Entering their Week 11 matchup in Orchard Park, NY, both the Jets (4-5) and the Bills (5-5) have some ground to make up in the AFC and little margin for error down the stretch. In a conference that features 11 teams with .500 records or better, Sunday's clash between the two AFC East rivals provides a chance for a turn of momentum.
In need of a win, the Jets and the Bills are each on two-game slides. The Jets haven't scored a TD since Breece Hall's 50-yard reception vs. the Giants in a Week 8 OT win, and they're coming off a 16-12 loss to the Raiders when five trips in plus-territory resulted in four Greg Zeurlein field goals and a turnover. Costly penalties prevented the Jets from taking early control and there was no late-game comeback for a team that has been no stranger to rallies this season.
Offense Trying to Figure It Out
While working on cleaning up penalties, Jets HC Robert Saleh indicated there will be offensive changes that won't include QB Zach Wilson and OC Nathaniel Hackett. The Jets waived veteran RB Michael Carter, clearing the way for rookie RB Israel "Izzy" Abanikanda's pro debut while second-year TE Jeremy Ruckert could see more action against the Bills. Wilson, who has helped guide the Jets to two straight wins over the Bills including the club's 22-16 come-from-behind OTvictory in Week 1, said the offense spent a lot of time this week working on finding solutions.
"We spent a lot of time talking, kind of individually with different groups and stuff," said Wilson who against the Raiders became the sixth QB this season to pass for 250 yards (263) and rush for 50 yards (54) in the same game. "And I think it was a good time, for everyone to be in the same room together as an offense and just try to figure some things out, how we can be better. I think just kind of everyone trying to figure something out. We got to be better, so I think that is where it starts."
Against a healthier Bills team in Week 1, the Jets rushed for 172 yards. The Buffalo defense, missing critical cogs including LB Matt Milano and DT Daquan Jones, is 24th in terms of rush yards per play (5.41) and could be an inviting target. Wilson also has been good when the Jets go to play action, having posted a 105.2 passer rating on PA passes.
"Every game is really close, everything coming down to the end," Wilson said of a Jets team that has played 6 one-possession games. "So, for us as an offense, it's how can we be more detailed? How can we be better? No team can be good enough to overcome what we were going through last week, as far as just penalties and negative plays. So, we need to be able to clean those up to be better and this is where it really starts to matter going into these stretch of games. We need to be better."
Major Move in Buffalo
Bills HC Sean McDermott believes his offense needs to be better, too, so he made a bold move this week and changed offensive coordinators after 10 games. Hours after Buffalo turned the ball over 4 times in a stunning home loss to Denver on Monday night, Ken Dorsey was fired and QB coach Joe Brady was promoted to interim OC. Brady's primary charge is to get more out of QB Josh Allen, who leads the NFL in total TDs (26) and giveaways (14).
"The fact is, we play better as a team, we probably don't have to make a move like that," Allen said. "I talked with Coach McDermott and I understand the thought process of why we're doing it and it's unfortunate, but at the same time we have a game against a division rival on Sunday and we still have time to turn this thing around."
But this Jets defense isn't a team that screams "get right game" for any offense. Allen, 6-4 in his career against the Green & White, has 9 career pass TDs and 10 INTs against the Jets and his 79.0 passer rating is his lowest against any opponent. Stefon Diggs, who had 10 catches for 102 yards and 1 TD in Week 1, has gone 4 straight games without 100-plus receiving yards. Diggs' score was the only TD the Jets have surrendered to a receiver in 14 games.
"It is always a challenge, going against their whole receiver core," said CB Sauce Gardner. "They got Josh Allen, a pretty good quarterback, an elite quarterback with strong arm. It's going to be a huge challenge."
What Is It Going to Take?
Expect the Jets to be up for the challenge. Jets LB C.J. Mosley, equal parts philosopher, cerebral assassin and physical destroyer, reached the 1,000-career tackle plateau against the Raiders with a 14-stop performance. After signing with the Jets in 2019, Mosley, 31m remains intent on playing postseason football in New York.
"Obviously, I have no intention, no plans of sitting on the couch at the end of January," he said. "But what is that going to take? We can all say we deserve to be in that spot, but we have to earn it. Most importantly, nine times out of 10, we have to take it in this League. That is the mindset we have to have going forward."
The Jets have an opportunity to put the division on notice in a five-day span. After they battle the Bills, they'll host the AFC-leading Miam Dolphins (6-3) in the NFL's first Black Friday game. The Jets haven't swept the season series with Buffalo since 2016 and a win would not only place them back at .500, but it would also send the Bills, the three-time defending division champion, into a position where a postseason trip would be highly improbable.
"We had a nice stretch where we had three games in, we just lost two to two AFC opponents, now we are going to get back into our divisional games," Mosley said. "We have to understand where we are at in the season, and we have to have a short-term memory with the two tough losses that we had because at the end of the day we have to get back to work. Obviously, a win will make everything feel a lot better."