Throughout the season, NewYorkJets.com reporters Eric Allen, Ethan Greenberg and Randy Lange will each give their predictions to a series of questions regarding this year's Jets.
Today's question: How much will the Jets benefit from playing a Bills team with its AFC East Title Hopes on the Line?
EA: I think it's a huge opportunity. The Jets have already beaten two first-team place teams in the Titans and the Bengals, and they took a third, the Buccaneers, down to the final whistle in Week 17. But all those games were at home. The Jets have one victory away from MetLife Stadium and that was a come-from-behind 21-14 victory over 4-12 Texans in Week 12. The Green & White open up as a 17-point underdog against a Bills club that has claimed double-digit wins in all 10 of its victories. That's a rare occurrence and the Bills lead the NFL in scoring differential at +177. Since the beginning of the 2020 season, the Bills are 10-1 inside the division while the Jets haven't won a division contest. With a win or a Patriots loss to the Dolphins, the Bills would secure their second-consecutive division championship. HC Robert Saleh said this week that the Jets will head into an environment that will be sold out, loud and cold and everything that you dream of as a youngster in terms of going into a stadium that is going to be live and juiced. Can the young Jets, the only team in the NFL to have six rookies play at least 400 snaps on offense or defense, rise to the occasion and put some late-game pressure on a team that is strangely 0-5 in one score games? I can't wait to see how this ever-developing group responds to the moment.
EG: I think Robert Saleh said it best earlier this week, talking about the different level of intensity this team will face. The Bills will give everything they have against the Jets with the a home playoff game on the line, which will be good for a young Jets team that wants to be in a spot fighting for playoff contention. This type of game could leave a lasting impact on the Green & White, particularly its young players. It'll be a challenge for the Jets especially with the injuries on offense against the NFL's No. 1 defense, but there's a lot to be learned. The Green & White played a great game against the defending Super Bowl champion last week and has taken down two teams who will play in the postseason (Titans and Bengals). DC Jeff Ulrbich said on Thursday that the team wants to show this isn't the "same old Jets" and they have a great opportunity to make a statement on Sunday in Orchard Park, NY.
RL: It would be superb for the Jets to go up to Orchard Park and beat a Buffalo team that's out of the playoff hunt or resting its starters as happened in 2019. But these Jets need their mettle tested and that will happen against the Bills, who can claim the AFC East title with a win (or a Patriots loss) on Sunday. So let's see how far the Green & White have progressed. They've beaten two playoff-bound teams in Cincinnati and Tennessee, and nearly stunned Tampa Bay a week ago. But they've also endured some unpretty defeats, including the 45-17 home loss to the Bills in November. Only twice since 1970 have the Jets lost by 28-plus points at home to a division rival, then defeated that rival on the road later in the season. In 2002 they atoned for their 44-7 home-opening loss to the Patriots with their 30-17 win at newly opened Gillette Stadium. And in 2018, Sam Darnold, who missed the 41-10 home loss to the Bills, directed the 27-23 comeback win over fellow rookie Josh Allen & Co. at Buffalo. Comeback or not, win or not, the '21 Jets of Robert Saleh, Zach Wilson, C.J. Mosley, et. al. will benefit greatly by taking pieces from both scripts and putting together a stronger showing to validate the good from this season and put the bad in their rearview mirrors as they drive into '22.