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The Bills punched their ticket to the playoffs last week, clinching a spot with a 29-15 victory over Atlanta at home.
Buffalo can secure the division crown this Sunday for a second straight year. They’ll have a chance to do just that as they host the Jets in the final game of the regular season.
Per ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Bills have a 95.6% chance to win the AFC East and the second-best chances in the NFL to both make the Super Bowl (27.6%) and to win it (15.4%).
With the division on the line, here are three keys to a win for the Bills (10-6) against the Jets (4-12):
Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
The only team from New York has a chance to end the regular season on a high note while making a statement in the process.
When they played the Jets in NFL Week 9 it was to a high scoring result. Their highest so far this season, to be exact.
They won that contest 45-17.
Josh Allen threw for 366 with two TDs and one INT. While they scored a lot of points, they had difficulty with ball protection, including fumbles by RBs Devin Singletary and Matt Breida.
The Bills run and passing game both have a chance for improvement this time around, even though they had good numbers in the first matchup in the Meadowlands. Allen will also look to bounce back from struggles passing last week against the Falcons, during which he tossed three interceptions.
A key to victory for the Bills’ offense will be to solidify their offense by executing cleanly without turning the ball over.
This will be especially important going into the playoffs, where the stakes are higher and a loss means your season is over.
Last week, the Bills offense relied primarily on turning to the run game to win the day. Even with the turnovers, he managed to throw for 120 yards and rush for 81 yards with two TDs on the ground.
The good news is that Allen and the offense showed they are good enough to overcome three interceptions and weather, while the defense did their part to limit the Falcons scoring.
Earlier this season, the adjustments to how teams defend the Bills offense, coupled with poor play by the offensive line, created impatience for Allen while limiting the teams’ RB group’s production.
A byproduct has been a spike in interceptions, with Allen recording a career-high 15 INTs which is also the most since his rookie season (12). That season total is tied for the second-most in the NFL with Matthew Stafford (LAR), and Taylor Heinicke (WFT).
Allen’s athleticism, size, and abilities have allowed him to extend snap possessions to make plays, win games, and put up numbers that have put him in the MVP conversation all while making NFL history in the process. He’s also managed to put up franchise run marks alongside RB Devin Singletary, who was the leading rusher in their previous matchup with the Jets.
Singletary just had a career game last Sunday and has been playing at a high level. The Bills have been winners of three straight games in which the RB has averaged 78.3 yards per contest across that span with at least one TD in each of those victories. During his first matchup with the Jets defense this season, he went for 43 yards on seven carries with a TD and a fumble and could see a better day on the field this time around.
While a bounce-back passing game performance would help, we could see another ground game performance on Sunday much like last week’s Falcons contest. The reason is that, like last week, the weather is forecasted to impact the game. Temperatures are projected to be in the low 40s with 45 mph wind gusts and rain showers that could turn to snow, per WIVB.
Weather permitting, they’ll certainly have a chance to throw, considering the Jets have the fourth-worst in the NFL allowing on average 259.7 yards per game.
Should the Bills go to the ground, they’ll need to beat players like LB C.J. Mosley and wear down the tacklers in the cold Western New York climate. That could lead to breaking loose for some big plays.
That they have still played well enough to win despite turnovers and weather is good news for the Bills. The offense has looked aggressive in their past several games in the red zone on third and fourth down plays.
The offensive line has performed better as well since allowing two sacks the last time the teams met. That will be helpful in guarding Allen against Jets DE John Franklin-Myers and DT Quinnen Williams, who each have six sacks apiece on the year.
On the year, the Bills offense has averaged 28.5 points per game and averaged 30 points in their last four games, while the Jets defense has allowed opposing offenses an average of 29.8 points per contest. In fact, the Jets have allowed more points this season than ever before in team history, a total that will likely grow thanks to the NFL adding a 17th game to the season.
Even if the Bills perform on average, it should lead to a win.
