The Buffalo Bills have an opportunity to do something that they haven’t been able to do since the last time the franchise went to a Super Bowl: to have at least six wins by the halfway point of the season.
That’s right, it’s been 24 years since the team has started a season like they have the opportunity of doing this year. The Bills started the 1993 season with a 7-1 record. It would also be the first time they’ve started a season 6-2 since 1992.
In order to do so, they’ll be up against a New York Jets team that they’ve previously beaten. Can they do it again?
Five things to watch for in the upcoming Bills game:
1) Another LeSean McCoy game
- After two straight great performances, it appears the Buffalo Bills have finally gotten through the four-week stretch of not getting much out of their running game. Upon re-watching the game against the Oakland Raiders with coaches film, the performance of the offensive line was as impressive as any I’ve seen in the five years I’ve been doing that feature. And that bodes well for LeSean McCoy moving forward, and specifically in this matchup against the New York Jets — one of only two 100-yard rushing performances for him this season. Since that week, the Bills have improved their right guard position with Vladimir Ducasse, and now the Jets may be without one of their best defensive players (Muhammad Wilkerson) in this game. This is a contest that McCoy has the opportunity to dominate and help lead the Bills to a victory in not only the running game but in the passing attack as well. They will have to deal with a better front-seven than the one they faced against Oakland, but the Jets’ 27th ranked rush defense is still ripe for the picking.
2) Will we see Kelvin Benjamin?
- The Bills shocked everyone when they became buyers at the trade deadline, sending a third and seventh-round draft pick to the Panthers in return for number-one wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. The most asked question since 4:00 pm on Tuesday has been “will Benjamin play on Thursday against the Jets?” Bills GM Brandon Beane told WGR Sports Radio 550 that Benjamin would be 50/50 to play, but if I had to guess, I think they’d be able to utilize him in one very specific area: the red zone. He’s a wide receiver with the body of a tight end and is an outright weapon in that area of the field. While Benjamin might not have all the nuances of the offense down within a day of being a member of the team, the wide receiver position is one that you can get a player out on to the field on short notice. Take Deonte Thompson for example: while it’s true that he had three practices more than Benjamin did, he was still able to mix in and play around 30-percent of the team’s snaps in his first game with the team. If Benjamin dresses for the game, I think it would be fair to expect a similar percentage in his first game. After all, it’s not as though he’s been doing nothing for weeks — he’s been a top wideout for a team this season. I don’t think it’s out of the question at all that he has a slight impact on this game.
3) Be wary of Seferian-Jenkins
- In their last game against the New York Jets, the offense led by Josh McCown was actually able to move the ball in the second half — particularly over the middle of the field. It led to the game being a lot closer down the stretch than originally expected. The Jets were doing that, however, without starting tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins due to a two-game suspension to start the season. Since he returned to the lineup, the Jets have been looking for him a great deal. In six games, the Jets have targeted Seferian-Jenkins a total of 39 times, and while he isn’t being targeted deep down the field, he’s still a player they’ve looked for early and often. Opposing tight ends have shown an ability to have some success against the Bills in both play action and when throwing over the middle of the field, and I’d look for the Jets to try and exploit that once more. It will be a big test for Preston Brown and the rest of the linebackers to limit his effectiveness.
4) Might Tre’Davious White shadow a specific WR again?
- Last week, the Bills made an in-game adjustment that was the catalyst for as dominant as a defensive performance that we saw on Sunday. After the Raiders marched it down the field on the first drive of the game for a touchdown, from that point forward the Bills decided to use rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White to cover Oakland’s top wideout Amari Cooper everywhere he went — and he shut him down. Now, the Bills also saw players like Shareece Wright, Preston Brown, and Micah Hyde step up in coverage to help make it a miserable day for Oakland but White effectively took Cooper out of the game plan, surrendering only three receptions for 26 yards to the receiver. Given the success, and the fact that starting cornerback E.J. Gaines is out once again, it might cross the Bills’ minds to have him shadow Jets receiver Robby Anderson — a player with underrated speed and ability, and someone that can gain separation right off the snap of the ball. White is showing that he can be that player for the Bills. His development has significantly helped make this season go as well as it has through the first seven games.
5) How will the Bills handle Milano and Humber?
- For the first time since his injury in Atlanta, normal starting weakside linebacker Ramon Humber has a chance at playing in the game. He’s listed as questionable and told reporters in the locker room that he expects to play against the New York Jets. However, in his absence, the Bills have seen the rookie and fifth-round pick Matt Milano grow in front of their eyes to become an impact defender the last two weeks. Before the Oakland game, the Bills stated that Humber would be the starter upon his return. That started to weaken a bit immediately after the Raiders game when McDermott admitted that he loved “having those tough decisions.” When asked during the week, the head coach said Milano’s play has allowed them to slow down the rehab of Humber. If Humber is actually available to play and is active during the game, it will be incredibly interesting to see if in fact, he’ll regain the majority of his playing time or if Milano has earned the right to continue seeing the field on defense. Milano is definitely ahead of schedule, and the way the Bills have done things throughout the summer, they aren’t ones to shy away from any competition at any position — including the one for starting players.
OUT: TE Charles Clay, CB E.J. Gaines
QUESTIONABLE: S Jordan Poyer, LB Ramon Humber
New York Jets
OUT: RB Lawrence Thomas
DOUBTFUL: S Terrence Brooks, T Brandon Shell
QUESTIONABLE: CB Morris Claiborne, DE Muhammad Wilkerson
Prediction: Bills over Jets
- While the New York Jets do have some solid pieces and will likely be able to move the ball a bit through the air, I just don’t believe they’ll have enough firepower to match a renewed Bills rushing attack. When paired with the type of defense the Bills have, the running offense makes it for a tough combination for opposing teams to overcome — especially ones that lack talent on their roster like the Jets do. I don’t believe this will just be a walk in the park for the Bills, as the Jets have shown the ability to play each one of their opponents a lot tighter than many expected them to. However, with the Bills mostly healthy and with the more talented starters on the field between the two teams, I think it would be an outright disappointment if they didn’t walk out of MetLife Stadium with a victory on Thursday night, giving them their best start in 24 years.