1 - McDermott: Jags the NFL’s most talented team
The roads that the Bills and Jaguars have embarked upon in recent months are eerily similar to one other.
The two teams last met each other in the 2017 postseason, a Wild Card round matchup in which Jacksonville escaped with a victory. The Jags went on to play in the AFC Championship game, narrowly losing to the Patriots.
Expectations for both sides were relatively high entering the 2018 campaign. Some fans expected the Bills to build upon their shocking success, perhaps turning their playoff drought into a playoff streak.
The Jaguars were almost universally looked at as Super Bowl contenders before the new season kicked off.
Entering Week 12 of the 2018 season, however, the playoffs seem like a long shot for both Buffalo and Jacksonville. Both teams sit at 3-7 after 10 games. Their elite defenses (both of which sit in the top five) have been overshadowed by struggling offenses.
The Jaguars enter their Week 12 matchup with the Bills on a six-game losing streak. Though Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott realizes that the Jaguars have struggled thus far this season, he’s not going to overlook them. The sideline boss is well aware of just how talented Jacksonville’s roster, headlined by Jalen Ramsey, Yannick Ngakoue, and Leonard Fournette, is.
“To me, on paper, they’re the most talented team in the NFL,” McDermott said. “Arguably the most talented team and we have a lot of respect for that talent. Things haven’t fallen their way. You saw what they’re capable of last week against a very good Pittsburgh Steelers team. It’ll be a big challenge for our young team.”
2 - Hughes breaks down Bortles’ mobility
Blake Bortles’ athleticism is not necessarily an advertised part of his game.
Teams don’t often look at the 6-foot-5 quarterback as a dual-threat player. Bortles took advantage of this oversight in Jacksonville’s 2017 playoff win over the Bills, rushing for 88 yards on 10 carries in the Wild Card round matchup.
The Bills won’t be fooled again in their Week 12 contest with the Jaguars.
“We’ve certainly got to be disciplined,” defensive end Jerry Hughes said. “We understand that. He led the team in rushing last year that in the playoff game. It’s something that we’re certainly aware of, just of his athletic ability and capability of just checking and running. Making plays with his legs. We certainly understand that we have to have our attention all the way up.”
Jacksonville’s offense is built around the rushing attack, and the unit’s success is predicated on the effectiveness of the ground game. Leonard Fournette and Carlos Hyde form a two-headed monster in the backfield. Bortles has continued to evolve as a mobile passer in the 2018 season, as well, as he’s already rushed for 286 yards this season.
Hughes and his defensive teammates know that stopping the run will be a challenge this week.
“We understand it’s going to be a four-quarter, smash mouth football game,” Hughes said. “We understand that the big boy pads are coming out this week, they’re going to run the football. They’re going to come in here and try to establish the run, so we’ve got to get ready upfront to answer that call.”
3 - McKenzie wants to ‘keep making plays’
Not many Buffalo fans knew Isaiah McKenzie’s name before Week 10.
During Buffalo’s 41-10 win over the Jets, it was difficult to ignore him.
McKenzie suited up for the Bills just six days after being claimed off waivers. Perhaps unexpectedly, the second-year wideout became a player of focus in his Bills debut, as the team looked to get the ball into his hands in a variety of ways.
The 23-year-old’s primary impact came on special teams, as he returned four punts and one kick for 75 total yards. The Bills utilized McKenzie on offense, as well, getting the ball to him on the ground and through the air. He finished the contest with 46 offensive yards on four touches.
Getting a win in his first game in a Buffalo uniform was a surreal experience for McKenzie.
“It felt good to get back on the field,” McKenzie said. “Coming from Denver, I brought what I got from there to here, and that’s including speed and everything like that. Just doing my job. Making plays . . . It was a good feeling to get that win.”
The speedy wideout was a playmaker in the Bills’ recent win, and he’s eager to carry this momentum moving forward.
“Just keep elevating,” McKenzie said. “Just keep doing my job the best way I can. Wherever they put me, offense, special teams, just making big plays for the team to help the team win.”
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