1. London calling
For the first time in eight years the Bills are back in London for the NFL's International Series, as they will play the second of five international games this Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Jaguars, who won at Wembley Stadium in London last week in a 23-7 victory over Atlanta, are now 5-5 all-time in international games. Their five victories are the most by any NFL club in international play.
This is also the first time an NFL club is playing in back-to-back games overseas.
The Jaguars and Bills have played in more international games than any other NFL franchises. Sunday will be Buffalo's eighth international game with six of them played in Toronto, Ontario. The Bills are 0-1 in London, which was a 34-31 defeat at the hands of the Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in Week 7 of the 2015 season.
The Bills chose to leave for London on Thursday evening this week. Buffalo's sports science department has been instrumental in making sure the players' body clocks adjust in short order for Sunday's game, which will be played at 2:30 pm local time.
"I've never been to London, in terms of flight time, and stuff like that," said Josh Allen. "It's going to be weird being an East Coast team, not flying back in time. So, in terms of like body clock, just making sure that we're staying on top of that and trusting what our sports science people are telling us here, trusting what our trainers are telling us, being hydrated as much as possible and trying to get as much sleep as possible. I think that's one thing that keeps coming up is just sleep cycle. So, making sure we're getting our rest and doing everything we can do to be prepared on Sunday."
The players' plan is to sleep as much as possible on the plane, try to treat Friday as much of a normal day as possible and then go to bed Friday evening around 9 or 10 pm. Then wake up Saturday morning putting their body clocks in alignment with London time.
"Our Sports Science Department and Joe Collins and his staff and our training staff, they've done a ton of research," said head coach Sean McDermott. "Joe is actually from (England). So they've done a ton of research over the years, and now it's ramped up obviously and making sure we're going about it the right way here."
Check out a few photos as the team arrives at its London-based headquarters in advance of Sunday's game against Jacksonville.
2. Big splashes
When Bills head coach, Sean McDermott, decided he would also be calling plays on the defensive side of the ball, most believed the defensive scheme would be a bit more exotic and a bit more aggressive. That approach has led to a unit that through four weeks is tops in the league in sacks per play and leads the league in interceptions and total takeaways.
Jacksonville QB Trevor Lawrence has certainly sat up and taken notice of the Bills' pass rush in particular.
"They do a great job," said Lawrence. "I think one thing that stands out about them is that they play through the whistle every play. Even if their initial pass rush doesn't get home, when you step up, they're retracting and refolding back in to make the play and they don't stop until the whistle. I think that's why they've been able to get so many sacks. They're able to rotate the full D-line and keep guys fresh and keep them rolling. So, when I do step up, just taking care of the ball, making the right decision and getting it to our guys in space, all those things that are there every week are just more emphasized."
Buffalo can become the fourth team since 1990 with at least 20 sacks and 10 interceptions through their first five games of a season, joining New England in 2019, Jacksonville in 2017 and Philadelphia in 1991.
The Jaguars are no slouches when it comes to taking the ball away either. They're fifth in takeaways with nine and their pass rusher Josh Allen leads the NFL in sacks with six after his three-sack performance last week against Atlanta along with three quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
"(He) scares me," said Buffalo's Josh Allen of Jacksonville's Josh Allen. "He got me last time we played. He's coming off a really good week too. He's a baller. He's playing really good football right now. And their defensive group right now is playing at a high level. They work together very well. So we're going to have our hands full."
3. Pass rushing returns?
Bills All-Pro pass rusher, Von Miller returned to the practice setting this week, though he remained on the PUP list. It opened a 21-day window in which to practice giving the coaching and athletic training staffs an opportunity to gauge his readiness for game action.
"If they want me to play, I'll play," said Miller. "My goal is to be available. If they feel like it's best for me to play, then I'll play. I want to play. They're calling the shots. So, if they want me to play, I am happy and ready to play. If they don't, and they want to wait until next week versus the Giants, then I'll do that as well.
"It's not a time to be macho man right now. I just want to get back in the mix and get in the flow and get in a rhythm. And if they feel like it's time, the time is now, then I'll do it."
The Bills aren't the only team who could see the return of one of their best pass rushers this weekend in London. While Von Miller returned to the practice setting for the Bills this week, so too did Jaguars OLB Dawuane Smoot.
Smoot is coming off a partially torn Achilles suffered last season in Week 16 last season against the Jets. Much like Miller for the Bills, Smoot has a 21-day window in which to practice and allow the team to make a decision as to whether he's ready to return. Bleav in Jaguars podcast host, Justin Dunk, in an appearance on the ‘Bills by the Numbers’ podcast doesn't expect to see Smoot activated this week.
