The Bills kickoff the 2020 season with a home game against the New York Jets. This is the 14th time the two will play each other in a home opener, which is the most in the NFL since 1960. Buffalo won its season opener against the Jets in 2019, can they do it again this year?
In a season with so much uncertainty due to COVID-19, the Bills have continuity on their side. Here are some of the top storylines to know for Sunday's game.
1. Josh Allen vs. Sam Darnold take 3
The Bills and the Jets will meet for the fifth time since quarterback Josh Allen and Sam Darnold have been in the NFL. Although, it's just the third time the two will face each other in a game. There are plenty expectations on how both can grow in their third season, but both are in very different environments.
Darnold hasn't had much continuity in a head coach or offensive coordinator since he was drafted. The Jets QB has a new offensive line blocking for him this year as well. Allen, on the other hand, has had plenty of continuity as he takes on year three with the head coach and offensive coordinator who drafted him.
Many know the two are good friends off the field and spend time training together in the offseason. When things shut down in March because of coronavirus, Allen and Darnold actually lived together for a period of time. During an interview in June on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Allen shared how Darnold helps him as a QB.
"We've been able to rely on each other," Allen said to hosts Bill Lekas and Jordan Palmer. "Just kind of lean on each other I guess and just throughout the year. Texting each other and just making sure like we're both doing OK, and we're both adjusting well to it. So we've kind of had similar situations and it's fun to have somebody like that that's kind of going through the same things."
In 2019, Darnold completed 61.9 percent of his passes and threw for 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Allen completed 59 percent of his passes last season, increasing his completion percentage by six points from 2018. The Bills QB threw for 20 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Allen also led the league in quarterback rushing touchdowns with nine. Due to their different situations, it will be interesting to see how the two improve in their third season in the NFL.
2. Will Jets' low expectations play into Sunday's approach?
Jets general manager Joe Douglas doesn't like the public perception of how the Jets are being painted. The Jets went 7-9 in 2019 and finished the season third in the AFC East. Per an ESPN article, Douglas said in a Zoom call with reporters that the perception doesn't sit well with many people.
"Our guys don't live in a bubble. We see the things that are said, we see the things that are written," Douglas said. "It angers a lot of people."
The New York Jets went into the offseason with a huge need for new offensive linemen and more skill players. After the draft they lost All-Pro safety Jamal Adams to a trade, and Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley opted out due to COVID-19.
"Obviously, there were good players that were on this team last year that aren't playing this year," Douglas said. "But just going through this camp, I can tell you there are some guys on this team that may not be household names, but they are good football players. Their mission is to go out and become a household name."
The Jets drafted left tackle Mekhi Becton with the 11th overall pick. The 6-7, 364 pound lineman is expected to start Week 1 along with several new faces on the offensive line. The Jets also drafted wide receiver Denzel Mims in the second round and added receivers Breshad Perriman and Chris Hogan to their roster.
3. Jerry Hughes vs. Mekhi Becton
In a world where the NFL didn't have any preseason games ahead of the 2020 season, players are realizing it's extra tough to find film on the rookies this year. Defensive end Jerry Hughes is preparing to likely go up against first-round left tackle Mekhi Becton. To watch film on Becton, Hughes has had to get creative.
"It kind of feels a little bit like college-esque in the sense of there's no preseason games to go off of," Hughes explained. "Some guys don't even have NFL tape, so you're pulling up things from the archives of what they did a year or two ago in college. It's kind of eerie being in this position just because we've always had the preseason games to kind of catch our bearings, catch our breath and get into the whole game flow."
Hughes explained he has also spent a good amount of time on YouTube looking up highlights in order to prep for Sunday's game. It's not just Becton's size that will make for a worthy matchup to watch, the rookie also moves exceptionally well and has been called "different" by several Jets players during camp. Hughes is 6-2 and weighs 254 pounds, while Becton stands at 6-7 and 364 pounds. Will the 11-year veteran take down the impressive rookie?
The Bills are back and ready for the 2020 season! Scroll through to see the team's best portraits
4. Bills Stadium without fans will be a tough adjustment for players
Bills Stadium will be without fans for the first two home games this year because of coronavirus. After hearing this news, several Bills players took to social media to explain how much they'll miss Bills Mafia.
Tight end Dawson Knox said the energy won't be the same without fans.
"It's going to be really tough for us," Knox said. That's going to be an obstacle for sure because of the way that the mafia brings energy to the stadium. I mean it's so fun to play in front of those fans every Sunday. I think that's definitely going to be a big thing that's missed."
Without fan noise, offenses and defenses will most likely be able to hear each other's on-field play calls from time to time. This storyline will be interesting to watch to see if teams can adjust or how they will be affected by if calls get stolen.
5. Several social justice initiatives for Week 1
The NFL announced several social justice initiatives the league will participate in this season. In a memo sent to clubs, the NFL explained it's part of a plan to fight for social justice and end racial inequality.
"As we continue to amplify and elevate the NFL's ongoing and long-term commitment to social justice, we will be incorporating several prominent elements on the field, into all broadcasts and across league and club platforms to begin the NFL season and beyond," the memo read in part. "In developing these concepts, we have worked directly with players and received input from the NFLPA."
NFL end zones will have a slogan on each end zone reading, "It Takes All of Us" and "End Racism."
Players and coaches will also have the option to wear a decal on their helmet or cap displaying phrases that pertain to the cause or can choose names to honor those who have been victims of racism and police brutality.
Bills tight end Dawson Knox wants to use his platform to bring awareness to racial injustice.
"As one of the top sports in the world, a lot of people watch us and watch what we do on and off the field," Knox said. "I think it's important for us to speak up about stuff we believe in. I think it's the least that we can do is wear a decal on the back of our helmet to just raise some awareness."
Bills running back Devin Singletary has chosen to use the phrase "Stop Hate" on his helmet.
"I'm using the phrase "Stop Hate" just because it needs to stop," Singletary said. "Spread love, spread positive vibes. All this hate going on, of course you want to stop all the hate, a lot of it needs to stop. I want to get that out there, put that in front of people and hopefully it makes a difference."