Buffalo Bills’ key defensive injuries have opened a rare window of opportunity for New York Jets
It was already known that the Buffalo Bills would be without their two All-Pro safeties in today’s game against the New York Jets. Micah Hyde’s season came to an end in Week 2 due to a neck injury. Jordan Poyer suffered an elbow injury in Week 8 that will sideline him this week.
Now, it appears Buffalo will also be missing one of the most productive pass-coverage linebackers in the NFL. Matt Milano is expected to miss today’s game with an oblique injury, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 6, 2022
Milano, Hyde, and Poyer have been cornerstones for the Buffalo defense during the Sean McDermott era. All three players were added ahead of McDermott’s first season with the team in 2017. Each of them have been consistent top-tier players in coverage and are among the primary reasons Buffalo has allowed the fewest passing yards in the NFL over the past six seasons.
Across six seasons with Milano, Hyde, and Poyer on the team, the Bills have never been forced to play a game with all three players sidelined. Today will be the first time it’s happened.
The New York Jets’ offense has been gifted with an unprecedented opportunity.
Facing the Bills’ defense is supposed to be a terrifying proposition. Buffalo has the NFL’s top scoring defense this year, allowing only 14.0 points per game. It is the Bills’ second consecutive year in that position after they led the league with only 17.0 points allowed per game in 2021.
But with three of their core pieces all in street clothes for the very first time in six years, Buffalo is facing a challenge it has never dealt with before. New York might be catching this unit at its most vulnerable.
Hyde and Poyer’s absences leave former sixth-round picks Damar Hamiln and Jaquan Johnson in the starting lineup. They have combined to allow a perfect passer rating of 158.3 this season. As we broke down yesterday, Zach Wilson and Mike LaFleur need to aggressively challenge them down the field, especially when Buffalo drops both of them deep in a 2-high coverage look.
Milano’s absence paves the way for rookie Terrel Bernard to start in his place. It would be the third-round pick’s first career start. He’s only played 39 defensive snaps this season.
Losing Milano is a killer for the Bills’ middle-of-the-field coverage. Milano has allowed the lowest passer rating in the NFL among linebackers this season at 55.2.
With Milano out, the Jets’ running backs should have a much better opportunity to make plays in the passing game. Since 2020, the Bills have allowed only 29.9 receiving yards per game to running backs in games with Milano on the field, which would rank fourth-best over the past three seasons. But in seven games without Milano, the Bills have allowed 43.0 receiving yards per game to running backs, which would rank 28th.
On the New York side, wide receiver Corey Davis (knee) is out while running back James Robinson (knee) is a game-time decision after being added to the injury report late in the week. Edge rusher Jermaine Johnson (ankle) is good to go and will make his return after a three-game absence.
Buffalo remains a significantly stronger team than New York going into Sunday afternoon, but the Bills’ injuries have caused the talent gap to shrink a little bit. We shall see if the Jets’ offense can take advantage of Buffalo’s key defensive losses.
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