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Jets vs Bills: 5 Questions with Buffalo Rumblings, the Sequel

SB Nation’s Bills expert The Afghan Twighlight answers our questions on the Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The New York Jets try to pull off the difficult task of sweeping the Buffalo Bills when they go on the road to Orchard Park, New York this week. Previewing this rematch matchup, The Afghan 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 have not been the same team on offense recently. In the first six games of the year the Bills had 410+ yards of total offense five times. In the last six games the Bills have had 410+ yards of total offense just one time. Likewise, Josh Allen has not been the same quarterback lately. In the first six games Allen had 290+ yards passing five times. In the last six games Allen has had 290+ yards passing just once. It’s not just counting yards either. Allen’s passer rating and yards per attempt the last six games are way down, while his interceptions are way up. What’s going on here? Is this just random fluctuation? Is it related to the elbow injury Allen suffered in the closing minutes of the last Jets game? Why do you think the Bills offense and Allen have not been the same lately, and how do you see this developing going forward?

I’m not an expert on NFL quarterbacking nor the mechanics of injury, but I’m happy to oblige the question to the best of my abilities—though only based on assumption. I believe the dip in production and efficiency is related to the elbow injury he sustained in the closing seconds of Week 9. That injury was like one he sustained during his rookie season of 2018. Allen missed a month that year, and when he returned, he wasn’t truly right for another month of games. That 2018 timeline seems to suggest that Allen could still be dealing with pain in the arm for a bit longer—and given that he hasn’t missed any game time, he could be dealing with prolonged pain due to a lack of rest and rehab. Again, no one knows because of HIPAA and the secretive nature of the NFL—but anyone who watches Bills games almost immediately thinks that injury has had a profound impact on the middle of Allen’s 2022 season.

Of course, the hope is he manages to continue improving and doesn’t need surgery to repair anything. Allen’s one of a kind in many ways as a quarterback, and that includes his ability to play through contact and what many others would find to be unbearable pain. Take the 70-yard dime he threw to wide receiver Gabe Davis’ numbers in the closing seconds of the first matchup with the Jets. He had to be in extreme pain, yet he somehow managed to deliver a perfect ball out of an imperfect situation (which Davis decided to drop).

There’s another very important factor to consider with Allen’s play during this span. Old Man Winter showed up pretty early in November and dumped more than six feet of snow on the majority of Buffalo. That alone caused chaos with the team’s practice and meeting schedule and, of course, with where the game was played. Between the Bills’ two-game stint at Ford Field, they had essentially one full practice, and dealt with a multitude of players who went down with illness. Playing any NFL game with that little prep time is going to shift the ratio of success individually and as a team.

2. The Bills were missing some key pieces the last time these two teams met. Could you let us know from a Bills perspective who were the most important missing players, how that affected the game last time, which guys will be back for this game, if there are any new key pieces the Bills will be missing for this game, and if so, how those absences will affect this game.

Defensively, the Bills were a mess, injury-wise. Missing were safety Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde, linebacker Matt Milano, and cornerback Tre’Davious White. If even just one of those three were able to play, I think the Jets’ offense would have seen much less success in key situations. Milano is key against the run, and when he’s paired with linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, it’s one of the best LB duos in the league. A fun stat is that the Bills have won every game Jordan Poyer has started this season. When he’s out, the defense is much less dynamic, much less fierce. Poyer is one of the team’s most important defenders, who comes up huge in a game’s biggest moments. Then of course, Tre White was still out rehabbing his surgically repaired ACL, injured the Thanksgiving prior.

For the rematch, Poyer and White should be available. Unfortunately, Matt Milano has once again shown up as injured (knee—DNP) and things don’t look great just yet for his availability. Also, Micah Hyde’s season is over, having had season-ending neck surgery. Now, edge rusher Von Miller is out for the season. That’s huge, no two ways about it. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips (shoulder—DNP) was injured chasing a scattershot Mac Jones at the end of Week 13, and he hasn’t practiced yet this week. His status doesn’t give much optimism he’ll suit up on Sunday. But the Bills have incredible depth and talent all along their defensive line, even without a superstar in Miller and one of the team’s unsung keys in Phillips. There’s reason to remain optimistic about Buffalo’s chances up front on defense, even without Miller—they’re that good, and the second- and third-team players would start on many team’s rosters.

On offense, the Bills were without Spencer Brown last game, and things didn’t go well for his replacement in David Quessenberry. He was the man who gave up pressure that led to Allen’s elbow injury. Of course, it’s not fair to say he really caused the injury because life is more complicated than all that. Apart from Brown, the Bills entered Week 9’s matchup healthy on offense.

The rematch could look different on that side of the ball, with several notable injuries. There’s some concern about the state of the Bills’ offensive line. Left tackle Dion Dawkins (ankle—limited), center Mitch Morse (elbow, vet rest—limited), offensive lineman David Quessenberry (ankle—limited), and guard Rodger Saffold (knee/vet rest—DNP). The biggest concerns would be if Dawkins and Quessenberry can’t suit up. That situation would heavily favor the Jets’ fierce defensive front.

