1. Allen aiming for ball security
Coming off a game in which he said he played like s—t, Josh Allen has been resolutely focused on playing his best game this coming week against the Jets. With the margin for error in the won-loss column down to zero knowing New England sits a half game back in the division at 5-4, Allen's locked-in demeanor was noticeable this week.
"We're 5-3, not where we want to be, so we got to turn our attention this week and go one week at a time and try to go 1-0 each week and that's been our mindset since we stepped on the field in training camp," Allen said. "We've got to find ways to win football games and stack wins and it starts on Sunday against the Jets."
Allen's history against the Jets has been average by his standards, posting a 3-2 record, though the 13-6 loss in the 2019 season finale was a game largely played by Bills backups and he made an early exit in the first quarter. More importantly New York has been effective in keeping Allen from taking over a game.
They've held him under a 100-passer rating in three of the four legitimate starts he's made against the Jets including last year's 18-10 Bills victory where they relied on six Tyler Bass field goals to win the game. In fact, Allen in the four starts that he finished has amassed seven touchdowns drives against 10 turnovers (four interceptions, six fumbles lost). Even in the 2019 season finale in which Matt Barkley played he had a pair of interceptions and a lost fumble.
The Jets get takeaways against the Bills plain and simple, which is why their games are close more often than not, and Allen is aware of it.
"We've got to be smart with where the ball goes, how we continue to move it making sure that we're holding on to the football and not turning the ball over," he said. "We didn't do a good enough job of that last week. There are statistics out there in the league that whoever wins the turnover battle, you're going to have a much higher chance of winning that game. So that's really the point of emphasis that we got to focus on."
2. Let's get physical
This is a game that's played in a physical way, and we need to be more physical.
Those were the words of Sean McDermott to his football team the Monday following their humbling loss at the hands of the Jaguars. That statement essentially confirmed that the Bills got beat at the line of scrimmage in Week 9 at Jacksonville.
"That's a piece that the game of football hasn't changed," said McDermott. "I mean, it was physical. You had to be physical (in the past) and since that time that's one piece of many that will never change. That's the game of football, and that's a necessary part of it. So, it's that and other things where we have to continue to grow in as a football team."
McDermott has challenged his football team to play more physically overall, but especially at the line of scrimmage where deficiencies were evident in each of the team's three losses this season.
Safety Jordan Poyer affirms that coach McDermott's message was heard loud and clear in Buffalo's locker room.
"We saw it at practice. Guys using their hands getting off blocks, pads were popping. Message was sent and the message was received," said Poyer in an appearance on ‘One Bills Live’ this week. "So, we want to have that same mindset going into the weekend and Sunday. It's a great message that Sean gave us, and we want to take that and use it."
3. Cutting back on the yellow flags
The other area McDermott harped on when it comes to execution is concentration and focus. Coach McDermott was candid in his assessment of the team's recent rash of penalties. In each of the last four games, Buffalo has been assessed with eight penalties or more including last week's 12 for 118 yards, both season highs.
"I've mentioned this before specifically, and I haven't changed on this – the (penalties) that are pre-snap, the ones that are post-whistle, which we had a few of those last week, too many -- those are non-negotiables. They don't fly here," said McDermott. "The aggressive penalties, I can at least deal with as long as I see us work in moving our feet, trying to get in good position, straining with our hands inside. I can live with some of those. I mean, some of those are going to get called because we're trying to play aggressive.
"But that's really where I am on it and the players know. I think there's great clarity on what I expect in that area, and to me, that is a reflection on me, and I shared that with the team. And that's not how I go about my routine in terms of the discipline part. That's one of the things that I'm very strong on."
Division games tend to bring about more flags. The last two times they played the Jets, the Bills racked up seven penalties for 79 yards and 11 penalties for 106 yards.
"We want to make sure our guys stay calm and come to play the game and not get caught up in the extracurricular stuff," said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. "Last week for the most part we did pretty good, but there were times we could have done better."
4. White's alright
He only finished one start, after leaving last week's game in Indianapolis due to a forearm injury, but Mike White has become the hottest backup player sensation in New York since Lin-sanity with Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks in 2012. Head coach Robert Saleh named White the starter on Wednesday this week for their matchup with the Bills as rookie Zach Wilson isn't fully recovered from a knee injury.
In his first career start against the Bengals, White went 37-45 passing for 405 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 34-31 victory. White's 405 passing yards were the most in a game by a Jets quarterback since Vinny Testaverde in the season finale of 2000 (481 yards vs. Baltimore).
What White has given the Jets passing game is a rhythm and consistency as he is quick to utilize the check down when it's available as evidenced by his heavy use of backs out of the backfield in the passing game.
"He's decisive," said Micah Hyde. "He's obviously knowing the playbook, knowing his reads, getting the ball out quick, and when you do that, you get the ball in your playmakers' hands, you're able to make some stuff happen. But, yeah, you can just see he's feeling confident right now, the team is confident with him, and it's going to be a big challenge for us."
A strict pocket passer, White is quick to get the ball out, which will put the onus on Buffalo's defenders to be fundamentally sound in their tackling to limit gains after the catch for the Jets receiving targets.
