Welcome to Week 14 of the NFL season. Here at 300 Level Media, we will attempt to inform and educate our readers about the Buffalo Bills’ upcoming opponent and what each team might do to emerge victorious.
The Bills’ 13th game of the 2018 season will take place at New Era Field as they face the New York Jets. Here’s what to watch for:
CAN ALLEN DUPLICATE BARKLEY’S PRODUCTION?
The last time these two teams met in November, Bills quarterback Matt Barkley enjoyed perhaps his best day as an NFL signal-caller. Completing 15 of 25 passes for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Barkley carved up the Jets’ secondary like a Thanksgiving turkey.
Now with Josh Allen back in and healthy, it’s fair to wonder if he can match what his veteran teammate did. Allen’s rushing exploits have been well-documented, but he has had typical rookie struggles in the passing game, and has completed more than 55 percent of his passes just twice this season – throwing the ball no more than 22 times in both games.
Look for Buffalo to take advantage of a weak Jets’ linebacker unit that was made even weaker by the suspension of Darron Lee by creating mismatches that will get one of those players matched up on wide receivers. Bills’ offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is likely salivating at the thought of getting speedsters Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie in space against non-defensive backs.
LeSean McCoy will also likely see a heavy dose of touches too, as he had success against New York the last time out with 113 rushing yards and a pair of scores.
BILLS’ ELITE DEFENSE BECOMING TURNOVER-HAPPY
While the Bills’ defense has been near or at the top of the league all year long in many categories, one area they weren’t excelling at for most of the season was creating turnovers. That was an area in which the team was near the bottom of the NFL at.
Not lately. Over the last four weeks, the Bills have had six interceptions – harkening back to the success the team had last season, in which they were a top-10 unit in turnovers created. Granted,they have come against players like Mitchell Trubisky, Josh McCown, Blake Bortles and Ryan Tannehill, but still. The turnaround in that category has been impressive.
Watch for the Bills to potentially increase the usage of their staple A-gap zone blitzes to try and create confusion for rookie Sam Darnold, who has thrown 14 interceptions in just nine games.
GANG GREEN’S DEFENSE NOT MAKING PROGRESS
Over the last few years, Jets head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan have set out to rebuild a defensive unit that had begun to age under predecessor Rex Ryan. So far, they’ve done well in that regard by bringing in numerous players to fit Bowles’ blitz-intensive scheme.
Jamal Adams, taken sixth overall a year ago, is a versatile and rangy safety who can do it all, and he and former second-round pick Marcus Maye make up one of the NFL’s best young safety tandems. The signings of Trumaine Johnson and Morris Claiborne have given New York a good tandem on the outside, especially in man coverage. Leonard Williams has surprising quickness for a 302-pound defensive end, and Steve McLendon is the prototype for a run-stuffing nose tackle.
But despite these upgrades on their defensive line and in their secondary, the Jets haven’t done much with them. They are ranked in the middle of the pack or near the bottom of the league in sacks, passing yards and rushing yards allowed, mainly due to their linebacking corps being subpar.
NEW YORK’S OFFENSE A FAMILIAR ONE TO BILLS FANS
Darnold, the third overall pick out of USC, is dealing with a foot injury but will likely start on Sunday. The rookie, who has decent mobility and good arm strength, accuracy and intelligence, got off to a hot start early this season but has cooled off considerably since. He’s had his ups, but also downs, as his elongated windup and penchant for throwing picks have carried over from college.
If he can’t go, McCown will get the nod. The 16-year veteran is the quintessential backup quarterback. Able to step in in a pinch and win a couple of games, he’s a guy who can take care of the ball, not try to do too much and will execute a game plan the way his coaches draw it up.
The Jets’ offensive line, while not the most talented, is one that is adept at executing offensive line coach and running game coordinator Rick Dennison’s zone-based scheme. Dennison, the former Bills offensive coordinator, likes a running game that relies on smaller, quicker linemen who can work in unison and push defenders horizontally on outside zone stretch plays, while leaving cutback lanes for running backs. It has long been a staple of coaches like Dennison, Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur, Gary Kubiak and Mike and Kyle Shanahan, and countless tailbacks have had success in it.
Kelvin Beachum and James Carpenter, former Steelers and Seahawks, respectively, are the Jets’ best linemen. Spencer Long, Brian Winters and Brandon Shell make up the rest of their line, and Isaiah Crowell totes the rock behind them.
Robby Anderson, Quincy Enuwa, Jermaine Kearse and Rishard Matthews are perhaps football’s most underrated receiving corps. This unit operates in a passing game that features West Coast offense principles. A ball-control passing game that can eat up clock while stretching teams horizontally rather than vertically, this version of the system features mobile quarterbacks who can move within the pocket, especially on bootlegs, rollouts and play-action. It will also have its skill players line up anywhere on the line of scrimmage to try and get defenses to declare their coverages, and also aligns wide receivers close to the offensive line in order to give them more space to operate.
THIS AND THAT
- The Jets employ three former Bills assistant coaches on their staff. In addition to Dennison, Jason Vrable – a former assistant to Doug Marrone and Rex Ryan – is an offensive assistant, and Steve Jackson, a staffer for Gregg Williams from 2001-03, is New York’s assistant defensive backs coach.
- Last week against Miami, the Bills held the Dolphins under 130 net passing yards – the fourth straight game in which they’ve done so, and the first time since 2004 that Buffalo has done so.
- The Bills have held six of their last eight opponents under 150 net passing yards – four of them consecutively. The last team to do that was the 2014 Seattle Seahawks.
- Josh Allen’s 135 yards rushing last week against Miami were the most rushing yards by an NFL signal-caller since 2014, when Colin Kaepernick had 151 against the Chargers.
- Sunday’s game will be the second-youngest quarterback matchup in NFL history in terms of combined age (44 years). The only one younger was when Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston met three years ago (43 years).