Entering the 2023 season, the Jets and Bills were supposed to battle for the AFC East crown.
But with the Dolphins (6-3) firmly in control of the division, both teams will try to keep their playoff hopes alive on Sunday afternoon in Buffalo while also ending two-game losing streaks.
“It’s Sean [McDermott] and they do a phenomenal job, so a lot of the principles, everything is still the same,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said about the Bills.
“All these guys know exactly what to do, and they’re still playing at a very high level, they’re very well coached, they play their tails off, they’re opportunistic, they communicate really well and because of it, they’re still putting together some really good defensive game plans.”
A lot has changed since the Jets (4-5) and the Bills (5-5) played each other in a Week 1 Monday night affair. The Jets have won just three of their last eight games after their 22-16 overtime win over Buffalo at MetLife Stadium.
Buffalo has also struggled following a 3-1 start. The Bills have lost four of their last six games, including Monday’s 24-22 last-second loss to the Broncos.
The reason for Buffalo’s struggles has been its stagnant offense. Against the Broncos last week, quarterback Josh Allen was booed by the Bills Mafia after he turned the ball over three times. In his previous six games, Allen has thrown seven interceptions and lost two fumbles.
In the hopes of jump-starting their offense, the Bills fired offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey on Tuesday. Thirty-four-year-old quarterback coach Joe Brady will call plays for the rest of the season.
Brady was previously the Panthers offensive coordinator from 2020-21 before then-coach Matt Rhule fired him midseason. His quarterbacks in Carolina during that time were Teddy Bridgewater, former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and Cam Newton.
Brady was also LSU’s passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach when the team won the national title in 2019.
In the Week 1 loss to the Jets, Allen threw three interceptions and lost a fumble. Allen’s subpar outing along with below average performances by Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Eagles QB Jalen Hurts led to Saleh boasting his team “embarrassed all of them.”
“He’s got a lot of juice to him,” Allen said about Brady. “He’s a former ballplayer himself and I think that he can relate with a lot of the guys. Obviously, he’s a fairly younger guy.
“But again, guy that’s been around the league. He’s been an offensive coordinator in the league, he’s been a national championship caller at the college level. There’s a lot of faith in him.”
The Jets also enter Sunday’s game hoping to improve an abysmal offense that ranks near the bottom of most meaningful categories. Gang Green is 29th in yards (283.1) and 30th in points per game (16). The Jets are also dead last in third down conversions rate (25%) and red zone touchdowns (22.7%).
Gang Green has also gone 11 consecutive quarters without scoring a touchdown. The last time the Jets scored a touchdown was during their 13-10 overtime victory against the Giants on Oct. 29. In two consecutive losses against the Chargers and Raiders, the Jets scored a combined 18 points.
This led to the Jets having a players-only meeting. Gang Green has been led by its defense all season. The Jets rank sixth in total defense (307.8) and seventh in points allowed (19.1).
“It is just us getting together and we know some of the struggles on offense,” Jets tight end Tyler Conklin said. “That’s why we wanted to get together as a group and really just come together. It was all good stuff. What was really said, I’m just going to leave it in that room. It was definitely a positive meeting.
“As an offense, we really need to step up as players and hold each other accountable and just be more player-led. We are all grown men, it is on us to set the standard and we are the ones out there that need to make plays. It is about us creating that standard.”
A lot of criticism continues to come Zach Wilson’s way. After Aaron Rodgers’ Achilles injury, four plays into the season, Wilson has struggled with holding onto the ball too long, decision-making and fumbling. He has passed for 1,863 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions.
Wilson also has nine fumbles in nine games. He remains the starting quarterback despite the lack of success.
“When Aaron got hurt and all the hype around it, there was the disappointment with some of the games Zack had,” NFL Thursday Night Football analyst Ryan Fitzpatrick told the Daily News on a call promoting Amazon’s 10,000 electric delivery vans from Rivian. “Then there was a turning point when Rodney Harrison got after him and tried to get [Chiefs] Chris Jones to say some negative stuff about him and now I think a lot of people are rooting for him to do a lot better and to play better because there was such a negative narrative around him.
“He’s in a tough spot and unfortunately, the hype was crazy with Aaron Rodgers and he gets hurt and he gets put in a tough spot because he’s not Aaron Rodgers. Saleh has done a great job of staying with him in the way he talks about him in the media and the confidence that he tries to provide the kid. And I think you’ve seen a little bit of a reward in terms of him playing better as the season has gone on.”
Sunday will begin a stretch of two games in five days for the Jets. Gang Green will host Miami in the NFL’s first Black Friday game on Nov. 24.
The Jets currently sit 13th in the standings with eight games remaining. Rodgers has expressed his desire to return before the regular season ends. But if the Jets don’t start winning games in a hurry, there will be no point in Rodgers risking coming back too soon from an Achilles injury to play in meaningless games in late December.
“Pressure is to keep it afloat just to keep it afloat,” Saleh said. “Pressure to go to the playoffs is always pressure.
“It’s not for anyone individual, it’s not for any possibility, it’s because we’re competitors and we want to win football games and I think Aaron’s just icing on the cake.”