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Previewing the Jets’ opposition: Buffalo Bills

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NFL: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

In one of the NFL’s most meaningless games of the week, the Jets and Bills square off with the Jets looking to restore some pride after they were blown out by Buffalo last month. However, with the prospect of a showdown between two rookie quarterbacks selected in the top ten in April, the game is not entirely without intrigue.

Quarterbacks

Embarrassingly, when the Jets were blown out four weeks ago, it came at the hands of Matt Barkley, who passed for 232 yards and two touchdowns. However, Barkley has since returned to the bench with rookie Josh Allen taking over again.

Despite losing to Miami last week, Allen had more than one touchdown pass for the first time in his short career and also rushed for a career high 135 yards. He had rushed for 99 more and posted a quarterback rating of just under 90 in a win over Jacksonville the previous week, so gradually seems to be making waves at the pro level.

Barkley isn’t even the number two any more, as he’s listed as the third stringer behind veteran Derek Anderson. However, Anderson is out this weekend so Barkley should serve as the back-up.

Offensive Line

There have been a couple of changes to the Bills’ offensive line since the first meeting. Wyatt Teller, who replaced ex-Jet Vladimir Ducasse as the starting left guard in that game, has remained in the line-up since then and veteran Russell Bodine was just placed on injured reserve so Ryan Groy is back in the starting line-up at center.

On the right side, guard John Miller seems to be improving but tackle Jordan Mills has had some struggles, especially in the running game.

Left tackle Dion Dawkins caught a touchdown pass in the win over the Jets and has been the Bills most consistent lineman despite being having given up a team-leading six sacks.

Aside from Ducasse, the Bills’ bench includes backup tackle Jeremiah Sirles, who started at right guard last week with Miller out and gave up 13 pressures against Miami.

Running Backs

There was some talk earlier in the week that there would be snow on Sunday, but that seems unlikely now, which is probably good news for the Jets’ run defense because LeSean McCoy has had a couple of monster games in the snow over the last five years.

McCoy also had a monster game against the Jets in their previous meeting, as he rushed for over 100 yards and two scores. Those are actually his only two scores of the year as he and ex-Jet Chris Ivory - who was inactive for the previous meeting - are each averaging just 3.3 yards per carry.

Another former Jet, Marcus Murphy, has worked well as a change of pace back and rushed for a career high 69 yards in the previous game against the Jets, but hasn’t featured much since. He’s averaging 5.5 yards per carry but struggles in pass protection.

Former pro bowler Patrick DiMarco continues to see limited time at the fullback position.

Pass catchers

The Bills have made major changes at the wide receiver position over the last month, getting rid of Andre Holmes, Kelvin Benjamin and Terrelle Pryor.

Robert Foster burst onto the scene in the first meeting with the Jets having just been activated off the practice squad and is now a starter, averaging 32 yards per catch on eight receptions. He caught a long pass on the first snap of the game against the Jets and went on to have a hundred-yard game.

Zay Jones also had a big game against the Jets with 93 yards on eight catches including a touchdown. He leads the Bills in catches, receiving yards and touchdown receptions.

Reserves Isaiah McKenzie, Ray-Ray McCloud and Deonte Thompson have just 12 catches between them so far, although McKenzie showed some potential with four catches last week. He is questionable with a toe injury though.

Tight end Charles Clay missed the previous game against the Jets, but back-ups Jason Croom and Logan Thomas contributed with Croom recovering a fumble for a touchdown and the converted quarterback Thomas throwing a first down pass on a fake punt. Croom is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game, though.

Defensive Line

Not much has changed on the defensive front for the Bills, although they didn’t have Trent Murphy available for the first matchup with the Jets. Murphy has four sacks in nine games, while the other starting end, Jerry Hughes, has six sacks and leads the team with 17 quarterback hits.

Former first round pick Shaq Lawson also gets plenty of reps but his best work has come against the run this year. Eddie Yarborough adds depth off the edge, but the Bills will also play plenty of 3-4 looks with outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander on the edge.

Kyle Williams is having another big year on the inside and he’s racked up another five sacks. Veteran Star Lotulelei is still listed as the other starter but rookie Harrison Phillips has continued to impress against the run off the bench and should continue to get more and more opportunities down the stretch.

Linebackers

Alexander is having another productive year, as he leads the team with 6.5 sacks but rookie Tremaine Edmunds is still finding his feet even though he’s leading the team in tackles. Matt Milano also continues to play an every down role and has performed well, as he’s tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with Hughes. However, he also leads the team in missed tackles.

Another ex-Jet, Julian Stanford, is the main reserve off the bench, although he played just one snap last week.

Defensive Backs

Another change implemented in the win over the Jets was the insertion of Levi Wallace into the starting line-up. The undrafted rookie has remained there ever since and has held up well.

The Bills’ other starting cornerback is 2017 first round pick, Tre’Davious White, who is having a good year, although he only has one interception. Another rookie - fourth rounder Taron Johnson - had been the first guy off the bench of late. However, Johnson is out with a shoulder injury, so the Bills will have to look elsewhere for depth in the nickel.

Ryan Lewis was previously listed as a starter but seems to have fallen back down the depth chart. Denzel Rice is another possibility.

Safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer have now combined for five interceptions on the year, with Hyde having picked off his first pass of the year against the Jets. Poyer also added a sack in that game. Rafael Bush continues to operate as the third safety and is another option capable of playing the slot role in nickel situations.

Special Teams

Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka is still perfect on the year from inside 50 yards and had a game winner against Tennessee back in October. He’s missed one extra point. Punter Matt Darr made his first appearance of the season last week and is the third punter the Bills have had since the season began.

In the return game, McKenzie has replaced Murphy as the primary return man, but if he can’t play, Murphy might move back into that role. Hyde is another option to return punts.

In kick coverage, reserve defensive back Lafayette Pitts is tied for the team lead in special teams tackles with two players no longer on the roster.