Bills vs. Jaguars preview: 5 key players to watch in Week 9

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Written By John Sparaco

The last time the Bills traveled to Duval County, they were preparing for their first playoff game in 17 years. Jacksonville won that game 10-3, but both franchises could not have traveled in more opposite directions since.

Buffalo currently possesses a 5-2 record and is arguably one of the most stable organizations in football. Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer praised the way the Bills have built their team when speaking to the media on Wednesday.

“Buffalo is in my mind one of the best builds in recent history,” said Meyer.

Jacksonville, on the other hand, is at the beginning of an all-out rebuild. They have a new head coach, a new rookie quarterback who they drafted number one overall, Trevor Lawrence, and an overhauled roster that is 1-6 at the moment.

The Bills enter Week 9 fresh off a 26-11 victory over their division rival Miami Dolphins. As for the Jaguars, they look to rebound from a tough 31-7 loss against the Geno Smith-led Seattle Seahawks.

Looking from every angle, this matchup is a tale of two teams at completely different stages of their builds. Jacksonville is still trying to figure out how to win, whereas Buffalo is searching for ways to win by more.

The Bills did not make any trades prior to Tuesday’s deadline, opting to keep the same team in place for the foreseeable future.

Players to watch:

Josh Allen (BUF)

Buffalo’s quarterback is playing at an extremely high level once again this season, entering the halfway point with 17 touchdown passes, only three interceptions, and nearly 2,000 passing yards. Additionally, Allen has rushed for 269 yards and three touchdowns this season, tying Cam Newton’s record last week for most touchdown runs by a quarterback in his first 50 games with 28.

At this point, no one is surprised whenever Allen is on this list. However, given Jacksonville’s track record defending the pass this season, Allen could be in line for an especially big day on Sunday.

The last time Allen played the Jaguars, he won with a different style of play, only passing the ball 19 times that day while rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown. Jalen Ramsey is no longer there to call Allen “trash”, but the fans who agreed with him at the time may be surprised by the difference in Allen’s passing ability since the last time these teams faced off.

Josh Allen (JAX)

If you did not know already, yes, there is another Josh Allen. 

Drafted seventh overall in consecutive drafts, both Josh Allens will play against each other for the very first time this Sunday. This marks just the fourth time in NFL history that a starting QB and an opposing defensive player sharing the same listed name play in the same game, per NFL Research. The last time this happened included another Bills quarterback, Todd Collins, who played against Patriots linebacker Todd Collins in 1997.

The two have yet to meet in person, but they have exchanged messages over Twitter and Instagram. Bonding over their shared name, the two publicly expressed their mutual respect this week.

“He’s a great player,” said Buffalo’s quarterback. “I know he’s coming into his own right now and we’ve got to be prepared for him because he can ruin a game plan. That’s why he was drafted so high and he’s playing at a really high level right now.”

Allen leads the Jaguars with 4.5 sacks. In his most recent performance, Allen finished the game with two sacks, six tackles, and four tackles for a loss, terrorizing Seattle’s offensive line off the edge. 

The Jaguars’ Josh Allen is especially excited for the challenge of playing against Josh Allen.

“He’s been playing at a high level recently,” said Jacksonville’s pass rusher. “He’s been evading sacks recently. He’s been getting out the pocket. He’s been scrambling. His O-line does a really good job protecting him, so I love this challenge.”

This memorable matchup between Josh Allen and Josh Allen will finally give these two seventh overall picks a chance to formally meet after the game. However, Buffalo’s Josh Allen will likely want to stay as far away as possible from Jacksonville’s Josh Allen during the game.

Hope that wasn’t confusing.

Any Bills Wide Receiver (take your pick)

Here is a list of the players that have had 100+ yard receiving games against Jacksonville this season: Brandin Cooks (132), Courtland Sutton (159), A.J. Green (112), Christian Kirk (104), Tyler Boyd (118), Mike Gesicki (115), and Tyler Lockett (142).

All of those performances happened in just seven games, so it is easy to see why choosing just one Bills wideout is difficult. In fact, there is a good chance that two players finish the game with over 100 receiving yards. More than likely, the best bets would be Stefon Diggs and Emmanuel Sanders, the two biggest home run threats on the roster.

Trevor Lawrence

When the Jaguars clinched the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, their decision was an easy one. Jacksonville pinned their hopes on Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence to be the savior of the franchise, hoping that his 38-2 record as a college starter would translate to wins in the NFL.

It has not been smooth sailing for Lawrence to this point, but there are reasons for optimism. Lawrence has plenty of tools considered vital to developing into a good modern NFL quarterback: good size, arm talent, and mobility. 

Like most rookie quarterbacks, Lawrence makes a lot of mistakes on the field. It does not help his cause that in addition to the lack of talent surrounding him to begin with, the Jaguars have already lost wideout D.J. Chark and running back Travis Etienne for the season. Lawrence does benefit from having another very reliable running back, James Robinson, who averages 5.5 yards per carry. However, Robinson suffered a foot injury last Sunday, leaving his game status up in the air as of now.

It will take some more time for Lawrence to adjust to the NFL level, but it will be interesting to watch how he performs against a very experienced and talented Buffalo defense this Sunday.

Micah Hyde

Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence has thrown nine interceptions in seven NFL starts, four of which ended up in the hands of safeties. That being in mind, going up against one of the NFL’s top safety duos in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer is not ideal for Lawrence, especially considering how both have performed this season.

Hyde and Poyer have picked off three passes each, performing at All-Pro levels to this point of the season. The duo communicates very well together on the field, forming a tight bond together over the past five seasons. Their communication and knowledge of the scheme allow them to disguise coverages easily, making them especially dangerous to turnover-prone quarterbacks.

Much like the wide receivers, predicting either safety ends up with a pick is a relatively safe bet. Since Poyer appeared on the injury report with a shoulder injury on Thursday, Hyde gets the nod here.

Buffalo will wear their white jerseys and blue pants this weekend. Once again, Andrew Catalon and James Lofton will call the game. This time, Jenny Dell will report from the sideline.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET at TIAA Bank Field. As of now, the weather does not appear to be an issue. 

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