Bills vs. Jets preview: Everything you need to know in Week 9

0
431

Written by John Sparaco

Last Sunday, the Buffalo Bills charged out of the gates with a first-half stampede, bullying the Green Bay Packers into submission – literally.

Instead of letting back-to-back MVP Aaron Rodgers air it out to try and come back from a 24-7 hole, the green and gold were content with running out the clock. They ran, and ran, and ran some more. Green Bay stayed committed to their game plan, but despite averaging nearly seven yards per carry, it was not enough to keep up. Even the Bills’ defenders were perplexed.

“I was just asking [Rodgers], why don’t they drop back and pass the ball a little bit more?” Bills pass rusher Von Miller said after the game. “I’m looking up at the scoreboard, we’re up by 17 points…I was shocked that I didn’t have more pass-rushing attempts and they didn’t put the ball in his hands.”

On Buffalo’s side, the air was taken out of their offense in the second half. They added just three more points, winning the game by a score of 27-17. Bills quarterback Josh Allen threw two picks in the fourth quarter. Allen was very critical of his own performance during the postgame interview, calling the interceptions “stupid” while mentioning that those are the types of mistakes that let teams hang around. 

That being said, their offense moved the ball with ease in the first half and should be fine as long as they clean up their decision-making. Buffalo will need to avoid mistakes on the road against a talented Jets defense, which ranks in the top 10 against both the run and the pass this season.

Top storylines

  • Welcoming new (and familiar) faces: Minutes before the final buzzer sounded on the 2022 trade deadline, Bills GM Brandon Beane swung two deals. Buffalo acquired running back Nyheim Hines from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for running back Zack Moss and a conditional sixth-round pick in 2023. Hines, 25, ranks fifth among running backs in receiving yards (1,725) since entering the NFL in 2018.  “Holy crap, this guy is fast,” Allen said after watching Hines run around in practice for the first time in a Bills uniform. Hines offers a similar skillset to rookie running back James Cook but is a bit more polished at this point in their respective careers. The possibilities to utilize both of them on passing downs are endless. “It’s a high-powered offense and I just wanna help this offense become more high-powered,” Hines said earlier this week. Hines is also a dangerous returner who will likely field punts and possibly kickoffs on Sunday. He wasted no time getting acclimated, joining his new teammates in their traditional Karaoke Friday. In addition to Hines, the Bills reinforced their safety depth by bringing back an old friend – Dean Marlowe, who spent 2017-2020 in Buffalo. In Week 17 of 2020, Marlowe intercepted two passes thrown by Tua Tagovailoa during a 56–26 win against the Miami Dolphins. Marlowe already knows the system like the back of his hand and should be able to contribute right away. 
  • Return of Tre White: Shortly after the trades were announced, the Bills officially activated star cornerback Tre’Davious White from injured reserve. White returned to the practice field a few weeks ago, slowly getting back up to speed after missing over nine months rehabbing from a torn ACL. This is a massive boost to Buffalo’s defense, which was still dominant in his absence. Dane Jackson, Kaiir Elam, and Christian Benford will likely still rotate in and out, but the return of White only adds more stability and leadership to their secondary. Despite returning White to the active roster this week, it is unclear at this moment whether he will suit up tomorrow. Head coach Sean McDermott continues to evaluate White’s status one day at a time and has not committed to any decision publicly. It may be wise to keep him out one more game, considering MetLife Stadium’s dark history of non-contact injuries on their turf.
  • A couple of key injuries: Some notable playmakers have already been ruled out in advance. All-Pro Bills safety Jordan Poyer is out with an elbow injury, which was re-aggravated last Sunday. For the Jets, they will potentially be without starting wideout Corey Davis and recently acquired running back James Robinson (questionable), who are both dealing with knee injuries. The statuses of Bills linebacker Matt Milano (oblique) and right tackle Spencer Brown (ankle) are up in the air after not registering a full practice all week. They are both considered questionable.
  • Rivalry renewed?: For the first time since Week 9 of 2011, both the Bills (6-1) and Jets (5-3) will have winning records when they meet. It has been a long time since these teams have been relevant at the same time, especially after two decades of being terrorized by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. The Bills have firmly established themselves as a top contender with their core, but if the Jets and Dolphins stay on the right track, there could be some fun battles in the AFC East for years to come.

Impact matchups to watch

Stefon Diggs vs. Sauce Gardner

Last Sunday, Packers top cornerback Jaire Alexander attempted to get into top Bills receiver Stefon Diggs’ head with some trash talk right from the start. Alexander said he told Diggs that he couldn’t mess with him and that he was a “little boy” during one of their interactions. Despite his bold words, Alexander barely lined up across Diggs, and the Packers paid for it. Diggs finished with six catches for 108 yards and one touchdown.

“I don’t give a f— who started it. I finished it. I got the win,” Diggs said after the game.

Tomorrow afternoon, things have the potential to get feisty again. One day before the Jets drafted him fourth overall, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner said he could “easily” take on the AFC East’s top receivers, including Stefon Diggs in man coverage.

So far, Gardner has done a good job of taking away opposing team’s top weapons. Ja’Marr Chase, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are among those who have been “lost in the sauce” to this point. He has allowed catches on just 44% of passes thrown his way and ranks second in the NFL in completion percentage (15.0) allowed on passes of 10 air yards or more. That being said, Diggs leads the NFL in receiving yards and touchdowns over expected on similar throws, according to Next Gen Stats.

The current Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite will face his toughest test yet against Buffalo’s lethal passing attack. In what will be their first matchup of many, Diggs vs. Gardner is primed to be must-watch television.

Bills’ safeties vs. Zach Wilson

Both Micah Hyde (out for season) and Jordan Poyer will not play this Sunday, meaning that the Bills will have to start two backup safeties. Damar Hamlin has filled in nicely but the other starting spot will come down to Jaquan Johnson and recently acquired Dean Marlowe. Considering Marlowe’s knowledge of the defense and the fact that Buffalo felt the need to go out and acquire help at that spot, he feels like the favorite to get the nod here.

Can second-year quarterback Zach Wilson take advantage? Based on his performance so far this year, it is hard to be sure. So far in 2022, Wilson has completed just 54.9% of his passes and has thrown more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (3) in five starts. He has yet to show any of the traits that led to him being drafted second overall last year, making a multitude of questionable throws. Despite his struggles, the Jets are 4-1 when Wilson is on the field.

The Jets have surrounded Wilson with weapons to succeed, drafting players such as Garrett Wilson, Breece Hall, and Elijah Moore in early rounds. They have also spent on players in free agency like Corey Davis, C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin to help out their young quarterback. Unfortunately, Hall’s promising rookie campaign came to an abrupt end with a torn ACL and meniscus in Week 7. Additionally, Wilson has not clicked with Moore despite being drafted together.

“I don’t get the ball. I don’t know,” Moore said when asked about their chemistry on the field.

While the future looks bright for the Jets, the pressure is on Wilson to perform before the organization is forced to move on. Their roster is too talented to be held back by arguably the most important position on the field.

How to watch

Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST on CBS. Ian Eagle and Charles Davis will be on the call with Evan Washburn reporting from the sidelines. The Bills will be wearing blue jerseys and blue pants once again. The forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 70s, a rare occurrence for these teams in November.

Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here