For the second and final time this season, the Buffalo Bills will square-off against the New York Jets, this time at New Era Field. Barring any last-minute developments on the injury front, this will be the first time (presumably of many) that rookie signal-callers, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold will go head-to-head.
Everyone remembers the last time these two AFC East rivals played each other. In the Bills’ most lopsided victory of the season, both sides fielded journeyman backups under-center in Matt Barkley and Josh McCown. With less than two weeks of preparation after being signed as a free agent mid-season, Barkley was sensational for Buffalo, going 15/25 for 232 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 41-10 road win.
Let’s face it, the only thing that really makes this rematch even remotely intriguing is the quarterback battle. These two young men represent the future of their respective franchises. You can rest assured that both of them want to add a divisional win to their short resumes. With bragging rights and draft position on the line, this will likely be one of the last meaningful matchups for both the Bills and Jets who currently hold records of 4-8 and 3-9, respectively.
Allen VS. Darnold
The morning of March 17th was one that shook the NFL last offseason when it was announced that the Jets had struck a deal with the Indianapolis Colts to acquire the third-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. It was no secret that their intent was to take a quarterback, which gave Bills fans everywhere reason for concern.
With the Browns, Giants and Jets (all teams that ranged from likely, to somewhat-likely to select a quarterback) now ahead of them, the Buffalo-faithful wondered which young passers would be left for them to choose from. Obviously, it all worked out as both teams wound up with their QB of the future.
Neither player has had the season go the way that they expected. Darnold, who has missed the Jets’ last three games due to injury, has thrown 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in nine games so far. Allen, who battled injury issues of his own before returning against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 12, has thrown five touchdowns compared to seven interceptions through eight games.
Both fan bases are probably still satisfied with the quarterback they have, but if you had to pick a winner so far, you’d have to give the nod to Allen, especially considering the fact that he was taken later in the first round. Both young men will want to bring their A-game in order to secure that first win over a player whom circumstance has turned into an arch-rival.
That “Vaunted” Jets Defense
For the better part of the last decade, the Jets have been known as one of the premier defensive teams in the NFL. This season, that trend seems to have faded significantly as Gang-Green currently ranks 23rd in the NFL in yards-allowed per-game. They’ve allowed the eighth-most rushing yards-per-game and they rank right around the middle of the pack in terms of passing defense.
It’s been an up-and-down year for Lesean McCoy this season, but this appears to be another favorable matchup for him. In Week 10 against New York, he had one of his best performances of the season with 113 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. That trend should continue this week on his home turf as he attempts to prove that there’s still some fuel left in the tank.
For Allen, the key in this one will be ball security. The Jets still rank just outside the top-ten in both forced-fumbles and interceptions. Despite their pedestrian numbers this season, they still pose a significant turnover threat. Given the fact that the Jets’ offense has been relatively anemic over the last four weeks where they’ve averaged just 12.75 points-per-game, the last thing the Bills want to do is lose the field position battle and make things easier for a team that struggles to orchestrate long drives.
Bowles Last Stand?
The last little bit of intrigue to take away from this one is the fact that this could very well be Todd Bowles last game as the head coach in New York. Over the last four seasons, his team has posted a record of 23-36 and this will mark the third consecutive year where they’ve failed to qualify for the postseason.
It’s all but a foregone conclusion that the team will relieve him of his duties at the end of the year, but a beatdown in Buffalo could inspire his front office to pull the plug early. Still, it appears that a healthy portion of the Jets locker-room wants him to stay on as their leader, so perhaps they’ll be playing with a bit more fire in a last-ditch attempt to salvage his career.
Following the last meeting between these two teams, Bowles’ players acknowledged that the onus for their poor performances started with them.
“Todd is not on the field playing. The coaches are not on the field playing. It’s the players,” said Jets defensive tackle, Steve McLendon. “We can’t point fingers at them.”
Would two consecutive losses to the Bills be enough for the Jets’ front office to oust Bowles early? We’ll just have to wait and see.
With four games remaining on the schedule, Allen and the Bills have a chance to string a few wins together to close out the year, They are the betting favorite this week on their home turf which will likely be the case again next week as they take on the currently 4-8 Detroit Lions at New Era Field.
As we saw during their last encounter, the Bills match up very nicely with New York. Though it probably wont be the same type of beat-down we saw a few weeks ago, expect the home side to emerge victorious in this one.
Final Score: Bills 24, Jets 10
Editor’s babble: This one could get very interesting despite being a ‘meaningless’ game. You can bet Josh Allen and Sam Darnold will be vying for bragging rights to this one. Thanks to Anthony Sciandra for setting us up for this AFCE treat today. You can find Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports and he is also a contributing writer for @diebytheblade and makes appearances on various podcasts as well. He’s a busy guy and we’re fortunate for his contributions to our blog. Go Bills.