3. What worked for the Jets last game and what didn’t work against the Bills? What worked for the Bills against the Jets last game and what didn’t work, and what do you expect to go differently in the rematch?

The Jets dominated the line of scrimmage and played smart football with Zach Wilson. Their game-winning drive had to be demoralizing for the Bills’ run defense. Ten runs for 78 clock-eating yards. For my sensibilities, it was Wilson’s best game as QB of the Jets. It’s hard to say what didn’t work against the Bills because, as a fan, it was a frustrating afternoon for Buffalo. Buffalo did jump out to a 14-3 lead, but couldn’t get in the end zone in the second half. Overall, the run—especially via Allen – worked well early, but the offense continued to go “pass” when it was clear Allen was having a difficult afternoon. In the end, what didn’t work was the Bills’ execution. It was a listless performance by and large.

I expect the Bills to have learned from their mistakes and, if given similar looks, they should have something planned to successfully counter. I suspect they’ll be more balanced on offense and will have worked on plays to find leverage in the red zone—an area they’ve struggled in this season, and which the Jets showed a weakness defending last week.

4. The Bills drafted James Cook in the 2nd round of the 2022 NFL draft, then made him an afterthought this season. Until last week that is, when Cook suddenly saw an equal split of playing time with Devin Singletary and logged season highs in snaps, rushing attempts, passing targets and receptions. Is Cook finally getting his shot at being the primary back for the Bills, or was that just a one-time thing? Who should Jets fans expect to carry the load at running back for the Bills in this game, and what problems does Cook represent for the Jets that perhaps Singletary does not?

There’s been a fair amount of speculation about the Bills’ running backs. I believe Devin Singletary is still RB1, and deservedly so. But he may sign elsewhere after the season, so now’s the time to figure out if his production is replaceable in-house. Many are suspicious of Cook’s ability to be an every-down back, even as it relates to the job for the Bills. He’s struggled at times in pass protection, but his talent is undeniable. Cook brings speed and elusiveness on a level superior to Singletary. He’s known for his receiving skills, but Singletary is a fine receiver in his own right. I think offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey has begun to trust Cook more, and may have preferred saving his reps for later in the season, so as not to hit an early rookie wall.

Jets fans should expect the unexpected with Buffalo’s run game. It could be an equal rep share between Singletary and Cook, or it could divide even further if adding in Nyheim Hines. Honestly, it’s fairly difficult to predict what’s going to happen, week to week — and fully reasonable to believe Dorsey utilizes a hot hand approach to the position. But the Bills have made a more concerted effort to play balanced on offense since Allen’s injury. Oh yeah, that Allen guy is a great runner as well. If he’s not corralled, he will make the defense pay.

5. Last game the Bills opened as 12.5 road favorites against the Jets according to DraftKings. If we assume home field accounts for about 3 points over a neutral field, then the Jets would have been 15.5 point underdogs on a neutral field and a whopping 18.5 point underdogs in Buffalo last game. This game the Bills opened as 9.5 point favorites at home. That means the Bills advantage over the Jets dropped by roughly 9 points from a betting perspective. What do you think accounts for this huge change in such a short time? Is it just that the Jets beat the Bills last time? Is it that the Jets have slowly made believers of bettors this season after being a laughingstock for so long? Is it that the Bills have struggled just a tad lately? Is it the change at quarterback for the Jets from Zach Wilson to Mike White? What’s your take on the dramatic shift in betting lines here?

First and foremost, it’s a testament to the season the New York Jets have put together. Have they exceeded expectations? That’s not something I can astutely answer because I don’t follow them closely most weeks. But it sure feels like they’re ahead of the clock in the rebuild everywhere but at QB. Sure, draft picks help, but teams must pick the right players—and it seems to be the case based on early returns.

Yes, the Jets beating the Bills in Week 9 likely puts a bit of a lid on any crazy line this week. But I think more than anything, bettors believe the Jets have a better chance winning this game with Mike White at QB instead of Zach Wilson. Uninformed observers might be confused given the relative success Wilson had in Week 9, but that performance feels more like an outlier at this point. That’s not meant to disparage Wilson, just that his stock has trended in the entire wrong direction ever since he openly shared his opinions on the team’s struggles. I personally think he was trying to show confidence as the team’s leader, but things didn’t come out the way he probably envisioned. I get benching Wilson when your team has a chance to break a playoff drought and fields a fantastic defense. Bills fans know that scenario all too well. But I have to wonder if it’s too soon to move on from him, long term. The Bills did the same thing with EJ Manuel, and it was the right move, but Manuel and Wilson are not the same.

As for the game itself, I think this one will be close. If the Bills can contain Garrett Wilson and rediscover their elite offensive ways, it’s possible the game would skew towards something less than close. But the Jets went toe to toe with the Vikings, and I believe they’ll do the same this week against Buffalo. Essentially, it’s anyone’s game this week!