Top 3 Individual Matchups
Bills Top 2 Advantages
Good advantage – Third down defense
Buffalo’s third down defense is middle of the pack when it comes to NFL rank at 16th in the league, but it’s up from being ranked 22nd in the league just six weeks ago. Jacksonville is the least effective offense in the NFL when it comes to moving the chains at just over 30 percent.
Best advantage – Run game
Despite their struggles last week Buffalo still has a top-five ranked rushing attack on the season. Rolling up better than 133 yards per game on the ground the Bills will be eager to re-establish their run game after a season-low 67 yards last week. The Jaguars are giving up almost 127 rushing yards a game to rank 27th.
Bills Number 1 Must
Early points – The Bills psyche could use a boost right now having lost five of their last six games. They need some early point-scoring success to build confidence and provide some valuable momentum for a team that was the only NFL club that did not post a touchdown last week. All four of Buffalo’s wins have come in games in which they have scored first. When they don’t score first the Bills are 0-4 this year.
Fortunately Jacksonville has been very generous in letting their opponents get an early lead. Their defense ranks 31st in the league when it comes to allowing their opponents to score on their first possession. The Jags have given up 42 points on their opponent’s opening drive of the game. Buffalo ranks 10th in the league in points scored on their first series with 27 this season.
The Jaguars lost their first eight games of the season under new head coach Gus Bradley. They then traded a win for a loss over the next two weeks before ripping off three straight wins heading into Sunday’s game. Jacksonville currently has the longest winning streak in the AFC, as the Jags have not won three in a row since the 2010 season. Last Thursday night was also their first win at home, where they are now 1-5 on the year.
Beefed up run
For most of the season the Jaguars have been unable to run the football as evidenced by their ranking of 32nd in the league. Jacksonville averages just over 75 yards rushing a game (76.6) thanks mainly to the fact that they did not eclipse the century mark on the ground in their first 10 games. The fortunes of the ground game however, have changed in their last three games. The Jaguars have run for over 100 yards in each of the last three games all victories. Jacksonville could be without starting RB Maurice Jones-Drew on Sunday due to a hamstring injury. That would thrust Jordan Todman into the starting lineup.
In their first eight games the Jaguars defense managed just three interceptions. In their last three games, all victories, they’ve forced five turnovers with just one giveaway. In winning four of their last five games Jacksonville has 10 takeaways and they’re a plus-seven in turnover margin. In their nine losses the Jaguars are a minus-9.
One area where Jacksonville has struggled all season long is third down. The Jaguars offense sits at the bottom of the league in third down conversion percentage (30.3%), third-and-medium conversion percentage (28.6) and number of three-and-out possessions. They’re also 30th in third-and-long situations (17.8). No other team in the league goes three-and-out more often than the Jags, who are punting after three plays almost once every three series (32.1%).
Improved run ‘D’
Another category where Jacksonville has improved is run defense. Jacksonville stands 27th in run defense (126.8 yards per game), but over their last five games they’ve locked up opposing ball carriers. The Jaguars have not given up 100 yards rushing to an opponent over that span allowing just 70.8 yards per game on the ground.
After giving up 221 rushing yards to San Francisco in Week 8, Jacksonville has given up a total of 354 rushing yards over the next five games. Opponents over the last five games are averaging just 2.92 yards per carry.
Rookie fourth-round pick Ace Sanders has been a true jack-of-all-trades for the Jaguars this season. Serving mostly as a receiver where he’s second on the team in receptions, Sanders is also the team’s primary punt returner. Recently he’s been used out of the offensive backfield where he’s had a couple of carries. Sanders is quick and elusive, but has not scored a touchdown this season. He did however, have a 21-yard touchdown pass on a halfback option pass last week in the Jaguars’ win over Houston.
Quote of the Week
"It’s a big deal. We want to finish the season strong regardless of our record, regardless of how we’ve played in the past few weeks, even throughout the season. We just want to maximize the opportunities that we have left and just do the best we can to end on a good note."
Stat of the Week
The Bills are first in the league in sacks (43) and the Jaguars are last in the league in sacks (23).
Milestones in reach