Question 1: Was last week’s performance by Josh Allen enough to forget his abysmal season opener, or is there still some concern in Buffalo that Allen could lose his marbles on any given dropback?
One doesn’t forget such things, but the key is how willing a person is to forgive and move on. I was over it the next morning, and looking to remind Bills Mafia about the all the incredible things Josh Allen’s done for the team and brought to the franchise and fan base. So, in a way, yes all’s forgiven. You’re going to find plenty of naysayers who still bring it up and even some who believe they need to move on from him. (Yes, that’s a fun group.) With QB17, signing up for all the magic he creates means learning to love every bit of his game, including the arm punts and extra efforts that often look painful and sometimes turn negative. Because for every imperfect play he’s responsible for, Allen will then go and make twice as many “wow” plays afterward.
Question 2: Jacksonville’s biggest weakness right now is its interior offensive line. Von Miller got some buzz by practicing this week for the first time since his 2022 ACL injury, but which inside rushers on the Bills should the Jaguars be wary of?
It’s likely the Jaguars became quite concerned in reviewing film of the Bills’ defensive line. New this season for Buffalo is its far more aggressive approach on defense, and allowing guys to operate within their strengths more often than asking them to adapt to a particular scheme. Head coach Sean McDermott took over defensive play-calling duties after Leslie Frazier stepped down, and the transition has been successful. Instead of playing a bend and wait game where the goal is to make the offense beat itself, McDermott is bringing a bit of heat, unique pressure, and multi-dimensional schemes on any given down. But back to those defensive linemen. Defensive tackles Ed Oliver and DaQuan Jones have become wrecking balls. In four games, Oliver has three sacks and seven QB hits, adding 15 total tackles (10 solo) and six tackles for loss. Through the first month, Oliver has been nothing short of fantastic. Head coach Sean McDermott now calls the defense, and has “freed” Oliver up to do what he does best: operate in opponents’ backfields. Jones, in his second year with the Bills, is finally in a scheme that allows him to shine. He has 2.5 sacks, 10 tackles (six solo), three TFL, and five QB hits.
“Among all interior defenders in the NFL, Jones leads the NFL in pass rush win rate, despite seeing double-teams 69% of the time. His pass-rush grade is 89.9 per PFF.”
As a pair, Oliver and Jones have put an immense amount of pressure on teams, which, in turn, has helped to free up linebackers Matt Milano and Terrel Bernard to do more of what they do best. Lawrence will need every bit of his quick release on Sunday.
Question 3: Buffalo’s secondary is in a tough spot after losing Tre White to an Achilles injury. Do you have confidence in players like Christian Benford and Taron Johnson to hold up in coverage, or could this be the week Calvin Ridley finds his mojo?
Complete confidence, yes. That’s not said to invite braggadocio to the conversation, but rather to reinforce the high level of play Christian Benford and Taron Johnson bring to the Bills. In my opinion, Johnson is deserving of Pro Bowl honors, yet he’ll probably never find the opportunity due to the dirty nature of a nickel corner. There’s nothing he can’t do, and he succeeds at everything asked of him. He doesn’t often put up the flashy stats of most corners, but that’s due to playing beyond the traditional CB role. He’s often the Bills’ third LB in key situations.
Concerning Christian Bernard, he’s been a revelation. In his second year, Benford managed to rise above those drafted both before and above him. Last season as a six-round rookie, Benford split time with cornerbacks Dane Jackson and fellow rookie Kaiir Elam (who was the team’s first-round pick in 2022) — who most figured would be the de facto CB2. Benford doesn’t have elite long speed, and he’s best in zone formations, with help over the top. But what he lacks in elite measurables, he makes up for with instincts and disruptive ball skills. Benford’s likely to be tested early and often. Of note, Benford suffered a shoulder injury in Week 4, but managed to return to the game. Time will tell if that injury has healed well enough to keep him on the field.
But back to Kaiir Elam for a minute. The situation with Elam baffled most Bills fans because he played well in man coverages when given the opportunity. But he’s physical in a way similar to New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner, yet doesn’t seem to go as unnoticed in being aggressive. Fast forward to this season, and Elam has found himself inactive through the first four games, and very well established as the third option at CB2. White’s injury likely means Elam finally sees the field, but Sean McDermott has expressed the need to see more out of Elam. The likely starters at CB this week are Christian Benford (CB1), Dane Jackson (CB2), Taron Johnson (Nickel stud), and Elam (bench/CB2 rotation).
