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8 things to watch for in Bills at Jaguars | Week 9


1. Point toppers

The Bills enter Week 9 leading the league in scoring offense (32.7 ppg) and scoring defense (15.6 ppg). They have scored at least 25 points in six consecutive games and have allowed 20 points or fewer in four of their past six games, including two shutouts.

Bills QB Josh Allen believes their success is rooted in the unselfish nature of the players on the roster who are willing to execute whatever is required in a game to make sure they finish with more points than their opponent.

"I think our identity is just a team that's willing to do whatever it takes to win a football game," said Allen. "If that's 30 times passing, 30 times running, whatever it is we got guys that are more than willing to go in there and do their job. Receivers that are going in there and getting their noses dirty and blocking linebackers, running backs that are okay stepping up and blocking a linebacker or a safety blitzing and guys that, like I said, just care about each other and are willing to do whatever it takes."

The Bills are the fourth team since 1970 to lead the league in both scoring offense and scoring defense through the first eight weeks of a season. Two of the previous three teams to accomplish the feat advanced to the Super Bowl (Chicago – 2006, Chicago – 1985).

Since 1970, only two teams finished the season leading the league in both categories, the 1996 Green Bay Packers and 1972 Miami Dolphins. Each of those teams won the Super Bowl.

2. Bucking a trend?

The Bills prowess in scoring points as well as holding opponents off the scoreboard would appear to negate the trend over the 17-game history between the Bills and Jaguars. Thirteen of the 17 all-time regular season meetings between the two AFC clubs have been decided by seven points or less (76.5%) including the last five in a row.

Only the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings have had a higher percentage of matchups determined by seven points or less in their series history (86.7%).

The Bills won the last meeting with the Jaguars in Buffalo by a score of 24-21 in the 2018 season.

Whether a tight contest is in the offing this time around remains to be seen. Buffalo already has five wins by 15+ points this season, one shy of the most in a season in franchise history (1966, 1990, 2004).

Add in the fact that the Jaguars have not scored 25 points in a game in a calendar year (16 games) and it's hard to find a way to a nip and tuck contest.

3. Spreading the wealth

Buffalo's defense has a heavy rotation of players on their defensive line where eight different players often cycle through over the course of a game. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier's liberal substitutions leaves players fresh, which helps explain why most of them have posted pass rush statistics through the team's first seven games.

A total of 16 different Bills have registered at least one quarterback hit so far this season, good for third-most in the league. Taking it a step further, 10 different players have also recorded at least one sack for Buffalo this season, which ranks second-most in the league so far this year.

The Bills additionally have seven different players with at least one interception through seven games, which also ranks third.

4. Upside down on turnovers

Jacksonville likely knew with a rookie quarterback there were going to be a healthy number of interceptions this season as Trevor Lawrence learned on the job. Through seven games Lawrence has thrown the second-most interceptions in the league with nine to his credit. He's also responsible for three of the team's four lost fumbles on the year giving him 12 of the teams 13 giveaways this season.

What has made overcoming those turnovers so difficult is the fact that Jacksonville's defense and special teams units have been unable to get takeaways of their own to balance out their turnover differential. The Jaguars have just two takeaways, good for last in the league making them a league-worst minus 11.

"It's awful," said Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer. "It's not because of lack of effort. We started this back in February. That's time tested the last 30 years. I've done the study over and over again every year I've been a head coach. It's the most highly proven differential between winning and losing. And we work that. We do turnover drills, we do this, we do that. And we pull at the ball. We're not getting it. You don't win many games if you're on the bottom side of a turnover margin."

Seven of Lawrence's nine interceptions came in this first three games. He has just two in this last four outings.

"On offense, Trevor has really calmed down with interceptions," said Meyer. "There was a miscommunication we had with the receiver in our last one. But he's been much better with the ball. But other than emphasize it, preach it, teach it, now we got to go do it."

At the other end of the spectrum are the Bills rank second in the league in takeaways with 18 and lead the NFL in turnover margin at plus-13.

5. Dinged up feature back

Jaguars RB James Robinson has been Jacksonville's bell cow back this season. He's accounted for more than 25 percent of the team's total yardage through their first seven games and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. He's the main reason the Jaguars rank second in the league in average yards per carry (5.08).

Robinson however, injured his heel this past week when he tried to stop on a run out of bounds. He didn't practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

Jaguars offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell outlined how they're handling Robinson's injury this week and certainly gave indication they could be without Robinson on Sunday against the Bills.

"We really have to go with next man up mentality," said Bevell. "We have confidence in Carlos (Hyde) and Dare (Ogunbawale) has done a nice job for us as well. James is a loss. We want him in there. I don't think it's a final decision yet. We're going to take it to the end of the week. And it's next man up mentality."

While Hyde is a veteran back that the Jaguars can lean on if necessary, he isn't 100 percent healthy either. Hyde is dealing with a calf injury and was limited in practice Wednesday though he practice fully Thursday. Jacksonville also has Devine Ozigbo as another reserve back on the roster.

Jacksonville has made use of slot receiver Laviska Shenault as a back on occasion too.

6. No field stretchers

The Jaguars drafted RB Travis Etienne with the hope he could provide a much needed dose of speed to Jacksonville's offense. But the rookie suffered a season-ending Lis franc foot injury that required surgery in August. That coupled with the loss of WR D.J. Chark to a fractured ankle last month leaves the Jaguars with almost no team speed to threaten opposing defenses.

"They have no speed," said Jaguars radio color analyst Tony Boselli in an appearance on ‘One Bills Live’ this week. "Even Urban Meyer came out and said they are lacking speed on offense. The receivers do struggle to get some separation. So it makes his job harder. The biggest hit to this offense which could make things even harder for Trevor is the status of James Robinson, who is their best offensive player. He hurt his heel last week and after he went out they couldn't move the ball at all. If he can go it's an uphill battle, if he can't they're going to be looking for some answers on offense and it'll put more pressure on Trevor Lawrence."

The Jaguars passing game is tied for the third-fewest plays of 20 yards or more in the league with 21 this season on 281 pass plays, an average of just over seven percent of the time. Jacksonville ranks 27th in the league in receiving average (10.6).

7. Trying to avoid sloppy play

The Jaguars already enter most games short on talent in comparison to their opponent, but when they compound their matchups problems with penalties it puts games out of reach quickly. That's what happened last week against the Seahawks and their backup QB Geno Smith.

On the Seahawks first three scoring drives Jacksonville handed them 42 yards in penalties as the Jaguars found themselves down 17-0 by halftime.

"We've got to string together two great halves," said Jaguars defensive coordinator Joe Cullen. "Eliminate the pre-snap penalties and the mistakes in terms of too many men on the field, which starts with me and communication. The self-inflicted wounds are costly like late hits on the quarterback. We've worked to educate the guys and practice it."

Jacksonville finished with a season-high 12 penalties for 93 yards last week.

8. Kicking issues

While the Bills are enjoying the exploits of their kicker Tyler Bass, who was just named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October after going 10-for-10 on field goal attempts and perfect on his 13 point after tries, it's a much different situation in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars have made the second-fewest field goals in a team's first seven games since 1990 with three.

Jags kicker Matthew Wright went 3-for-3 on field goals and 2-for-2 on extra points in Jacksonville's win over Miami in London. In the team's six games played state side however, Wright and Josh Lambo, who was subsequently released, have combined to go 0-for-4 on field goals and 10-for-13 on extra points.

The Jaguars field goal percentage this season ranks last in the league.

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