The Bills dive head first into the AFC East starting this week. They’ve got seven games left on their 2018 schedule, and five of the seven are against divisional rivals.
The Bills, who’ve dropped four straight games, travel to New Jersey to play the Jets, who’ve lost three in a row.
Here are some of the top storylines for the game this week:
1. BILLS QB A QUESTION MARK AGAIN
It seems like a weekly occurrence – the Bills uncertain about who they’ll start at quarterback. That’s the case again this week, thanks to injuries at the position.
Rookie Josh Allen has been able to throw a bit the last few days. If his elbow injury is fully recovered, the Bills say he’ll start. But factoring into the decision is the looming bye week after the Jets game. If the Bills wait until after the bye to bring back Allen, that would essentially give the rookie six weeks to recover from his elbow injury, rather than four.
“We’re aware of that,” coach Sean McDermott said. “We know the value of that. At the end of the day, I’m going to depend on our docs to give us the full evaluation as to where he is and the risks that might be in terms of him playing. We’re going to make sure he’s healthy before we send him out there.”
McDermott says if Allen is not ready, Derek Anderson would be the next man up. That’s if Anderson is cleared from concussion protocol after a hit to the head against New England. If it’s not Anderson, it would be Nathan Peterman.
A lot of variables at the most important position on the field. McDermott may move to clear up the uncertainty early in the week.
2. JETS QB SITUATION IN A FUNK ALSO
There are rumblings, but no real movement on a quarterback switch for the New York Jets. Rookie Sam Darnold has started all nine of their games so far, and he’s not playing well lately.
Darnold threw four interceptions in the Jets loss in Miami last Sunday, three of them on New York’s final four possessions. He leads the league with 14 interceptions. And Darnold only blames himself.
"For me, I'm just not playing to the best of my ability and, quite frankly, just playing stupid," Darnold told New York reporters earlier this week. “I thought I played stupid football [Sunday]. I just have to be better. I know that, the coaches know that, everybody knows that."
If Josh Allen can go for Buffalo, it would mark the first matchup of the two first round quarterbacks, both chosen in the top seven picks of last April’s draft. Darnold and Allen became close friends during the late winter and early spring, as they worked out and lived together in California, under the direction of quarterback coach Jordan Palmer.
3. BILLS OFFENSE STILL LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
It doesn’t seem to matter who’s under center for Buffalo, or whom the opposition is—they just can’t seem to get the offense going.
They are last, or second to last, in almost every offensive category. Buffalo has scored a total of three touchdowns in its last six games played, eight touchdowns in the first nine games of the season.
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has tried everything—lineup changes, wildcat formations, direct snaps to wide receivers, tempo changes—all in an effort to generate some production.
He’ll start to take another stab at it when the practice week begins.
4. JETS OFFENSE NOT MUCH BETTTER
The Bills should expect no sympathy from the Jets when it comes to offensive struggles. The Jets are near the bottom of most offensive categories through nine games this year also.
Jets offensive coordinator, Jeremy Bates, is their third OC in the last three years (Daboll is Buffalo’s fifth OC in the last five years).
The Jets offense collapsed last Sunday in Miami as the team even struggled to execute a shotgun snap. One observer counted 15 bad snaps by center Spencer Long.
5. CHANGE UP AT CB FOR THE BILLS
The most obvious weak link in Buffalo’s otherwise solid defense this year was at the CB spot opposite Tre’Davious White. It was a struggle for free agent pickup Phillip Gaines, after he returned from injury to start the last four games.
The Bills made a move this week, releasing Gaines and signing rookie free agent Levi Wallace to the active roster. But they may be ready to re-insert first-year man Ryan Lewis into the starting lineup.
Lewis started three games at cornerback earlier this year, including the wins against Minnesota and Tennessee, when Gaines was injured. A former Patriots practice squadder, Lewis had eight tackles and forced two fumbles in the loss at Green Bay.
6. SOME NEW FACES ON THE HORIZON?
The Bills look like they’re ready to introduce some fresh blood to the lineup on the offensive line. Last Sunday against the Bears, offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles and guard Wyatt Teller played significant snaps in a backup role on the line.
Sirles, a five-year veteran who bounced around from the Chargers, to the Vikings, to the Panthers, before signing with Buffalo in late September, had been getting snaps as an extra lineman/tight end for a month. Against the Bears, he saw action in relief of Jordan Mills at right tackle, finishing the game with 27 snaps.
Teller, Buffalo’s fifth round draft pick this year from Virginia Tech, saw his first action in the NFL with 17 snaps at guard.
As the Bills plow into the second half of the season, they may be ready to see what Sirles, Teller, and possibly others have to offer their struggling offensive attack.
7. A LONG WAIT FOR THE BYE
It’s the last game before the bye, for both Buffalo and the Jets, this week. And you could argue these two need a break more than anyone else. The Bills will try to snap a four-game losing streak before they break, the Jets have lost three in a row.
The entire AFC East is off in week 11, after this weekend’s games. And all four teams will be looking to get to the week off with a win under their belts.