The Jets lost their second straight game in Week 14 against the Buffalo Bills. This drops the team’s record to 7-6.
All losses hurt in the NFL. They don’t all hurt equally, though.
This was not a game the Jets were expected to win. The Buffalo Bills are probably the best team in the AFC. They might be the best team in the NFL. They are a very difficult team to defeat in their home stadium. The Jets did very well to win one game against them this season. A sweep was probably too much to ask.
Heading into this weekend, the most probable path to the Playoffs for the Jets did not include a road win against the Bills. It certainly would have been nice. In fact, a Week 14 victory would have put the Jets squarely in the driver’s seat to end their eleven year postseason drought. This was, however, very much a situation where a win helped the Jets more than a loss hurt them.
Entering the final five games of the regular season, the smart money was that the Jets needed three wins to make the postseason. That would get them to a final record of 10-7. The path of least resistance was always winning upcoming games against the Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars and then splitting the final two against the Seattle Seahawks and Miami Dolphins.
That path remains viable even after this defeat.
The biggest concern is not the loss to Buffalo. It is the price of the loss.
Numerous key Jets players suffered injuries that forced them to leave the game. The most notable injury was Quinnen Williams who suffered a non-contact calf injury late in the first half. This came in a game where he was dominating up front, registering a pair of sacks.
The Jets also lost quarterback Mike White at two different points of the game after taking big hits. White returned both times, but the second injury seemed more serious. It sent him to the locker room for a stretch and then to the hospital after the game for tests. Needless to say, it is a rough game when your quarterback leaves the game hurt twice, and neither is the most significant injury on your team.
It wasn’t just them. Corey Davis and George Fant also left the game with injuries and did not return, leaving the Jets thin at offensive positions where they really cannot afford to lose players.
It is one thing to lose to Buffalo. It is another to lose key players for the stretch run. The Jets surely hope these injuries will not be serious.
What else can we take from the game?
It is a difficult contest to draw great meaning from. The weather conditions made this kind of a unique game. The wind and precipitation seemed to impact the passing and kicking games. Between the weather and the regularly stout defenses, both teams had conservative offensive approaches in the first half. Even when the play calls themselves were not explicitly conservative, the two quarterbacks seemed content to play it safe for the most part.
Unfortunately for the Jets, most of the key mistakes that impacted the outcome came on their side. Braxton Berrios misread a number of punts in the wind that allowed the Bills to down them deep in Jets territory and control field position.
A critical error by CJ Mosley, leaping over the line of scrimmage on a fourth down play late in the first half was particularly costly. Buffalo seemed to have no intention of snapping the ball and risking giving the Jets great field position in a scoreless game. Mosley gifted the Bills a first down and seemed to breathe life in what had been a stagnant Buffalo offense. The Bills went down the field and scored the game’s first touchdown and seemed to build enough confidence to take the upper hand the rest of the way, undoubtedly aided by Williams’ absence.
A pair of second half fumbles also did the Jets in. One was by Joe Flacco on a sack during one of the brief stretches he replaced an injured White. The other was by Michael Carter, who had a miserable game when he replaced Bam Knight.
Knight himself stood out as one of the positives. The undrafted rookie continued his strong play, running for 71 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He seems to have stabilized a Jets run game that had been inconsistent since losing Breece Hall in Denver back in the autumn.
White also drew praise for his toughness returning to a game where he was clearly injured. I don’t think this was a stellar game for White by any stretch of the imagination, but it did seem to resonate in the locker room. For his part, I don’t think White played himself out of the starting job. If it was going to happen before the end of the season, it probably was going to happen against the Buffalo defense when a softer upcoming schedule would be a logical point to turn back to Zach Wilson. Robert Saleh has already confirmed that the Jets are not going in that direction. They are sticking with White, and I am inclined to agree that is the best decision for the team right now.
Aside from that, the Jets just need to turn the page. This loss doesn’t significantly hurt their Playoff chances, but a loss to Detroit will.