With just eight games left in the 2023 regular season, it’s do-or-die time for the New York Jets.
At 4-5, New York is still within striking distance of ending their decade-long playoff drought, but major improvements will need to be made offensively. Those improvements will need to happen quickly as well due to a massive AFC East contest on Sunday evening when they take on the Buffalo Bills.
Buffalo is as desperate as New York is, having fired their offensive coordinator after another disappointing offensive performance. They sit at 5-5 themselves and are in danger of falling out of the playoff race.
Two teams Sunday in Western New York will meet for a chance to save their season. Before we find out who comes away with the W though, let’s look at the top matchups to watch out for this week.
Jeff Ulbrich vs. Joe Brady
Buffalo has a new offensive play-caller. While that may be a good sign for the Jets’ defense, the Bills’ offense is talented enough that a move like this could jump-start them into playing a lot better than they have had to this point.
Ulbrich has been excellent this season with his defensive unit, and they’ll need to play as perfectly as possible to keep New York in this game. Josh Allen is an excellent quarterback. Diggs is a top wide receiver. Even Buffalo’s offensive line is improving.
Many analysts expect the Bills to come out and try to run the ball against this Jets defensive front that is ranked 30th in the league against the run. Despite those notions, Sunday will come down to which coordinator gets the better of the other.
Jets offense vs. the endzone
Can the Jets score an offensive touchdown? It hasn’t happened in 11 straight quarters. New York’s biggest battle on Sunday won’t just be with Buffalo but with that pronounced white line on either side of the field.
The Jets haven’t scored a multi-play offensive touchdown drive that started on their side of the field since Week 4. We’re in Week 11 – a crazy statistic when you look at all the rule changes offenses have benefited from over the last few years.
A win for Gang Green against Allen and the Bills means they will have to end their drought more than once too.
Stefon Diggs vs. Jets secondary
We’ve already mentioned Diggs and how good he is as a receiver. While Dalton Kincaid can cause matchup problems at tight end, and James Cook is a receiving threat out of the backfield, this game is going to come down to how well this secondary handles Buffalo’s top wideout.
Diggs has totaled over 80 receiving yards in three of the last four games he’s played in this Jets secondary since the start of 2022 (Sauce Gardner’s rookie year). If New York is going to pull off a major road upset, they will need to make sure that the top offensive target is stymied for most of the contest.
Edge rushers vs. Mekhi Becton and Max Mitchell
Tre-Davious White and Matt Milano are gone for the Bills. They still have some really good edge rushers though in Von Miller and Greg Rousseau. Both Miller and Rousseau have capabilities of wrecking games and that means the Jets need to be on guard.
Luckily for them, both Mekhi Becton and Max Mitchell have looked pretty solid at the two tackle positions. It may not be enough to completely wipe out Buffalo’s top line, but it could be serviceable to give Zach Wilson and the rest of the offense time to dissect their opponent and move the ball downfield.
Zach Wilson vs. Bills secondary
Wilson isn’t the biggest problem to the Jets offense, but when the unit consistently can’t score, that blame will fall on the quarterback for obvious reasons. Wilson has thrown for over 250 yards passing in the last two weeks, but that’s meant nothing over their recent two-game losing streak.
Buffalo’s secondary meanwhile has been quite bad as of late. They may rank 12th against the pass throughout the season, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve been really good. Their 17th-ranked unit is due in large part to serious injuries sustained by their top players.
In short, there will be no excuse for the Jets offense to not move the ball downfield – even if Garrett Wilson doesn’t go.