ORCHARD PARK - No doubt, Week 13 went about as well as it possibly could have for the Buffalo Bills. So well, in fact, that they regained first place in the AFC East and leaped all the way to the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff race for homefield advantage.
And guess what? All of the good fortune the Bills enjoyed last week - their defeat of the Patriots along with losses by the Dolphins, Chiefs and Jets - won’t mean a whole lot if they stub their toes Sunday afternoon and lose to New York in their first game at Highmark Stadium in nearly a month.
“None of it really matters at the end of the day,” safety Jordan Poyer said of last week. “If you don’t handle what you gotta handle this weekend, the whole scenario changes. This is a good Jets team coming here. They beat us last time. It’s good to have control of your own destiny, but I think you have to learn to process being in the right now and not worry about if Miami wins or New England wins.”
Sign up for the Bills Blast newsletterDelivered straight to your inbox, additional Bills analysis, insight, stats, quotes and team history from Sal Maiorana
It’s true, if the Bills win their last five games, it won’t matter what any other team does, the Bills will win their third straight AFC East title and the road to Super Bowl 57 will pass through Orchard Park.
However, fulfilling that destiny means negotiating quite an obstacle course beginning with the feisty Jets who probably need the game even more than Buffalo because they’re currently hanging on for dear life to a wild-card berth.
Jump to: Sal's prediction for Bills vs Jets
Then the Dolphins come to town for a game that will, in all likelihood, be for the AFC East title. After a road game at Chicago, the Bills have a brutally tough test at Cincinnati, and then they close at home against the Patriots. Winning all five would be quite an accomplishment.
On the topic of controlling their destiny and needing to win every week, Josh Allen said, “We’ve felt that way obviously when we were written off a few weeks ago, and our focus is going 1-0 each week. That’s all we can do; we can control what we can control. And everything that we want to do is still out in front of us and that’s been our mindset.”
Here’s my preview of the game:
Buffalo Bills on offense: Allen looking for redemption
The Jets defense is impressive at all three levels, and no one knows this more than Allen who struggled through one of the worst games of his career last month at MetLife Stadium. He threw for only 205 yards and though he ran for Buffalo’s only two TDs, he had two killer interceptions and his passer rating of 46.8 was the sixth-worst of his 73-game NFL career. He also fumbled twice, though the Bills recovered both. Afterward, he owned it and said he played like (crap).
In that game, the Jets were able to pressure Allen on 31% of his dropbacks and on those plays, his passer rating was a Blutarsky-like 0.0. That’s almost hard to believe. RT Spencer Brown didn’t play that day but he’ll be back, and it looks like LT Dion Dawkins - who missed the Patriots game - will be good to go. If so, that’s a positive development against a pass rush that can create problems with John Franklin-Myers and Bryce Huff off the edge, and star DT Quinnen Williams who leads the team with nine sacks and 42 pressures.
It will be interesting to see the Bills’ RB usage after James Cook had an almost even split with Devin Singletary in New England. Cook is averaging 5.4 yards per attempt, but the Jets rank fifth in the NFL at just 4.1 yards allowed per rush. Obviously, this is a big day for the Buffalo offensive line, both in the run game and pass protection. If it struggles, things could get frustrating for an offense that is still trying to get back to where it was early in the season.
One of the interesting strategical aspects will be how offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey deploys Stefon Diggs. The Jets have two outstanding boundary CBs in Sauce Garnder and D.J. Reed, so Dorsey may try to get Diggs into the slot and have him operate against Michael Carter II. According to Pro Football Focus, Diggs has lined up in the slot 191 times this season, so it’s not something out of the ordinary. In the first game, he was in the slot for 20 plays.
Buffalo Bills on defense: Is Mike White for real?
The Jets yanked 2021 first-round pick Zach Wilson a couple weeks ago and turned to White, and in his two starts he has thrown for 684 yards with three TDs and two picks in beating the Bears and losing to the Vikings. Wilson was actually the winning QB in the first game against Buffalo, though that was more a product of the Jets running game and their defense.
It’s pretty clear that White gives the Jets a better chance to win, but now he faces his toughest test - a Bills defense that ranks fourth in the NFL in fewest points allowed (17.4) and takeaways per game (1.7). This is also a defense that intercepted him four times in the game at New York last year which sent White to the bench for the rest of the season.
