Josh Allen vs Josh Allen
Josh Allen on a hot start in a contract year; "I'm all about my business". pic.twitter.com/jfB982GetA— Simon Carroll (@NFLDraftSi) October 1, 2023
It’s amazing how much content you can get out of two opposing players with the same name. The fact that one of them is directly trying to take down the other gives me further reason to include their matchup on this list. But with all that said, this battle could be one of the most important of the contest…
Josh Allen - the Jaguars version - is coming off a three sack performance that saw him set records at Wembley Stadium last Sunday. His emergence as a consistent pocket penetrator is timely for both himself and the team; Duval County has been screaming out for a double-digit sack artist - not seen from Allen since his rookie season. Already up to six QB takedowns in 2023, Allen is on track to rack up 25.5 sacks this season if he continues at this pace. That would obliterate the NFL record (22.5) held jointly by Michael Strahan (2001) and TJ Watt (2021), in what is a contract year for the former Kentucky Wildcat. Should that happen, Allen will be getting PAID - either in Jacksonville or somewhere else.
Stop Josh Allen - the Bills version - and you give yourself a great chance of stopping Buffalo. The Bills have won their last three games by a combined total of 90 points, with Allen being sacked just four times. Compare that to Week 1 where a potent New York Jets defense took him down five times in one game, helping them to a shock win despite Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending injury after just one pass attempt. Allen threw three interceptions that day as he found himself consistently behind the chains. This is the biggest key to victory for the Jags - If the other Josh Allen can affect this explosive passing game like the Jets did, then the odds of victory increase dramatically.
Ed Oliver vs Jaguars Left Guard
Lineup change: #Jaguars veteran OL Tyler Shatley is in the starting lineup in warmups.— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) October 1, 2023
Ben Bartch made the previous three starts.
Bills defensive tackle Ed Oliver was at his disruptive best on Sunday as his team beat the high-flying Miami Dolphins. A consistent menace on the interior, Oliver racked up three tackles and a sack in the stats sheet - but seemed to step up on big third downs to erase any opportunity for a fightback from Mike McDaniel’s team. Selected two picks after the Jaguars took Josh Allen in the 2019 NFL Draft, he is comfortably having his best season as a pro, having signed a 4-year, $68m extension with Miami in the offseason.
Oliver will be working against an offensive line that has some personnel question marks - particularly at left guard. Originally named the starter after rookie Cooper Hodges suffered a patella injury in preseason, Ben Bartch was replaced by Tyler Shatley for Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons. Jaguars Head Coach said after the game he was pleased with the o-line as a whole, but wouldn’t commit to Shatley being the starter this week at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
Adding further confusion to the position is the return of Cam Robinson from suspension. Pederson remarked that Robinson looked in good shape and is someone he expects to help improve third down performance, especially against the run. Could he return at left tackle, and Walker Little kick inside to guard? Or will Week 5 come too early? Whoever lines up next to Luke Fortner better be ready for a tough examination on Sunday - keeping Trevor Lawrence clean with Oliver on the prowl will not be an easy task.
Matt Milano vs Travis Etienne
The burst and vision from Matt Milano on this play to make the tackle is unbelievable— Peter DiBiasi (@DibiasiPeter) October 4, 2023
Week in and week out Milano continues to show how good he is#BillsMafia | #BuiltinBuffalo
Doug Pederson and Press Taylor will be keen to establish the run against the Bills on Sunday. In their only defeat of the season so far, Buffalo were gouged on the ground to the tune of 172 yards - with lead rusher Breece Hall racking up 127 yards off just 10 carries. An effective run game will take the pressure of Trevor Lawrence, control the clock, and keep Josh Allen off the field - a winning combination in what should be a tight AFC affair.
The only problem is that, through four games, the Jaguars’ run game hasn’t been as explosive as we know it can be. Fresh off the back of a 1,125 yard season where he averaged 5.1 yards a carry, Travis Etienne is yet to get really going in 2023 - averaging just 65 yards and 3.1 YPC so far. It’s fair to acknowledge that a lack of cohesion on offense will not have helped, and nobody is suggesting there is a problem with Jacksonville’s lead ball carrier. But if there was ever a time to step it up to the levels we know Etienne is capable of, it’s this weekend.
To combat this, the Bills have one of the best defensive weapons in the NFL. Matt Milano, in his seventh season in the league, has established himself as a truly dominant force against the run - with an astonishing 485 tackles across 89 games. A hard hitter with good instincts and closing speed, Milano has a bespoke brief on this Bills defense, essentially a versatile linebacker with free rein to move around the field and stymie ball carriers. No doubt Tank Bigsby will be mixed in to add a little thunder to Etienne’s lightning and help wear Milano down if the Jaguars can - and I would be shocked if getting the ball in the hands of his star running back in space through laterals and screens wasn’t a heavy part of Taylor’s offense on Sunday.
In a game that could potentially define the Jaguars’ season, which matchups are you most looking forward to seeing?