Week 11 is here, and the New York Jets continue their two-game road trip, this time visiting the Buffalo Bills. A lot has happened since the Jets’ week one win over the Bills 22-16. Both teams enter this matchup searching for answers, trying to make a playoff push.
Today, let’s look at New York’s keys to victory, x-factors, and biggest matchups to watch.
Six Notes Heading Into Jets vs Bills
Jets Offensive Key: Discipline
“Self-inflicted wounds” and “We’ve got to figure it out”- those words Robert Saleh has used over the past couple of weeks describes the teams’ penalties. The Jets’ lack of discipline is alarming, and it has shown up in some of the most significant game moments.
Seeing the penalties live is ugly, but that doesn’t even tell the full story; it’s the stats that are even more startling. Over the last two games, New York has scored 18 points and has committed 16 penalties. Those 16 penalties have gone for 123 yards. One of the biggest culprits is tight end C.J. Uzomah, who had two penalties on Sunday Night, one taking away an 11-yard gain and the other taking away a touchdown from running back Breece Hall.
The Jets are simply not good enough to overcome penalties that take away first downs. They need to be better to overcome penalties that take away touchdowns, and they are not good enough to overcome penalties in the red zone. In a divisional matchup, accountability must be prevalent from Saleh and the coaching staff on Sunday in Buffalo.
Jets Defensive Key: Force Turnovers
It has been challenging sailing for the Bills this season, standing at 5-5 and currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs. Things didn’t get any smoother this week as they fired offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey following a 24-22 home loss to the Denver Broncos. Joe Brady will take over offensive coordinator duties. The big question remains: will it solve Josh Allen’s and the Bills’ offensive turnover problem?
Allen has always had a turnover problem since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2018, but it has gotten even worse this year. Through 10 games, Allen has thrown 11 interceptions, which leads the league. He has also thrown at least one interception in six straight games and has only two games this season where he hasn’t thrown an interception or fumbled. However, his 19 touchdowns are tied for the league lead. Meaning, he can still make every throw, but the turnovers are a large blemish on his resume.
In Week 1, Allen threw three interceptions against New York, all to defensive back Jordan Whitehead. The Jets have forced 15 turnovers this season, including two on Sunday Night against the Las Vegas Raiders. Even with the coordinator change, Allen’s turnovers are a serious problem, and the Jets must take advantage again on Sunday.
Jets Offensive X-Factor: New Personnel
While New York will stick with Nathaniel Hackett as the play-caller and Zach Wilson at quarterback, other much-needed personnel changes are coming. On Tuesday afternoon, the Jets began cutting third-year running back Michael Carter. Even though this move hasn’t sat well in the locker room, the Jets need a spark in the run game, which means running back Israel Abanikanda will get an opportunity.
Along with Abanikanda, New York needs to adjust how they use their tight ends. Uzomah needs to be the third tight end on the depth chart, allowing Jeremy Ruckert and Tyler Conklin to be the Jets’ 1-2 punch at tight end. Another move that should be made is activating UDFA wide receiver Jason Brownlee and continuing to target UDFA wide receiver Xavier Gipson. The Jets receiving core needs a lot more life.
Finally, the play calling on Sunday needs to be a complete 180 from what it has been through nine games. One aspect is getting the running backs, most notably Hall, more involved in the passing game. He can’t only be used as a check-down option; he needs to be given wheel route opportunities where he can break free.
Jets Defensive X-Factor: Jordan Whitehead
As mentioned earlier, the Jets in Week One made Allen’s life miserable, forcing him into three interceptions, and all three were to Whitehead. After a disappointing first season with the Jets in 2022, he has bounced back this season.
Through nine games, Whitehead has four interceptions, which is a career-high, and currently ranks tied for third in the NFL. To add on, he has 11 career interceptions, six of those 11 have come in the last two seasons with New York. Whitehead has also been an Achilles heel for Allen.
In three career games against him, Whitehead has picked Allen off four times. Coming off a game where Whitehead was able to get an interception against Aidan O’Connell and the Raiders, that momentum needs to carry into Sunday.
Jets Offensive Matchup To Watch: Jets Offensive Line vs Bills Pass Rush
A lot of people look at the Bills’ pass rush, see Von Miller’s struggles, and think the group as a whole isn’t producing. The thing is, those reactions aren’t true. Their pass rush has still been productive. This will be another tough test for a Jets offensive line that has dealt with a lot of injuries this season.
Despite Miller’s alarming lack of production, Buffalo still ranks second in the NFL with 33 sacks. Pieces like Leonard Floyd, A.J. Epenesa, Ed Oliver, and Greg Rousseau have all played critical roles in getting to the quarterback. Those four players have combined for 22.5 of the teams’ 33 sacks this season.
As for the Jets up front, they have given up 34 sacks this season, which is third most in the NFL. While last week against Las Vegas was a small step in the right direction, it is still a weakness for this team. New York will need to find a way to improve up front on the road to help out an already struggling offense.
Jets Defensive Matchup To Watch: Jets Run Defense vs James Cook
The Jets have had one of the best defenses in football this season, and unfortunately, the offensive struggles have overshadowed the defense. Currently, New York ranks sixth in the NFL in total defense and third in pass defense, which is headlined by star cornerbacks Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed. However, every side of the ball has its weaknesses; for the Jets’ defense, it’s stopping the run, especially since the injury to Al Woods.
New York enters this game 31st in run defense, allowing 138.4 rush yards per game. The injury of Woods hasn’t helped either, as the Jets gave up over 140 rushing yards to Josh Jacobs and the Raiders on Sunday Night. This week, another challenge presents itself as second-year running back James Cook, brother of Dalvin Cook, will look to find success on Sunday.
Cook enters this Week 11 matchup with 120 carries for 615 yards on 5.1 yards per carry this season. His 615 rushing yards currently ranks sixth in the NFL. The Jets have more than enough pieces in the secondary to slow down the Bills’ passing attack. The real question is, do they have enough bodies up front to slow down the Bills’ rushing attack?
Prediction: Bills win 14-13
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