Wow. Who saw this one coming? How about nobody, including the Jets media and fans. Certainly not the national media, although several observed the Bills 10 ½ point spread as a road favorite was on the generous side.
Jets 20, Bills 17 final from MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, and now the AFC East race is the best dogfight in the NFL. The Bills are 6-2, not bad considering that includes wins over AFC Divisional leaders Tennessee, Kansas City and Baltimore, but the Bills are also 0-2 in the AFC East. The Jets and Dolphins are just a half game back at 6-3 and both have wins over the Bills. The Pats are right in there at 5-4.
How did this happen? Many reasons, beginning with the fact the Jets are pretty good and definitely underrated. Coach Robert Saleh has them believing in themselves, and they bounced back from a disappointing home loss to the Patriots with a relentless physical assault on the Bills and QB Josh Allen. Allen may have unwittingly helped young qb Zach Wilson, by telling him during the week he shouldn’t be discouraged about a 3 interception game against the Pats. Maybe next week Wilson should text Allen to shake it off. Wilson played within himself and is far from awful, as many fans and media labeled him after last week.
But Wilson also benefitted from a Jets running game that simply ran over the Bills. Yes, the Bills missed linebacker Matt Milano and safety Jordan Poyer, and Greg Rousseau and cornerback Kaiir Elam during the game, but the Bills sudden inability to stop the run popped up in last week’s 27-17 win over the Packers. The Bills were in great shape tied 17-17 with the Jets at their own 4 with just under 8 minutes to play. Get a stop and march down and grab the W. But the Jets pounded the ball, including 8 straight runs at one point, and eventually kicked the game winning field goal. This has to be fixed, and soon.
We didn’t think a lot about it when Allen threw a couple 4th qtr int’s in the win over the Packers, including one in the Red Zone. He led the Bills to 24 first half points so no biggie.
But throwing two more picks at the Jets, including on the opening drive in the Red Zone, is alarming. Clearly Allen was pressured more than any other game so far this season, and it’s part of the reason he did run for 86 yards and 2 TD’s, including a 36 yard beauty in the 2nd qtr to give the Bills a 14-3 lead. But the Jets have a strong front 7, and their pressure helped keep Allen to just over 200 yards in the air with no TD’s and just over 50%.
This is certainly on Allen, and this will quiet a lot of the MVP and Super Bowl hype for a while as everybody overreacts as they usually do. But Bills critics who claim the Bills rely far too much on their QB have a point. His Oline wasn’t able to give him his usual time, and other than Allen, Devin Singletary and James Cook combined for 39 yards on 12 carries, or just over 3 yards per attempt.
But there’s more. We all know about the Allen-Stefon Diggs connection and chemistry, and Diggs continued his incredible production with 5 catches for 93 yards. But he didn’t have any in the end zone, nor did Gabe Davis or tight end Dawson Knox. They combined for 58 yards on 5 catches and seemed invisible throughout the game. Isaiah McKenzie has also become an afterthought with 2 catches for 12 yards. With Allen and Diggs now providing 90% of the offense, there’s a problem and the Bills know it. I’ve been against the Odell Beckham Jr. speculation for the past few weeks, but now once he’s healthy it might not seem so far-fetched.
Another thought. Why not target rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir a bit more? He was totally ignored in the Jets game, and he’s been nothing but productive so far. James Cook? He’s a bigger and faster Singletary, and much more explosive as a receiver. Newly acquired Nyheim Hines did make his Bills debut with an 18 yard punt return, and I’d be surprised if we don’t see more of him next week when the Bills host the 7-1 Minnesota Vikings.
It’s a long season, and Head Coach Sean McDermott has often mentioned how his team needs to keep an even keel, and not get too high or too low. Getting healthier on defense would help of course, but moving forward, Allen must get more help. Is he pressing now? How could he not be?
We know this. One player the Bills won’t have to fire up for next Sunday’s game against the Vikings at Highmark Stadium, is Stefon Diggs. I’m not a fantasy player, but if I were, I’d have Diggs in my lineup for sure.
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