The Buffalo Bills were one of the NFL’s best teams last season, but the Jets were able to upset them, 20-17, in November. The Bills only lost two other games all season before losing to the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round. According to our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook, the Bills are favored by 2.5 points in this game. How will they fare against a retooled Jets team led by new quarterback Aaron Rodgers?
Josh Allen ended up in third place in MVP voting in 2022 and has posted consistent numbers over the past three years. He posted the second best numbers of his career for yards per attempt and quarterback rating, but also had his highest interception rate since his rookie season.
As a rusher, Allen set a career high for carries last year, so there’s no sign that the Bills are encouraging him to run less at this stage of his career. He’s always a threat with his legs and has 38 rushing touchdowns in five seasons, including seven last season.
Kyle Allen (no relation) is the Bills’ number two. He has a 7-12 record in his career as a starter but has lost his only two starts since 2020.
The Bills have three returning starters on the offensive line, but they have brought in new starters at each guard position. Connor McGovern, not to be confused with the Jets center with the same name, joined them from Dallas to play left guard, and second round rookie O’Cyrus Torrence will get a baptism by fire against the Jets’ impressive defensive line in his NFL debut at right guard.
Alongside Torrence is another former day two pick, Spencer Brown, who has started 24 games in his first two seasons. Brown has been a weak link on an otherwise solid line. He gave up the highest pressure rate on the team last season despite having a Pro Bowl lineman next to him in Roger Safford.
The other two starters are reliable veterans and each also garnered Pro Bowl honors last season. Mitch Morse at center and Dion Dawkins at left tackle are both solid in pass protection and the running game. Dawkins can be penalty prone, though, as he had a team-high 13 last season.
There is plenty of experience on the bench, with Germain Ifedi and David Edwards each having been full-time starters in the past. They only started four games between them last year though. Ryan Bates also has plenty of experience and is a versatile player to be moving back to the bench after having started 15 games last season.
Youngsters Alec Anderson and Ryan Van Demark have yet to make their NFL debut and could be inactive on Monday night.
James Cook has taken over from Devin Singletary as the Bills’ starting running back. He thrived in a rotational role as a rookie last year, as he averaged 5.7 yards per carry despite having more than 11 carries in a game only once. Cook is the brother of Jets’ running back Dalvin Cook.
Despite losing Nyheim Hines for the year to an off-field injury, the Bills have some good depth at the position. Damien Harris signed after an injury plagued 2022 season with New England. In 2021, he rushed for almost 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns in just 15 games.
The number three back, Latavius Murray, was a thousand-yard rusher himself in 2015 and was still productive last year, as he rushed for over 100 yards twice in the last four games.
Reggie Gilliam remains with the team as a fullback. He averaged just over 10 snaps per game last season.
Stefon Diggs hasn’t missed a game since signing for the Bills three seasons ago and has consistently been Allen’s favorite target. In 2022, he had 108 catches for over 1,400 yards and a career-high 11 touchdowns. In the upset loss to the Jets last year, he had a monster first half with five catches for 93 yards, but was shut out after half time.
Beyond Diggs, the Bills’ best weapons are wide receiver Gabe Davis and pro bowl tight end Dawson Knox. Davis had the best statistical season of his career so far with 48 catches for over 800 yards and seven scores. He was second in the NFL in yards per reception last year, having also been in the top-10 in his first two years. Knox also caught 48 passes and had touchdown catches in four consecutive games at the end of the regular season.
The Bills brought in two new wide receivers in Deonte Harty and Trent Sherfield. Harty didn’t play much last year but he did catch 36 passes in 2021 and has been listed as the starter in the slot. Sherfield entered last year with 37 catches in four season, but he had a mini-breakout with 30 receptions in Miami in 2022.
In the draft, Buffalo picked versatile tight end Dalton Kincaid in the first round and he could see early involvement from the slot and in the screen game.
Filling out the rotation are wideout Khalil Shakir, who can also play in the slot, and tight end Quintin Morris. Shakir caught just 10 passes last year and Morris caught eight.
The Bills will be without stud edge rusher Von Miller, who remains on the PUP list, but they were confident enough in their defensive line depth to trade 2021 second round pick Boogie Basham to the Giants.
Leonard Floyd is the key addition, as the 31-year old is coming off his third straight season with at least nine sacks. The Bills are hoping Floyd will form a strong starting partnership with Gregory Rousseau until Miller returns. Rousseau, a 2021 first-round draft pick, came out of the gates fast with four sacks in the first four games last year and ended up tied for the team lead with eight.
AJ Epenesa is a solid backup who racked up 6.5 sacks last season. Shaq Lawson showed he still had something left in the tank as Miller’s replacement down the stretch in 2022 after an underwhelming 2021 campaign with the Jets.
Last year’s interior defensive line rotation is intact, with Ed Oliver and Daquan Jones forming a solid starting duo and Jordan Phillips and Tim Settle filling in off the bench. The Bills also added former Seattle Seahawk Poona Ford to the mix.
The Bills lost their leading tackler and one of the main lynchpins of their defense, with Tremaine Edmunds joining the Chicago Bears. However, Matt Milano has emerged as a pro bowl talent himself over the past year or so. He had 99 tackles, three interceptions, 11 pass breakups and a team-high 12 tackles for loss last season. It’s also worth noting that Milano was not in the game when the Jets ran the ball down the Bills’ throats to clinch last season’s upset win.
Third round rookie Terrel Bernard and Tyrel Dodson saw action last year and they will now be expected to handle expanded roles. Bernard, a day two pick last year, is listed as the starter, but he only started one game last year, while Dodson started three. In preseason, Bernard was nursing a hamstring injury and Dodson struggled, so the preparation at this position was far from ideal and Rodgers will be looking to exploit any blown assignments.
Third round rookie Dorian Williams also joins the rotation, but Tyler Matakevich is mostly just a special teamer.
Cook and Bernard are not the only 2022 draft picks moving into a starting role. Sixth round pick Christian Benford will join established starters Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer in the starting secondary. Taron Johnson is a solid nickelback too.
Poyer and Hyde are one of the most reliable safety tandems in the league, with Poyer named to the Pro Bowl last season after leading the team with four interceptions. Hyde missed most of the 2022 season due to injury.
White was himself returning from injury in 2022 and not quite back to his best, but still broke up six passes in six games.
The Bills have some solid depth with several players who’ve filled in as starters over the past few years. Cornerback Dane Jackson and safety Damar Hamlin both played major roles last year, with Jackson’s 12 pass breakups leading the team and Hamlin now recovered from his scary on-field injury against the Bengals.
Cornerback Kaiir Elam was last year’s first round pick, and new safety Taylor Rapp is a former second rounder, so there’s untapped potential there. Cam Lewis and Siran Neal have some versatility but are there mostly for special teams.
Hines was the Bills’ return specialist but now that he’s unavailable, Harty will take this role with Shakir backing him up. Harty, who at the time was called Deonte Harris, was an all-pro in that role as a rookie in 2019.
Kicker Tyler Bass and punter Sam Martin reprise their roles from last year. Bass missed six kicks last year but he hit two important game winners down the stretch. Martin was in the middle of the pack in most categories last year.
The Bills have several productive players in kick coverage. Neal is their primary gunner but Bernard, Matakevich and Lewis were all also productive last season.