to be at his best. I have a feeling we’ll see plenty of simple quick reads and very few slow-developing deep plays.
Goal #1 - Maintain Stefon Diggs
I started writing “stop” and then changed it to maintain because Stefon Diggs is something special. He’s played 7 games this season and had 100+ receiving yards in five of them, and hasn’t been kept to under 50 yards all season. Over the course of his last three games, he’s had 24 catches for 358 yards and 3 touchdowns. He already has 764 yards and 7 touchdowns in 7 games, so if we hold him to under 100 yards and keep him out the end zone, that’s a win. Even if he ends up catching 7 passes for 98 yards, that’s a win. Sauce got tested early this season when he had to face off against Chase, and then again when he got Tyreek Hill, this will be the ultimate test because he has Diggs working a QB who can put the ball wherever he wants it.
Goal #2 - Spy Josh Allen
Whenever I look at defending a QB I always check out how they perform under pressure. One of the simplest things you can say is you have to get pressure on the QB, and that’s still absolutely true, but Josh Allen completes 52% of passes under pressure with 6 touchdowns to just 1 INT, and in truth, there aren’t that many weaknesses to his game. One thing we need to do is keep a spy on Allen so he can’t pick up easy first downs with his legs, Mac Jones was able to use his legs to gain first downs and obviously, Allen is significantly more athletic, he already has 306 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns this year, and 33 career rushing TD’s in less than 5 years. I think getting Quincy to spy Josh and keep him in the pocket is at least something, what you can’t do is allow them to pick up easy first downs when your coverage holds.
Goal #3 - Disguise Coverages
I wasn’t a believer in Josh Allen when he first came into the league, he looked so raw and at times he looked like a deer in headlights, but he has become one of the most complete QBs in football, and part of that has been his ability to identify coverages pre-snaps and like a computer, automatically calculate the best pass. People point to the 2020 season (his third) when it clicked, but I disagree, it actually clicked early in 2019 (the second season). He may have only completed 58.8% of his passes but that represented an improvement of 6 percentage points on his rookie year, with his touchdowns increasing from 10-20 and his interceptions dropping from 12-10. In his second year he started to have a better understanding of coverages and where to exploit them. This year he’s been excellent but there is one game that stands out. In week four against Baltimore he completed 52% of his passes and threw 1 TD to 1 INT, Buffalo ended up winning but Baltimore disguised their looks and forced Allen to think a little longer, Miami did the same thing in week 3 as they sacked him 4 times. There are no real holes in his game, but that’s at least an opportunity.
Goal #4 - Make turnovers count
The Bills do a lot of things well, but they do turn the ball over. They’ve gifted the ball to the opposition 12 times this season, that’s 6th highest in the league, the Jets not only need to force the turnovers but then capitalize on them by putting points on the board. A turnover is only good if you make something of it, if you end up punting 3 plays later it’s not much good. The Bills as a team have a +2 turnover differential but that’s because they lead the league in interceptions with 11, the Bill’s offense has thrown 6 interceptions and fumbled the ball 6 times, and that’s just the ones they’ve lost, they actually have 8 fumbles. Jets defenders should be keyed in on punching the ball out but not at the expense of the tackle.
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