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Weekend Look Ahead

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5 things to watch for in Bills vs. Jets | Week 11


1. Brady boost?

With the midseason change at offensive coordinator, the Bills are hoping to put a charge into their offense, which has struggled to get off to fast starts and score points at a rate they've become accustomed to over the last three seasons. Head coach Sean McDermott is hopeful that interim offensive coordinator, Joe Brady, can inject some new energy into the unit, and the players will be focused on executing at a high level.

"I'm excited about what we have moving forward and the energy that our guys have, and the confidence. It's about us being able to do something with that," Brady said. "Not really getting specific in terms of scheme and play calling and what not, but just more of just focusing on finding ways to score points and not turn the ball over."

Brady on a short week isn't likely to make any dramatic changes, but ESPN NFL analyst, Dan Orlovsky, in his weekly appearance on ‘One Bills Live’ believes there are some tweaks he can implement.

"I think there could be minor changes," said Orlovsky. "I think it's going to be more of the subtlety of, 'Hey, we're going to do less of this and more of that.' More of the things that maybe the quarterback or the offensive line or certain receivers and tight ends, what they like and less of what they don't like. Some of the things that just are obvious that the offense can excel in."

One of those tweaks could be putting Josh Allen under center a bit more, where explosive plays have been more prevalent. In the shotgun, Allen has a high completion rate (69.8%), low yards per attempt (6.5), mixed results in touchdowns (14) versus interceptions (9) and he's been sacked all 13 times out of shotgun. His passer rating out of shotgun is 90.3 this season.

Though it's a much smaller sample size, Allen has a higher rate of completion (73.1%) under center, a yards per attempt double that of shotgun (12.9), no sacks, and a passer rating of 131.1.

"I'm not naïve to the fact that it's a shotgun league," Orlovsky said. "But if we're being honest of the offenses in the NFL that are playing the best, we're going to put them in a group of Miami, Houston, San Francisco, Baltimore. Look how much they put the quarterback under center.

"One of the massive, glaring misses in this offense right now it is very difficult to be explosive. You can't be explosive versus two safety defense, just playing drop back football. You're not good enough. Very few people are. You must do things to try and create that and I do think that Joe Brady will at least hopefully implement that a little bit to help everybody. I don't think it's an impossible fix. I honestly do not. I do think there are tweaks and changes that they can implement to help everybody play better.

"I think they have to go at least 10 to 12 plays of play action. Number one you've got numbers in to protect with your offensive line. Number two, it gives them opportunities to push the ball downfield. Number three and probably the biggest part of that is there are check downs right in line with what Josh is going to want to do with the football."

In Week 1, Allen had just two pass attempts from under center. He went 1-for-2 for 26 yards. In shotgun he was 28-for-39 passing for 210 yards with a touchdown pass and three interceptions and was sacked five times.

2. Letting James Cook

James Cook did not get a full workload on Monday night after he was sidelined following a fumble on his reception on the first play of the game. But it did not deter him from putting together a productive night against the Broncos. Cook rolled up 109 yards on just 12 carries to average better than nine yards per rush (9.1).

Cook currently stands sixth in the NFL in rushing yards with 615 this season on just 120 carries. His 5.1 yards per carry average ranks sixth in the league.

His 222 receiving yards on the season puts him ninth in the league in total yards from scrimmage with 837.

"I thought James Cook ran it well outside of the obvious fumble," said Orlovsky. "I think James Cook brings an element of speed to the offense that is a needed dynamic, that playmaking ability in space. I think that's needed."

Cook, along with Jacksonville's Travis Etienne, Las Vegas' Josh Jacobs and San Francisco's Christian McCaffrey are the only players in the league with 500 yards or more rushing and 200 yards or more receiving this season.

3. First half holdup

Since Week 7, the Jets and the Bills have both had their share of point-scoring problems in the first half of games this season. Buffalo ranks 25th in the league in first half scoring over their last four games averaging 8.8 points through the first two quarters.

The Jets rank even lower at 29th in the league with an average of 6.3 points in the first half over their last four outings.

Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs believe they're close to solving their first-half production issues.

"I feel like we do a lot of good things and we're right there," said Diggs. "The margin for error is small in the NFL. And the losses that we have had were so small. A turnover here or a missed play right here. So, if we can try to tighten up on the loose things on those couple loose screws, maybe we can have the tide turn."

