The Jacksonville Jaguars got back in the win column last Sunday, defeating the Atlanta Falcons 23-7 in their first week of a back-to-back in London. They are now set to battle against the Buffalo Bills, who are arguably the hottest team in the NFL right now. Since their Week 1 loss to the Jets, the Bills have throttled their next three opponents by an average margin of 30 points. Quarterback Josh Allen is playing at an MVP level, and the Buffalo defense is making life difficult for every offense they face.
For the Jacksonville Jaguars to have a shot against a team playing at such a high level, they’ll need to be much better on both sides of the football than we’ve seen to this point. If they’re able to reach that extra gear we’ve been waiting for all season, it’ll likely have a lot to do with these three X-factors stepping up.
Cam Robinson hasn’t played since Week 15 of last season after an injury, and subsequent 4-game suspension. His absence has certainly been felt on the offensive line thus far this season, as the unit has struggled to find consistency to this point. With Robinson’s suspension coming to an end this week, the veteran tackle has a chance to prove his presence has been the missing link for this young front.
“It’s hard to win in this league. We’re happy with the result, but we’ve gotta get better…— Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) October 5, 2023
(Cam Robinson) is a great player and it’ll be good to have him back.” #JAXvsBUF | #DUUUVAL pic.twitter.com/hAat6cy5z6
Robinson is set to resume his role as the team’s left tackle, which would kick Walker Little inside to left guard — a spot that has been a problem for the Jags through four weeks. While Little was playing well at that position in his absence, him moving to the interior has the potential to strengthen the entire life side of the line.
If Robinson can be inserted without much drop off from how Little was playing while bringing back his tone-setting ways, his value can’t be understated in this matchup against the Bills. It will be a tall task, however, as the Buffalo defense have arguably been the best in the league to this point. They rank first in sacks (16) and interceptions (8), which just points to how difficult they make things on quarterbacks. It will be up to Robinson and the rest of the line to limit big plays from the defense in order for Trevor Lawrence to have success.
Outside of Justin Jefferson and Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs is probably the most unguardable receiver in the NFL today. His quickness mixed with how savvy a route runner he is makes him a headache for anybody that lines up in front of him. While Tyson Campbell and Darious Williams have been terrific in coverage this season, the Bills’ offensive scheme is adept at manipulating matchups with motion. So, unless the Jags plan to have those two travel with him (which they don’t do), it will be a group effort in the secondary, which puts a lot of pressure on Andre Cisco and Rayshawn Jenkins to play disciplined in their responsibilities on Sunday.
The Jaguars lean heavily on zone coverages in Mike Caldwell’s defense, which the Bills passing attack has been known to feast on. Stefon Diggs has a knack for finding the soft spots in zone looks, so it will be up to the backend to diagnose quickly. Whether it be Cover-2 hole shots down the sideline, or Diggs crossing the middle of the field, both Cisco and Jenkins have to be able to read and react quickly in order to be in position to make a play downfield or eliminate YAC opportunities for the talented receiver. Look for the Bills to test their eye discipline early in this one, which could be a big indication for how this game will go for the secondary.
The Buffalo Bills defense are allowing just 169 passing yards per game and have given up only three touchdowns through the air this season. However, their rush defense has been a totally different story. Through four games, the Bills are allowing 118 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 20th across the league. Even worse, they’re giving up big chunks of yards at a time as they’re allowing a whopping 6.3 yards per attempt to opponents, which is dead last in the NFL. They’ve given up at least one carry of 20 yards or more in each game this season.
That is why the Jaguars should prioritize feeding Travis Etienne early and often on Sunday. Too often this season the Jags have sacrificed the run game in order to force a rhythm for Trevor and his receivers, but this feels like the perfect opportunity to lean on Etienne to create for the offense. Not only does his home run ability create a huge threat for a defense so prone to big plays on the ground, but considering how hard they make things on quarterbacks, Etienne could be the safety outlet for Trevor when things break down in the pocket. It feels like the more touches Travis Etienne gets in this game, the better.
Who are you expecting to be an X-factor for the Jaguars on Sunday?