"As for Smoot, I think that's a bit of a long shot, although Pederson did say that he's been cleared and could be ready to go," said Dunk. "They want to see where he's at from a football standpoint. And Jaguars fans know when anybody who's been watching the team knows that they could use that enhanced pass rush and perhaps move some guys around if Smoot is back."
Smoot was a problem for the Bills in their last meeting in 2021, won by the Jaguars 9-6. The veteran pass rusher has a sack, three tackles including one for loss, two quarterback hits and a forced fumble.
4. Third down opposites
Buffalo's offense has been humming the past three weeks as the unit has risen from 13th in the league in third down conversion rate after Week 1, to second at a current success rate of 51 percent.
Part of the reason for that success rate has been Buffalo's ability to create a good amount of favorable down and distance. Sixty-two percent of their third down situations have been in 3rd-and-6 or less (36 of 58).
The same cannot be said for the Jags offense, which is languishing near the bottom of the league at just over 31 percent to rank 29th.
"Yeah, it's obviously not where we want to be through four games," said Jacksonville QB Trevor Lawrence. "It's kind of been the same issues all season. We're frustrated but continuing to find ways to get better and improve on them. Every week it's different for what the plan is going to be, what teams like to do on third down. I think the most simple answer I can give you is just that we need to execute better. That's what we've been saying. That's still the emphasis and adjusting to different looks. We need to do a better job and that's including myself, if we get a different front or coverage or pressure or whatever, we've got to be able to adjust to those better in game. That's something we're not doing a great job of right now."
Lawrence is 16-32 for 142 yards, with just 4.44 yards per attempt, the second lowest figure in the AFC.
Offensive coordinator Press Taylor feels it goes further than just the decision making of their quarterback.
"There's a lot of things when you look through it, whether it be protection, batted balls here and there, catching here and there, making decisions here and there," Taylor said. "I think as we look into it, everybody has had their hand in this. As a unit, there's not one certain person or group that has let us down where you think you can make this certain change right here. I think it's just everybody in some way, shape, or form, doing the best at their job at that given time, whatever that may be."
Jacksonville converted five of their 13 third-down opportunities last week against Atlanta (35.7%).
5. More play action please
The Bills have been a remarkably efficient offense since Week 1, and there have been a number of variables that have been responsible for that dramatic uptick in production beginning in Week 2. Perhaps chief among them is the use of Josh Allen under center pre-snap and the use of play action.
Thus far this season, Allen is 27-for-33 passing for 451 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions and a perfect passer rating of 158.3 off play action. Even the more stringent QB rating metric devised by ESPN has Allen with a QBR of 98.
"He's averaging 17 yards an attempt on play action. That blows my mind," said ESPN NFL analyst, Dan Orlovsky, in his weekly appearance on ‘One Bills Live.’ "I've said it, he's the best play action passer in the league. Offensive coordinator, Ken Dorsey, what he's leaned into this year should be praised. What play action does for Buffalo is it allows their two best offensive players to do what they do best. When they use play action it takes a little longer time-wise. Stef's (Diggs) superpower is his route running, but you want to give him time to get down the field. Play action allows his strength to be at the forefront. Josh's strength is his arm and the ability to drive challenging throws down the field.
"So, what do you need to do that on a consistent basis? Time. So play action allows those two things to happen while also taking the weakest part of their offense, pass protection by their offensive line and it never really exposes them. When you're in play action they're doing it with one or two tight ends attached to the hips of the tackles so there's help. Second, when you're under center doing it, those defensive linemen have to play with hesitancy and doubt. It's not a situation where the QB is in the shotgun, and you feel like he's more than likely to throw. It makes them play a bit slower. And then on top of it when they're under center and running the football, they're the second-best running team in the NFL. If a player the caliber of Josh Allen under center has the second-best rushing team in football? Good night."
Buffalo's offensive play caller has felt he has found a good way to diversify the Bills' attack and make it more unpredictable.
"I think the big thing is your ability to be multiple from under center, your ability with the back right behind you, you've got runs in either direction," said offensive coordinator, Ken Dorsey of putting Allen under center and using play action. "You've got the ability to throw some quick game out from under center. You still got the ability to release guys and get vertical. And then you've got the ability to give different protection variations, whether it's maxing things up more or chipping guys and doing some different things from that aspect.
"So, I think the multiplicity of what you're able to do, and some different things from some of those under-center looks hopefully creates some issues for the defense and some different things that they have to plan for instead of Josh always being obviously in the gun, and knowing where, A, the backs on one side or the other, and all those different things."
The Bills will wear blue jerseys, white pants and blue socks when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars in London on Sunday.