"A lot of his completions come on the checkdowns, so we've got to have good vision and be able to break on the ball and make tackles in the open field," said Jordan Poyer. "That's not always easy, but it's what we're going to have to do."
A former fifth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2018, White spent most of the past three seasons on practice squads with the Cowboys and Jets before earning the backup job in New York this season. He'll be backed up this week by veteran Joe Flacco after the team acquired him in a trade with Philadelphia at the deadline last week.
5. More aggressive Jets offense
Over their last two games, the Jets have rolled up almost 1,000 yards of offense with more than 450 total net yards against Cincinnati and Indianapolis and at least 30 points. It's just the second time in franchise history the Jets have been that productive on offense in consecutive weeks, and they did it with two different quarterbacks in White and Josh Johnson.
Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur has gone to a few more four-wide looks to get more opportunities for rookie WR Elijah Moore, and it's proven effective. Those four wide sets have naturally led to an uptick in the team's percentage of pass plays.
"This is a timing-based offense," said Jets analyst Leger Douzable while appearing on ‘One Bills Live’ this week. "It's predicated on the quarterback getting the ball out of his hand and knowing where to go with the football and trusting that the receiver is running the route at the right depth and the QB has to put an accurate ball on him. That's what Mike White and Josh Johnson did the last two weeks. So, the offense has exploded just because the quarterbacks have lived within the offense instead of trying to be Superman."
Though they've only run a total of 24 plays out of 10 personnel it ranks as fourth-most in the league. More importantly, the results have been very fruitful out of that personnel grouping. On those 24 plays they've completed almost 82 percent of their passes (18-22) and produced 10 first downs and a touchdown.
Buffalo is second in the league in usage of 10 personnel with 70 plays in that set, but their results haven't been as consistent. They've completed just under 59 percent of their passes (30-51) with one touchdown against two interceptions and 23 first downs.
For the season, the Jets have been a pass-heavy team throwing 66 percent of the time. That's due in part to them being behind on the scoreboard a good deal this season but running the ball with consistent production has been an issue. So LaFleur has leaned more heavily on the passing attack where he has separators like slot receiver Jamison Crowder and Moore and good checkdown options in Michael Carter and Tae Johnson who can make defenders miss in space.
6. Relying on rookies
Under first-year head coach Robert Saleh it's been a baptism by fire in many ways for a half dozen of the Jets rookies. Counting injured QB Zach Wilson, who isn't expected to play this week due to a knee injury, six rookies hold down starting roles for the Jets. On offense, after Wilson at QB, fellow first-round pick Alijah Vera-Tucker mans the starting left guard spot.
At the skill positions, fourth-round pick Michael Carter is the feature back, while second-round pick Elijah Moore fills a starting receiver role.
Vera-Tucker has had to deal with some change after starting left tackle Mekhi Becton went down with a lengthy injury. He had to get acclimated to backup left tackle George Fant, but other than that has been steady.
Carter and Moore have also contributed their fair share of plays to New York's offense. Carter not only leads the Jets in rushing and rushing touchdowns, he's also second on the team in receptions.
Carter pulled in nine passes for 95 yards from Mike White in the 34-31 upset win of the Bengals a couple of weeks ago. Meanwhile Moore has caught 13 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns over his last two games for New York after offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur has gone to more 10 personnel to get Moore additional opportunities.
On defense the Jets start their other rookie draft pick Michael Carter (5th round) at their nickel spot and rookie sixth-round pick Brandin Echols at one of the outside corner positions. The rookie pairing stand third and fourth on the team in tackles and have combined for seven pass breakups this season.
7. Dinged up defense
The Jets have had trouble plugging holes on defense. They lost big free agent signee Carl Lawson, who was signed to bolster their moribund pass rush, to a season-ending injury in the preseason. Fellow pass rusher Vinny Curry soon followed. Safety LaMarcus Joyner landed on I-R early in the season and fellow safety Marcus Maye is the latest casualty as he was lost last week to a season-ending Achilles injury.
"At the safety position it really hurts you," said Douzable. "They lost LaMarcus Joyner in the beginning of the year and now Marcus Maye, who is your eraser for your defense, the guy that was the vocal leader in the secondary. One guy can't replace him. Ashtyn Davis is a guy who has come along the last few weeks. Had his best game against the Colts last year and forced two fumbles. He's a young guy that'll have to step up and be that vocal leader as far as lining guys up."
That combined with the unit's inexperience has them last in the league in both total defense and points allowed.
One strong part of New York's defense is the presence of MLB C.J. Mosley, who has been a menace to opposing offenses. The Jets signed Mosley to a monster free agent contract in the 2019 offseason, but until now have not gotten their money's worth.
Mosley battled injuries in 2019, the first of which was suffered in his first game in a Jets uniform against the Bills in the season opener.
After cameo appearances in two games in 2019, Mosley missed the entire 2020 season choosing to opt out due to the COVID pandemic.
Now healthy and in the lineup, Mosley is making his presence felt. Far and away the team's leading tackler, the veteran linebacker is a physical presence in New York's front seven.