As for Calvin Ridley. Tough player to stop. One of the best young receivers in the NFL. He should get his, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find the Bills’ defensive backfield able to continue its elite level of play most recently seen in defending Miami Dolphins wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jalen Waddle. Interestingly, in college Christian Benford was known as an astute zone-cover CB, but he’s been great in man cover. So whether it’s man or zone, and Benford, Jackson, Johnson, and/or Elam, I believe they’re capable of limiting huge plays in the passing game. As Hill pointed out, Buffalo employed a lot of man defense while using a two-high safety look to prevent the deep pass. I’d expect McDermott hopes to force the Jaguars into underneath throws to limit the big plays in the passing game.
Question 4: Which matchup do you think could swing this game?
There are a few. Number one, we have to consider Josh Allen vs. Josh Allen. Things didn’t go well for QB17 in 2021, when the Jaguars’ Allen had eight tackles, one sack, one interception, one fumble recovery, two tackles for loss, one pass breakup, and one quarterback hit. If I recall, he earned defensive player of the week honors following that performance.
I believe that, given what we discussed above in relation to Tre’ White, it could come down to the Bills’ ability to bring pressure on defense against the Jaguars’ ability to continue moving the chains, and finding soft spots within zone coverage.
Buffalo boasts a top-ten rushing offense, one not led by quarterback Josh Allen. Jacksonville boasts a top-ten run defense. Something has to give. If the Jaguars are able to stifle the Bills a bit and force them into some long down-and-distance situations, it should help their defense better-defend the pass.
NFL rankings show us that Jacksonville’s pass defense is ranked 22nd through four weeks. That’s not ideal when wide receiver Stefon Diggs is up next. But cornerback Darious Williams has played great (43% of passed completed his way, with six pass breakups and one INT) and he should provide competent adversary to Diggs and the rest of Buffalo’s receiving corps. It’s Tyson Campbell who could play a large role in Sunday’s outcome. Having given up 172 yards and two touchdowns on 62% pass completions could prove troublesome when matched up against Diggs, wide receiver Gabe Davis, and even rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid. I’d be shocked if offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey doesn’t attempt to create a potential mismatch against Campbell all game long.
Question 5: The Bills are favored by 5 points according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Which side of the spread are you taking, and are there any player/game props that stand out to you?
So in researching the all-time history of this head-to-head matchup, I was reminded that the teams are evenly split 9-9. Furthermore, all but four games have been decided by a touchdown or less. Those four outliers? The Bills and Jaguars have also split things down the middle, 2-2 — with each team winning one on the road and one at home.
This 19th meeting represents a rubber match of sorts, with it essentially taking place on a neutral field. I know the Bills are considered the home team, but it no matter what efforts are made, it’s not going to be like a home game as was the case during their ill-fated Toronto series. I believe that further plays to Jacksonville’s advantage, and could benefit those who take the under this week.
If you again consider the all-time matchup history, then it’s more likely we see a close game in London. In a great analysis piece by “Skarekrow” on Buffalo Rumblings this week, he shared the following:
On a per-drive basis, the Bills allow 1.19 points per drive. That’s fifth best in the league. In sixth place? The Jaguars at 1.55 points per drive. Buffalo allows a score on 23.8% of drives (4th). The Jaguars allow a score on 27.3% (6th). The Bills create turnovers at a higher pace than any team in the league (26.2% of drives). The Jaguars are fourth best in the league (18.2%).
More fuel for what should be a very physical, tense, and closely fought Week 5 game in London.
For prop bets, I’m most comfortable going all-in with Stefon Diggs this week. This trio from DraftKings Sportsbook presents solid bets for a player who’s been nearly unstoppable this season. Take him to score an anytime TD and go over 6.5 catches and 83.5 receiving yards.
Thanks to Matt for taking the time to answer our questions!
What are your thoughts on this week’s matchup, Jaguars fans? Let us know in the comments!