This is a vastly different Jets offense, though, than the unit White had in 2021, led by dynamic rookie WR Garrett Wilson who is 54 yards shy of breaking Keyshawn Johnson’s Jets rookie record of 844 receiving yards. Wilson singed the Bills for eight catches worth 92 yards, though that day the Bills did not have Tre’Davious White, Jordan Poyer or Matt Milano. Milano practiced Friday and will be listed as questionable, so we’ll see on his availability. If he’s out, that’s a big hit for the Bills.
Buffalo will need to pressure White and force him to get rid of the ball quickly which not only could lead to mistakes, but would limit Wilson’s effectiveness. The Bills will have to do it without Von Miller and Jordan Phillips up front, so players like Greg Rousseau, Ed Oliver and Shaq Lawson need to win against a suspect offensive line.
Another thing to watch will be red zone performance. The Jets have been terrible in White’s two starts - 2-for-8 combined against the Bears and Vikings including 1-for-6 in Minnesota. They rank 26th in the NFL with a TD percentage of just 48.6. Meanwhile, the Bills defense has been excellent in the red zone with a third-best TD yield of 47.2%.
Sal’s prediction: Buffalo Bills 24, New York Jets 16
The Bills are the better team, that’s the bottom line here. What happened in New York last month was rather unusual because there were so many weird things that took place, all of which seemed to go against Buffalo, and still, the Jets were barely able to squeeze out a 20-17 victory. That was a game that the Bills really had no business losing, which is something you could actually say about all three of their defeats.
This time, the Bills won’t be caught off guard by an upstart Jets team, and while White is certainly an upgrade over Wilson at quarterback, and New York’s defense remains a very strong unit, the Bills - back home after quite a journey the past three weeks - will do enough on both sides of the ball to get this done.
Bills vs. Jets: News and notes
▶ Since the start of the 2020 season, the Bills lead the league in average points scored per game (29.3) and fewest points allowed (19.4) which is quite a thing.
▶ This is the first time since the end of the 2015 season that the Bills and Jets have played a game with each team having at least seven wins.
▶ The Jets are the only current AFC East team that Buffalo holds an all-time series lead against as they have a 67-57 record including a playoff victory over New York in the 1981 wild-card round.
▶ Garrett Wilson leads all NFL players since the beginning of Week 12 with 257 receiving yards while rookie RB Zonovan Knight has at least 100 scrimmage yards in each of the past two games when he took over as the Jets main ball carrier. In doing so, he joined Phillip Lindsay (2018 Broncos) as the only undrafted players in the common-draft era with at least 100 scrimmage yards in each of their first two career games.
▶ Last week Mike White became just the fifth player in NFL history to throw for at least 350 yards in multiple games within his first five career starts.
▶ The Jets have outscored their opponents 94-40 in the fourth quarter, the best point differential in the league. Five of their seven wins were decided in the fourth quarter.
▶ Allen’s 23 games with at least one passing and one rushing TD are the most in the NFL since he entered the league in 2018.
▶ Since 2017 when Sean McDermott arrived, the Bills defense has allowed the fewest pass completions of more than 25 yards in the league (113), the fewest TD passes (93), and the lowest opposing passer rating (79.1).
▶ McDermott has a record of 20-13 in games against AFC East opponents. And since 2020, the Bills have allowed AFC East opponents to score just 15.7 points per game, the lowest figure by any team in the NFL within its division.
2022 Buffalo Bills schedule
Thursday, Sept. 8 at Rams, W 31-10
Monday, Sept. 19 vs. Titans, W 41-7
Sunday, Sept. 25 at Dolphins, L 19-21
Sunday, Oct. 2 at Ravens, W 23-20
Sunday, Oct. 9 vs. Steelers, W 38-3
Sunday, Oct. 16 at Chiefs, W 24-20
Sunday, Oct. 23 Bye week
Sunday, Oct. 30 vs. Packers, 8:20 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 6 at Jets, L 17-20
Sunday, Nov. 13 vs. Vikings, L 30-33
Sunday, Nov. 20 vs. Browns, W 31-23
Thur. 11/24 at Lions, W 28-25
Thur. 12/1 at Patriots, W 24-10
Sun. 12/11 vs Jets, 1 p.m.
Sat. 12/17, vs. Dolphins, 8:15 p.m.
Sat. 12/24 at Bears, 1 p.m.
Mon. 1/2 at Bengals, 8:30 p.m.
Sun. 1/8 vs. Patriots, TBD
Sal Maiorana can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.To subscribe to Sal's new twice-a-week newsletter, Bills Blast, please follow this link: https://profile.democratandchronicle.com/newsletters/bills-blast
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Bills vs Jets prediction and keys to AFC East rematch game in Week 14