Improving ball protection to further solidify the offense and to keep firing on all cylinders will only help as they head into the playoffs, and in securing the win and the AFC East on Sunday.
Ground The Jets
(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
The Bills defense had a big day against the Jets in their last contest, picking off QB Mike White four times.
This time around, they’ll get their first crack at rookie QB and second overall pick in this past year’s NFL Draft, Zach Wilson. The Jets also have a first-year head coach and offensive coordinator who are green enough that it’s shown at pivotal moments in the national spotlight.
A key to victory for the Bills defense will be to apply pressure to the Jets’ offensive limitations and lack of experience.
That will start with Wilson, who has missed time to injury this season. He’s been sacked 36 times during gameplay, which is tied with Chicago QB and fellow rookie Justin Fields for sixth-most in the league. While the Jets have statistically better options at QB in veteran Joe Flacco and NFL journeyman Josh Johnson, they are rolling with the rookie.
Containing the Jets RB rotation, who combined for 150 yards on 26 carries with 2 TDs last week against the Bucs strong run defense, is going to be key in making the Jets offense turn to throw the ball more.
Between the inclement weather and Bills pass defense, it would make life difficult for Wilson should he need to go to the air.
The task would then be limiting players like gadget WR Braxton Berrios, who has 20 catches for 180 yards with four touchdowns in their past four games.
Another key will be controlling possession time by ending offensive drives early and often gives Buffalo more time to rack up points on offense to win the day.
For the past two weeks, the Bills defense has held opponents to 2-of-17 on third-down attempts. They also rank fourth in the league in limiting opponents to conversions on 46.6% of third-down attempts this season, per Buffalo Bills PR.
And, of course, there is the potential to cause turnovers.
The last time the teams met, the Bills notably had four different players with an interception. It’s worth noting that with five interceptions this season, including one in their previous matchup, Micah Hyde has an opportunity for a new career-high should he pick off another one in Sunday’s game.
Zach Wilson has shown a steadier hand as of late as far as not throwing any picks in the Jets’ last four games and only two in their last six. Earlier this season, however, he led the NFL in interceptions throwing nine in his first five games.
While they could play for a favorable NFL Draft position, Gang Green has been competitive in recent games, meaning the Bills defense will need to stay sharp. They’ve averaged 18.8 points per game on the season, but have averaged 24.7 points in their last several contests including a close near-win last week against the Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers.
Limiting them at or below their season average will be part of the assignment in bringing the Jets back down to Earth.
Should the Bills defense continue to play well on third and fourth down, and force Wilson to throw the ball, they appear poised for another efficient and successful day on their side of the ball.
Make A Statement On Home Turf
Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Last year the Bills punctuated their breakout 2020 regular season with a dominant 56-26 win at home over another division foe, the Miami Dolphins.
Considering the Bills’ 45 point day the last time they played the Jets, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that another high-scoring win could be in the cards.
A key to a Bills win will be to make a statement win by looking like a playoff contender in all three phases of the football game.
To do so will mean protecting the ball better on offense and in the weather, as mentioned, and also doing so on special teams.
The Buffalo return man role has at times featured WR’s Isaiah McKenzie or rookie Marquez Stevenson, both of whom had issues at times holding on to the football.
If the Bills defense continues to be effective on third and fourth down, it could set up their special teams unit to have some more reps returning punts ahead of the playoffs. With ball protection on special teams’ kick returns being an issue this season, it will be up to whoever returns the ball to focus on securing and protecting it.
Buffalo has the opportunity to win the AFC East with a victory. And there might also be a bonus by way of another game’s outcome.
The AFC North clinching Cincinnati Bengals will be without several key players including QB Jow Burrow, which could tilt their game in favor of Case Keenum and the Cleveland Browns. Should Cincy lose the Bills move up the 3 seed in the playoffs.
All Buffalo needs to do is win to do their part. In doing so, they have a chance to make a statement ahead of a first-round playoff matchup in Orchard Park.