Week 11 is a pretty important game for both the New York Jets (4-5) and Buffalo Bills (5-5). Both teams are in the AFC playoff mix. For the Jets, it’s a chance to complete the season sweep and score a huge divisional tiebreaker in a tight race for a wild card spot. For the Bills, it’s a chance to start righting the ship after what has been a disappointing first half of the season for a team many thought would contend for the Super Bowl.
We’ll take a look at some of the matchups between the teams on both sides of the football and on special teams for this key AFC East battle. We’ll start with the Jets on offense.
Jets offensive line vs. Bills defensive line
The Jets may be starting their seventh different offensive line combination Sunday against the Bills, depending on who they start at right guard. Xavier Newman was not elevated as the Jets exhausted his allowed number of call-ups, opting this time to bring up Jake Hanson.
They’ll face a Buffalo team that sacked Jets quarterbacks three times in Week 1 (Aaron Rodgers once, Zach Wilson twice). That’s three of Buffalo’s 33 sacks this season. Only Baltimore (44) has more. The number of sacks the Jets have allowed this season? 34. The only teams with more are the New York Giants (54) and Washington (47).
Jets Quarterback/Receivers vs. Bills Secondary
Jets Running backs vs. Jets Linebackers
The last time Breece Hall saw the Bills, he was still on a pitch count. He carried the ball 10 times. Of course, he busted out an 83-yard scamper and finished with 127 yards. There’s no more pitch count for Hall.
Dalvin Cook has also started looking better and the Jets want to give him more of a role going forward. With Michael Carter out of the picture, the path to more carries for Cook is there.
With Carter out, that also means Izzy Abanikanda should make his NFL debut and get a few touches to help add some speed in the backfield.
The Bills are giving up 115 rushing yards per game and only one Bills linebacker (Terrel Bernard, 93) has more than 40 tackles. The next-highest among linebackers is Tyrel Dodson at 36 as the Bills haven’t fully found a replacement for Trumaine Edmunds.
Jets return game vs. Bills
Xavier Gipson made his mark in Week 1 with the 65-yard punt-return touchdown to beat the Bills in overtime. Take that away and Gipson is averaging 6.5 yards per punt return, which would rank 28th in the league.
On the flip side, Buffalo is allowing 15.5 punt-return yards per game, more than the Jets’ actual total of 10 yards per game. Take away the touchdown and the Bills are at around 10 yards per game.
Nonetheless, with that touchdown, you know the Bills will try to have some sort of plan for Gipson in the return game while Gipson should have the confidence that he can break one again.
Jets Defensive Line vs. Bills Offensive Line
The Jets still have one of the better defensive lines in the NFL and have been boosted by two of their young studs who have been on a tear lately. Jermaine Johnson and Bryce Huff, each with five sacks, are riding quite the wave in recent weeks and both have a realistic chance of reaching ten sacks for the year.
Also remember that the Jets sacked Bills quarterback Josh Allen five times in the Week 1 win and Huff wasn’t even in that group. It was Quinton Jefferson (2), Johnson, John Franklin-Myers and Al Woods. Woods is out for the season but the rest of the group is intact and can make life miserable again for the Bills’ offensive line.
Jets Secondary vs. Bills Quarterbacks/Receivers
All the talk lately has been about the high number of turnovers for Josh Allen. Buffalo’s quarterback leads the league with 11 interceptions.
As you’ll recall, three of those interceptions came via Jets safety Jordan Whitehead in Week 1. Allen also lost a fumble in the loss.
Gardner or Reed against Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs will always be a matchup to watch. Diggs did crack 100 yards in Week 1 and has five games with at least 100 yards this season. Gardner allowed 59 yards, per Pro Football Focus, his only game allowing more than 40.
Rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid has very much come into his own in the NFL since his debut against the Jets. He has at least 50 yards and/or a touchdown in four straight games. He’s not your typical rookie tight end.
Allen is still one of the better quarterbacks in the game and he has a nice stable of receivers in Diggs, Kincaid and Gabe Davis. But it’s always so tough to bet against this Jets secondary. Time and time again they handle the best receivers in the game and make life for quarterbacks very difficult.
Jets Linebackers vs. Bills Running Backs
Bills running back James Cook is coming off a 109-yard performance last week against the Broncos, the team allowing the most rushing yards per game (158.3) in the NFL. Guess which team is allowing the second most. That would be the Jets (138.4).
However, the Jets only allowed 46 rushing yards to Cook in Week 1. Take away Allen’s 36 rushing yards and Buffalo had 61 yards on the ground on 16 attempts.
Since that game, C.J. Mosley has continued to play at a very solid level while Quincy Williams has become a star. Not too many teams have a linebacker duo this season as talented as Mosley and Williams.
It will be interesting to see how Bills interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady utilizes Cook and if Buffalo will run the ball more. Having the defensive front that they do should allow Mosley and Williams room to work and be able to key in on Cook and get clean looks in the run game.
Jets kicking game vs. Bills
The red zone may decide this game as the Bills know how to score points deep in their opponents’ territory. Buffalo has found the end zone on 70 percent of their red-zone trips this season, third in the NFL. As a result, kicker Tyler Bass has only kicked 15 field goals this season, hitting 12 of them.
New York is sitting on a 22.7% touchdown success rate in the red zone, last in the NFL. Fortunately, Greg Zuerlein has been near-automatic this season, converting 22 of 23 field goal attempts this season.
The Jets also have the better punter, at least in terms of yards per punt in 2023. Thomas Morstead is averaging 49 yards per punt (42.2 net) while Buffalo punter Sam Martin is averaging 45.9 yards per punt (38.5). Field position will be huge in this one.