"We've got to focus on Sunday against a team that's already beaten us once this season, a team that offensively we didn't play very well against. I didn't play very well. So again, we're looking forward to getting out there and playing Buffalo Bills football, the football that we know we can play. I've got a lot of faith in the guys in this room, got a lot of faith in Joe and a lot of faith in myself so we've got to go out there and put together our best ball."

Turnovers have been the biggest issue for Buffalo's offense. Their 18 giveaways are tied for the second most in the league. Buffalo had four giveaways in their Week 1 overtime loss to the Jets and they had four more in a last-second loss to the Denver Broncos last Monday night.

The problem for the Jets has been finishing drives. QB Zach Wilson has one touchdown pass in his last five games, and the Jets have just two touchdown drives on their last 56 possessions. Their current streak of 36 drives without a touchdown is the third longest in the league this year (New England, 39; New York Giants, 38).

"Everybody has their one eleventh that they are doing to try to figure out how we can be better and overall, it just comes down to we need to be better more, we just need to be better more, all the way around the board," said Jets QB Zach Wilson. "We need to stop with the self-inflicted wounds, obviously we said that a million times, we just need to be better, that it is all it comes down to."

The Bills held the Jets to three first-half points back in Week 1.

4. Back to sacks

The Bills pass rush got back on track last week with four sacks of Russell Wilson along with eight quarterback hits. Their season total of 33 ranks second in the league.

New York's offensive line has allowed the highest-pressure rate in the league on 44.2 percent of drop backs. Zach Wilson has been sacked three times or more in six of the Jets' nine games this season. Their 34 sacks allowed thus far is third highest in the NFL.

In fairness, the Jets offensive line has been a constant shuffling of players. They've fielded six different starting lineups on their offensive line over their nine games played.

One of the most disruptive players on Buffalo's defensive front has been DT Ed Oliver. Assistant head coach and defensive line coach, Eric Washington, believes the difference for Oliver has been in the film room.

"Ed's drawing on his experiences," said Washington. "He's playing extremely fast. He's in great shape. And what people don't see is what Ed does away from the practice field. What he's doing in the meeting rooms, the note taking, the questions, trying to understand exactly what we're doing situational football, that stuff has gone through the roof. He's taken a pretty significant jump in my mind with some of those things."

Through his nine games played, Oliver leads NFL defensive tackles in quarterback pressures (41) and pressure rate (16.8%) according to NextGen Stats. He also leads the Bills in tackles for loss (10), is third on the team in sacks (5) and stands third in quarterback hits with 10.

"If Ed Oliver is balling out our defense will have a great day," said Von Miller. "It's rare that the defense really revolves around one player like that, and that's the case with Ed, whether he gets a sack or not. He's just so disruptive in the middle of the field and it allows opportunities for everybody else around him. And I think it goes unnoticed because you see Russ (Wilson) running around and scrambling but Ed was the one who caused that disruption most of the time. He was really killing the inside of the offensive line in this past game. He's been playing great for us and he's going to continue to play great."

Buffalo had three sacks and eight quarterback hits in the first meeting with the Jets in Week 1.

5. Mindful of the margin for error

As much as the Bills will be focused on the task at hand, which is trying to get a win against the Jets, they know where their 5-5 record has left them in the AFC conference race. They currently stand 10th, and they're fully aware that their margin for error is razor thing.

"The fact is we're 5-5 and our backs against the wall," said Allen. "The clock's ticking on what we can do this season and it starts this Sunday to try to turn this thing around. It's no secret in terms of how many wins you probably need to get to the playoffs, and we don't have much more wiggle room. So, we understand that. But again, we can't focus on the next week or the week after that and we can't focus on the end of the season. We got to focus on the here and now and that's Sunday."

The Jets are likely to be just as desperate as Buffalo. At 4-5 their season is on the line as well. But Buffalo has reeled off a series of wins after back-to-back losses before. Last season, after back-to-back losses in Weeks 9 and 10, they won seven straight en route to the postseason. The year prior, they were 7-6 after Week 14, won their final four games and again rolled into the playoffs.

"It's an interesting perspective with the clock working with you compared to against you, looking at it in perspective of 5-5," said Diggs. "Obviously, we've done some good things. We've done some bad things. We're right there. A small margin of error and those things that we had mishaps on, we need to capitalize more on offense. We need to score more points. It's that player-driven leadership right now that's going to drive the boat. So, for me, I keep enforcing and keep bringing energy to the guys. I feel like it'll help us a lot."

Scroll to see photos from the Buffalo Bills Week 11 practice as the team prepares to take on the New York Jets.

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