The New York Jets need to take advantage of the Buffalo Bills’ few weaknesses
The Buffalo Bills are a juggernaut. They are loaded with elite talent on both sides of the ball and do not have any clear weaknesses, as they rank second in scoring and first in scoring defense. Buffalo ranks top-8 in all four of yards per pass play, yards per rush attempt, yards allowed per pass play, and yards allowed per rush attempt.
Good luck, New York Jets!
To find Buffalo’s weaknesses, you have to dig deeper. While the Bills are good at just about everything on an overall level, there are holes to be exploited if you analyze their team in a more specific fashion.
Here are two particular cracks in Buffalo’s armor that the Jets should target on Sunday.
Attack the depleted safety position
Back in 2017, the Bills paired up Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde in their defensive backfield, forming what would become the best safety duo in the NFL over the next five seasons.
From 2017 to 2021, Buffalo never had to play a game without both Poyer and Hyde, as each player was incredibly durable. But in 2022, the injury bug has finally caught up to the two elite safeties. Hyde suffered a season-ending neck injury in Week 2. Poyer missed games in Weeks 3 and 5 due to foot and rib injuries.
In their first game with both Poyer and Hyde sidelined, the Bills lost to the Dolphins in Miami by a score of 21-19. It remains their only loss of the season. Buffalo’s second game without both star safeties went a lot better, as the Bills got a dominant 38-3 home win over the Steelers.
Going into this week’s game against the Jets, Poyer’s status is up in the air once again, this time due to an elbow injury. Poyer is considered week-to-week, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
If Poyer misses this week’s game, the Jets must aggressively attack Buffalo’s safety unit. The Bills’ backup safeties are ripe for the picking.
Damar Hamlin and Jaquan Johnson make up Buffalo’s backup safety tandem. Each player is a former sixth-round pick of the Bills, with Hamlin being drafted in 2021 and Johnson in 2019.
Hamlin and Johnson have struggled this year, especially in coverage. Combined, they have allowed 11 catches on 12 targets for 161 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. That’s a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
The Dolphins exploited this duo in their Week 3 win over Buffalo. Miami targeted them five times and completed all five passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.
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Exploit their turnover-proneness
As fundamentally sound as the Bills are in most aspects of the game, they actually have not taken good care of the football this season.
Buffalo is tied for the sixth-most turnovers in the NFL with 12. Josh Allen is tied for fifth in the league with six interceptions while the Bills are also tied for the fourth-most lost fumbles with six. The fumbles are a team-wide issue, as only two of those fumbles were lost by Allen. Four were lost by one of the Bills’ skill-position players – one each by four different players.
The Jets need to take full advantage of Buffalo’s lackadaisical ball security. They are not going to defeat the Bills by going punch-for-punch with them. New York needs game-altering plays to get the job done.
That’s what Miami did in Week 3. The Bills out-gained the Dolphins by 285 yards (497 to 212), but it was Miami that came up with the biggest plays of the game to shift the momentum.
The Bills have shown they can be a little careless with the ball, so New York needs to emphasize exploiting that. Get a little bit more aggressive when breaking on the passing lanes. Go for punch-outs a little more often than usual when making tackles.
To me, it is worth the risk for the Jets’ defense to play with an aggressive, turnover-forcing mindset in this game. Buffalo is going to move the ball and score points regardless of what the Jets do. Even if New York plays a bend-but-don’t-break style, the Bills are too talented to be stopped. The Jets need field-flipping plays defensively to turn this game in their favor.
I think this philosophy applies to the coaches, too. From a game-planning perspective, I would like to see Jeff Ulbrich take a more aggressive approach to try and get some turnovers. This could be the key to taking the football away from Josh Allen.
Allen is more prone to making risky decisions when blitzed. His turnover-worthy play rate when blitzed this season is 5.5%, compared to 3.4% when he is not blitzed.
Allen has been putting the ball in harm’s way on a frequent basis this year. In addition to tying for fifth with six interceptions, he is also tied for second with 13 turnover-worthy throws. His minus-7 disparity between turnover-worthy throws and actual interceptions is tied for the third-largest of any quarterback, trailing Jacoby Brissett (-8) and Daniel Jones (-8). This suggests he has been lucking out pretty often.
That luck cannot continue on Sunday. The Jets need to capitalize on every opportunity they get to pick off Allen.
By blitzing more often, Ulbrich can maximize the number of interception opportunities his defense gets, giving them more room for error when it comes to capitalizing on Allen’s turnover-worthy throws. It’s hard to snag interceptions – if it were easy, the defenders would be playing on offense. The key is to tilt the odds in your favor by creating as many opportunities as possible, which minimizes your reliance on the randomness of whether each interception opportunity is converted.
The Jets can feel comfortable about taking the risk to blitz more often because Allen’s overall effectiveness dwindles when he is blitzed. It’s not as if blitzing him is a high-reward/high-risk proposition. Allen is averaging 6.7 yards per attempt when blitzed compared to 9.2 yards per attempt when not blitzed.
When I say the Jets have to get at least one turnover in this game if they want a fighting chance, it’s not an exaggeration. Over the last three seasons, the Bills are 9-0 when they have zero turnovers. They are the only team in the NFL over this span with an undefeated record in zero-turnover games.
If the Jets can get just one turnover, Buffalo becomes much more beatable. Since 2020, the Bills are 21-10 (.677) when they have at least one turnover. That is still the second-best record in the NFL in such scenarios, as the Bills are more equipped than anyone to overcome turnovers (except the Chiefs and their .714 win percentage in 1+ turnover games) thanks to their offensive firepower. But if you never take the ball away from them, you have no shot.
I would like to see the Jets’ defense go all-in on Sunday. Welcome an increased risk of allowing big plays in exchange for the increased upside of making your own big plays. Because the way I see it, the Bills are going to steamroll you no matter how safe you play. So, you might as well put all of your chips in the middle of the table.
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