Coming off last week’s deflating loss against the Patriots, the Jets face, arguably, the league’s best team this week at home, the Buffalo Bills. The New England game last week was characterized by a solid Jets performance on the defensive side of the ball; Patriot QB Mack Jones was held to under 200 yards passing, was picked off once and sacked six times. The Jets entered the game overall as the 11th best defense in the league; they emerged, and currently sit, at sixth.
Unfortunately, the Jets also made a number of serious mistakes, on both sides of the ball, that cost them the game on Sunday. Up 10-3 with less than a minute to go in the first half, Michael Carter II stepped in front of an errant Jones pass and took it back over eighty yards for a touchdown that would have put the Jets up by two touchdowns. John Franklin Myers was called for a roughing the passer penalty that negated the interception and gave the Patriots the ball back; they then converted a field goal to make to score 10-6 going into the half, a ten point swing. The game was never really the same after that; Wilson went on to throw two more picks, and although the Patriots only got into the end zone once, former Jet Kicker Nick Folk made five field goals, those points were more than enough to get New England the win.
Where the Patriots settled for field goals, however, the Bills will score touchdowns. The Bills currently lead the league in total offense, first in passing, first in scoring. In seven games Josh Allen has 2.200 yards through the air, with a completion percentage of 66% and nineteen touchdowns against only six picks. His targets are among the most productive and dangerous receivers in football, including Stefon Diggs, fourteen yards per catch on 55 receptions, 765 total yards, 7 touchdowns in 7 games. The complementary receivers include Gabe Davis, who burned Minkah Fitzpatrick and the Steelers for 171 yards and two touchdowns on only 3 receptions three weeks ago, including a long of 98 yards. Allen has tremendous arm talent, and can and will make any throw from just about any position on the field. But its his size, mobility and speed that really make him dangerous. At 6’5 240, he’s bigger than most running backs. He’s not the quickest, or shiftiest, but Josh Allen is extremely fast, faster than he has any right to be at that size. Its not so much that he can run over linebackers (which he tries to do on occasion)—he can simply outrun them once he gets to the edge and down the sideline. The Bills use his versatility and virtually unlimited skill set to their advantage; Allen is basically their lead running back, who can and will call conventional, lead, draw, or outside running plays at any time during an offensive sequence. Behind Buffalo’s starting tailback, Allen is the Bills’ second leading rusher by only ten yards.
Containing Josh Allen by keeping him in the pocket, then closing off the escape lanes straight up the field and cutting to the sidelines will, consequently, be the Jets top priority on Sunday. The Bills are capable of beating you a lot of different ways, but once you stop Allen, they can become a very different team-- especially if you match up outside and against their receivers. Sauce Gardner has made a living out of shutting down some of the league’s best wide outs, including Tryeek Hill and Jamar Chase; the matchup against Diggs should prove to be scintillating. Similarly, DJ Reed has quietly been having an exceptional season; he may be at a slight size disadvantage against Davis, but he too, matches up well against Buffalo’s outside threats. Coverage outside and underneath must also be complemented by pressure and pass rush; in recent weeks, the Jets front four, typically without the help of the blitz, has quietly emerged into elite status. The mission against the Bills will be to attack their offensive line straight up the gut—Quinnen Williams, Rankins, Lawson, Huff, and Franklin Myers—who has something to prove after that colossal blunder on Sunday—are going to be breathing fire. As well as he’s played against us the past two years, Allen has a history of turning the ball over from the pocket in games against the Jets. If you pressure and hit him he can become vulnerable, not just throwing picks, but putting the ball on the ground as well. If the Bills want to expose him—which they will, again, as a function of their base offense and attack--no problem. Close up those lanes off tackle and going outside; and when he starts to run, tackle him, tackle him hard and punish him. In the passing game and when he drops five and seven, get to him any way you can, and again, connect, hit him, get his ass ON THE GROUND. Then the ball will come out funny; if its up for grabs, squeeze it, pick it off. That’s the thing about staying in and finding a way to be competitive and think about winning this game; if the Jets can somehow find a way to get turnovers, they could put themselves in a very advantageous position.
Which leads to our offense. Suffice to say that Zack Wilson played poorly last week, maybe his worst game as a professional. But you have to remember that game was played against one of the greatest defensive minds in the history of football; who’d played against Wilson before, was desperate for a win, and knew how to attack Wilson’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities—including his frustrating tendencies to play against, and beat himself. In the four previous games and Jet wins, Wilson had only thrown a single pick; against New England he threw three. It happens. The important thing is to stop it from continuing from happening or happening again. I think the Jets have to get back to what made them successful during the winning streak, whether or not you believe in Zack Wilson completing passes in progression or not—they have to run the ball. Buffalo’s defense is at times dominating, they do what New England does, only better, or at least more physically. Big, defensive linemen in a three down, nose first alignment. Rangy, free flowing and excellent tackling linebackers. And a secondary when healthy that is basically elite, among the league’s best. You have to attack up front, brawl with them down low and get first downs when you can. Than drag that dog fight into the second half and once you have them softened up, go ahead and test their fits underneath and with your weaponry intermediate, then when you see an opportunity, take the occasional deep shot. Difficult task. But not impossible. Run the ball, this guy Robinson is big, fast and productive, if there’s space at the point of attack, he’s gonna find it, then get through to the second level. Get it to him. And use the ground game to stay close and set up passing progressions.
In short, I think this game has the potential to define who the Jets are going to be, to establish an identity for the rest of the season. Its not always whether you win or lose, its how you play the game; but in the NFL if you play the game well, you’re usually in position to win. That’s the goal for this Sunday. Stay in it. Get physical, stick to the assignments and the game plan. Do not beat yourself, make mistakes, give up turnovers, and expect them to be forgiven in a give and take. Mc Dermott took too many beatings on his way to the top of the division; he does not give passes, and if he gets you down, he will finish you off, with feeling. Jets have to defend themselves by attacking, and attacking first on defense. By being aggressive as they can on offense, to keep it close. Then by getting back to what they do best; closing games out down the stretch. A difficult task? Yes. But not impossible. You ask me, Im going Gang Green. 31-27. JETS JETS JETS…..