The New York Jets try to get back on the winning track when they host the Buffalo Bills this week. Previewing this matchup, TheAfghan Twighlight of Buffalo Rumblings was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the 2022 Bills.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. The Bills are widely considered the best team in the NFL. Do you agree with that assessment, and which teams do you consider the Bills’ biggest threats on the way to what appears to be a very good shot at a Super Bowl title this year? Also, which AFC East rival do you see being the greatest long term threat to the current Bills’ dominance, and why?
I’m a lifelong Bills fan, dating back to before the Super Bowl years. Buffalo Bills football has humbled me, made me superstitious, and numbed me to disappointment. With all that’s happened in the last few years, it feels strange. Looking at what transpired over the offseason and how highly regarded the team was, and the expectations levied upon them—that’s new territory for a generation of fans who’ve never known their Bills to be anything other than mediocre at best. Never bad enough to draft the best players, never good enough not to need the best players. To answer your question directly: Yes, I think they’re the best team in the NFL.
Buffalo’s biggest threat to a Super Bowl appearance is still the Kansas City Chiefs, then I’d reluctantly put the Miami Dolphins only a step or two below. The Dolphins are the only team to beat the Bills this season, though there were several layers to that loss that outweighed the play of Miami.
I’d put the Jets as one of the Bills’ biggest long-term divisional threats, perhaps even ahead of those Dolphins. Miami’s built much of their team through free agency, and I wonder how long they can keep the band together. The Jets have drafted well under their current regime, and they seem adept at filling in through free agency as it benefits best when a rookie may not suffice. Those are two of the main keys to the Bills’ success (and of course Josh Allen). If they get the quarterback situation squared away, the Jets will be fearsome not only Bills Mafia, but to the league at large. As a side note: It’s interesting how a pair of former San Francisco 49ers coordinators are now head coaches in the AFC East, and it should make for some epic battles in the games to come.
2. Josh Allen is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. One of the things that makes him so dangerous is his outstanding running ability. He has averaged well over 100 rushing attempts per 16 games in his career, and he is well on his way to doing that again this season. Allen also takes a fair number of sacks. With the sacks and the rushing attempts, Allen is getting hit at a much higher rate than the average NFL quarterback. Are you at all concerned at how much Allen is putting himself in harm’s way, and how that will affect his longevity?
Quite simply, Allen’s built different. If I’m pressed to compare: His mind is like Brady’s, his body like Steve Young, and his arm like Dan Marino. You might also compare him to Donovan McNabb, in the way that McNabb was a nightmare dual threat early in his career. I think any reasonable person would have some amount of concern with the hits Allen takes, if for no reason other than his long-term health. That said, Allen is as big as most linebackers, and tends to deliver hits more than he does absorb them. I don’t want him to dial down the running, especially since he’s a wizard in space against almost any defender. Like McNabb, I believe Allen will naturally run less as he matures in the league. But boy, is it fun watching him ad lib each week.
3. Could you let Jets fans know about any significant additions or subtractions to the team since last year and how are these changes working out? Also, how has the 2022 draft class for the Bills been performing?
You may have heard about future Hall of Fame edge rusher Von Miller. His addition has done remarkable things for the Bills’ defense. From the obvious, in his talent at disrupting the offensive line and wreaking havoc on quarterbacks and running backs, to the mentorship he’s provided Buffalo’s young group of defensive ends, especially Greg Rousseau—Miller has been better than advertised. The Bills once again overhauled their defensive line after last season’s playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The brought in defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, who’s been a nightmare for offensive lines. They brought back defensive tackle Jordan Phillips and defensive end Shaq Lawson. Both players picked up right where they left off upon initially leaving Buffalo. It’s clear the system allows Phillips and Lawson to play up to their full potential. On offense, they went with more youth at inside receiver, plus Jamison Crowder. Crowder was hurt early and hasn’t made much of an impact and the youth movement shows promise, especially in terms of rookie receiver Khalil Shakir. There just aren’t a ton of snaps to go around when you have wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis ahead of you on the depth chart. I do believe the offense misses the reliability of Cole Beasley, but it was time to move on for both sides.
The 2022 NFL Draft class has performed well in spots, at least for a select few players. Cornerback Kaiir Elam, taken in the first round, has assimilated well to defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier’s defensive scheme. He has the makeup to be a shutdown corner, which bodes well for the team with Tre’Davious White manning the opposite side. Fellow rookie cornerback Christian Benford has been something of a revelation at the position. Taken in the seventh round out of Villanova, all Benford has done is exceed every expectation and challenge thrown his way—including starting over Elam Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams. Unfortunately, an early season hand injury kept him off the field. He’s back now, and the Bills have a great problem on their hands between White, Elam, and Benford.
4. From an opponents’ standpoint, what has been working against the Bills so far this year on offense and on defense? How would you go about trying to beat this Bills team? Is there any aspect of the Jets that presents a matchup problem for the Bills in this game?
I’d point directly toward Week 8 and the Bills’ home tilt against the Green Bay Packers. Buffalo’s defense was run over and through, and it tired the defense out while keeping the offense cold on the bench. It’s quite possible the Bills were content to let the Packers run and eat clock, since they didn’t adjust out of their base nickel package all game. One of the biggest mysteries in that game isn’t how close the game appeared, but rather why Matt LaFleur didn’t let quarterback Aaron Rodgers throw the ball more during the first three quarters. Rodgers had something like 15 attempts for under 90 yards as the fourth quarter was under way. So it’s possible, Buffalo wanted to let them continue to shelve Rodgers, because as soon as he started throwing more the Packers woke up.
If I was challenging a team of coordinators to stop the Bills? On defense, it would involve a bit of what defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had success with earlier this season against Buffalo. He brought confusing pressure that had the Bills flustered in the first half of their game. On offense, it would involve some of what the Packers did well running the ball and shortening the game but complementing it with deep attacks against the inexperienced secondary once the defense was over-committed to stopping the backs.
Facing the Bills, I think the Jets have a very talented, if not underrated group of receivers. If Breece Hall were available to play, I think the Jets would do well with a heavy dose of his game and involving their receivers in routes that accent Zach Wilson’s best abilities. The key is not to make a mistake when on offense. Turnovers and turnover on downs are detrimental to Buffalo’s opponents—and the same may be true about settling for field goals.
5. The answer here seems obvious, but I ask this of every opponent, so if you were a betting man, which team would you pick to win this game? To make this more interesting, do you foresee a blowout or a reasonably tight contest?
I’d pick the Bills to win, even if I wasn’t a fan. If I’m being honest, there’s not much reason to doubt Buffalo’s ability to score at will and I do think Zach Wilson will struggle to direct enough points for the Jets. I could see this playing out differently in reality, such that it could be a much closer game than predicted. The Jets have played Buffalo tight in recent seasons, and with divisional foes you never can tell how the day might unfold. Remember, the Jets did clobber the Dolphins in October—admittedly while quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater were both sidelined. But a win is a win, and they’re very hard to come by in the NFL. This is a very big game, and I believe the Jets are extra motivated to play the Bills in the face of such daunting odds. Working against them may be the less-than-ideal game the Buffalo just played against Green Bay.