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6 keys for the Bills’ rematch with the Jets: Preview, more for Week 14

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Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis of the Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) is congratulated by Gabe Davis (13) after his touchdown against the New England Patriots during the first half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The Buffalo Bills will head home to try and extend their winning streak to four games when they take on the division-rival New York Jets

New York Jets (7-5) @ Buffalo Bills (9-3)

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Game Details:

  • Location: Highmark Stadium in Buffalo, NY
  • Time: Sunday, December 11th at 1:00 p.m. ET
  • Channel: CBS

Betting Stats:

  • SPREAD: BUF -9.5
  • OVER/UNDER: 43.5
  • MONEYLINE: BUF (-455), NYJ (+345)

 

Top Matchups/Storylines:

Can Josh Allen rebound from poor performance against Gardner and company?

The Bills’ franchise quarterback looked more like himself last week against the Patriots. He was more calm and confident in the pocket, progressing through his reads and both taking shots down the field and working the short areas against the New England defense. He was more accurate across the board and made far fewer mistakes. 

That’s a good sign against a solid defense like New England’s, and it’s an extra benefit for Allen’s injured elbow that he will have ten days off between the Patriots game and this showdown with the Jets. However, he and the Bills are not out of the woods yet. 

Allen really struggled against the Jets in November, even before the elbow injury, which didn’t happen until the second-to-last play of the game. The Jets were content to get pressure with their front four and drop deep into coverage, taking away the deep passes and forcing Allen to march his team down the field methodically. 

While Allen did that last week against the Patriots, he was far more impatient a month ago in New York. The Jets baited him into two terrible interceptions, and Allen finished the day 18-of-34 for 205 yards

While a lot of that is on Allen’s decision-making and poor execution, the Jets’ young defense, led by rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner, was tremendous. Gardner gave up just one catch on three targets in the first meeting and currently has the best coverage grade, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). He is also second among all cornerbacks with just 43.4% of receptions allowed in coverage.

However, Gardner is in for a challenge this week too. Allen put the blame for the first loss squarely on his own shoulders, so you know he’ll be coming into Sunday’s action looking to make an emphatic statement that he can handle what this defense throws at him. 

 

Can Buffalo keep their running game going?

Over the last couple of weeks, the Bills have committed to executing in the run game, and they’ve delivered. The pairing of Devin Singletary and James Cook has been heating up, with Cook really emerging as a dynamic playmaker. The pair recorded 115 rushing yards against the Patriots and 172 rushing yards against the Browns, which gives Buffalo much-needed versatility in the running game.

In their first meeting in New York, Buffalo’s running backs only gained 39 yards on 12 carries. Josh Allen was left to carry too much of the load, rushing nine times for 86 yards and two touchdowns. Now, it’s nice to know he can do that against the Jets, but much of that came in the first half, and this offense stalled overall in the second half of the game. 

New York is 6th in the NFL in yards allowed per carry and 12th in rushing yards allowed per game, so Sunday will be a tough test, but Singletary and Cook are going to need to be effective on the ground against good run defenses if Buffalo has any hope of making the deep playoff run they want to make. 

 

Can the Bills stop the Jets’ rushing attack?

On the other side of the coin, the Bills will need to do a much better job of stopping the Jets on the ground than they did in November. Despite not having a single player rush for over 76 yards, the Jets dominated on the ground to the tune of 174 yards on 5.1 yards per carry.  

Now, it’s important to note that Matt Milano did not play in that game for Buffalo and Greg Rousseau was hurt in the first half. Those two are essential components of the Buffalo run defense, so having them back in the fold (if Milano is healthy enough to play) would be huge for the home team. 

Buffalo has been solid against the run of late, holding the Patriots to 60 yards on 14 carries, the Lions to 96 yards on 28 carries, and the Browns to 80 yards on 26 carries. They’re going to need to make it four solid games in a row against this New York offense. 

 

Can Buffalo’s young defensive ends hold up?

Earlier this week the Bills announced that defensive end Von Miller would miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. It’s a brutal blow for the defense as the veteran was perhaps the most impactful defender of the early part of the season.

However, as I covered earlier this week, Buffalo has spent a lot of draft resources on adding young talent to their defensive line, so it’s time for the young kids to step up. Greg Rousseau was outstanding last week against the Patriots in his first week back from that ankle injury he suffered in the first New York game, and Buffalo will rely on him heavily with Miller out. 

If the rotational linemen – Epenesa, Lawson, and Basham – can make the most of their snaps, it will go a long way to helping shore up the defense in the wake of Miller’s injury. 

 

How healthy is Dion Dawkins?

We covered in our Studs and Duds column just how bad this Buffalo offensive line was without Dion Dawkins on Thursday. He’s back at practice this week but still seems to be a little hobbled by his ankle injury. Considering the Jets sacked Josh Allen five times when Dawkins was healthy in November, the Bills can’t afford for him not to play this week. There is simply too much of a drop-off in talent when he’s not on the field. 

 

Will the Bills keep their new look secondary?

When these teams first met, Tre’Davious White had not yet been activated off of the IR, and Jordan Poyer was not playing due to injury. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was also battling through a hamstring injury and had not been activated from the practice squad, so, needless to say, the Jets will see an entirely different secondary than they did the first meeting. 

Last week, White went back to playing the most snaps of any boundary cornerback, which is huge news for the Bills. Rhodes also slotted into the starting spot opposite him and looked fine, but the former Pro Bowler was a little slow in and out of his breaks, which could be an issue against some of these young, explosive Jets wide receivers. 

With Dane Jackson continuing to struggle, even in reduced snaps, Buffalo could choose to make first-round pick Kaiir Elam active again after he was surprisingly left off the active roster last week. Elam doesn’t play on special teams, so the team opted for value there with their depth pieces, but the Jets have more receiving weapons than the Patriots do and Elam could be an impactful presence this week. 

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Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner runs back an interception against Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills in Week 9.
Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner runs back an interception against Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills in Week 9.AP Photo/John Minchillo

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