Jaguars “@” Bills: Week 5 Preview

Usually when fans bemoan the season’s schedule as being hard, I lightly roll my eyes for multiple reasons. For one thing, it’s a repeated refrain, one you hear year after year after year. More importantly, before the season, you never know what teams are going to be. For example, the matchup in Cincinnati looked a lot more fearsome before it became clear that Joe Burrow is more hurt than they want to admit and the defense just lost too much in the offseason.

However, this season was a bit different as it was less about the matchups, than when and where they were playing. In addition to playing three of last year’s final four teams on the road, the Bills gametimes were all over the map. The most ridiculous example plays out this week when the Bills are listed as the home team, but even Vegas knows that the Jaguars are for all real uses of the term, the home team.

As the team with the shakiest fanbase, the NFL has promoted the Jaguars heavily in London, and they play at least one game in the city every year. This season, they play two games back-to-back. Now, as many have mentioned, this might not be as much the advantage it seems. While they will be acclimated to the time change, they have been away from home for over a week. Also, the Buffalo Bills have built an international brand (without the aid of the NFL) and have their own phalanx of British fans. Also, Bills fans notoriously travel well and it’s the minority of my Bills Mafia Twitter feed who are not in London this weekend.

For what it’s worth, the Bills do look fired up and are about as hot as can be. Aaron Schatz’s DVOA has the team with the sixth best start in history, or as far back as their data reaches (1981). And that’s in spite of the opening game klunker against the Jets. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have been all over the map, landing at 2-2 with the rest of its AFC South-mates.

The Bills will also be looking to avoid a letdown and only have to look back two years for the last time a hot Bills team coming off a big win against the Dolphins, expecting an easy win against a Jacksonville squad. They lost an excruciating game 9-6. And that was an abysmal Jaguar squad led by the absolutely lost Urban Meyer. The Bills are one of only two teams to lose to Meyer in his NFL season.

However, every season and every iteration of a team is different. The Jaguars, expected to join the Bills in the top ranks of the AFC this year, have looked underwhelming this year, while the Bills have been putting away teams in a manner they have failed at in prior years. And this is without closer Von Miller, who likely returns in some capacity this week.

But the Josh Allen bowl will be played on the field… let’s look at the various units:


If you’re reasing this, you likely know that after an utterly putrid opening game, Josh Allen has been playing at or near the top of the league. In two of the last three weeks, Allen has won AFC Offensive Player of the Week, and he’s already on the all-time leaderboard on Pro Football Reference for that category. Only A-A-Ron Rodgers and kicker Matt Prater have more PotW awards, and both turn 40 on their next birthday. Josh Allen is 27?!?!?!

Trevor Lawrence, meanwhile, is an absolute enigma. A number one overall pick and touted generational QB coming out of Clemson, he has never come close to the hype… yet. Last year, he started to show some elite ability with 25 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions, leading his team to a division title. This year, he’s been… fine. However, he’s just hard to gauge. His receivers have helped him on some 50/50 throws and let him down on some great throws..

The last time they met, neither played particularly well in an abomination of a game that still hurts Bills fans’ hearts. That Lawrence looked meh at best made the loss hurt all the more. That said, this category isnt even close.

Advantage: Buffalo

Running Backs

This comparison is closer. At least, it is at the top. Travis Etienne has been decent, and most importantly, healthy, so far this year. He’s got 260 yards so far. James Cook only has 36 more yards, but both watching game film and checking out their YPC reveal Cook is off to the quicker start. Cook has 5.3 YPC to Etienne’s 3.8. Both have been effective in the passing game.

It’s in the whole room, where the Bills pull away, slightly anyway. Buffalo boasts the veteran duo of goal-line stud Damien Harris and ageless wonder Latavius Murray. Etienne’s back-up, Tank Bigsby, has been used sparingly, but does list 2 TD’s among his 12 carries. D’Ernest Johnson once looked promising in 2021 for the Browns, but he’s been a ghost so far this year for the Jaguars.

Advantage: Buffalo

Pass Catchers

Will this be the position group where we pick Jacksonville. Spoiler alert: no. On paper, this team has a pretty deep group. On paper. After a scorching first half of the season, Calvin Ridley has been an utter disaster, between dropping passes and just not seeming to have a feel for where he is on the field. Maybe it’s just a lack of chemistry with his new QB. Former Bill Zay Jones has looked fine as a Jag, and as a fomer Mediocre Bill™, he could score a revenge game. Consistent Christian Kirk is the one to worry about, however.

Speaking of consistency, Stefon Diggs has crested 100 yards in three of four games, while getting 62 against the Raiders. For some reason WR2 Gabriel Davis seems to still be catching flack while not dropping balls and snagging a touchdown a week the last three weeks. I don’t get it. He does have one drop and, crazy stat time, it’s the Bills’ only drop all season. Bills are also seventh in YAC (yards after catch). What a difference a year makes! The rest of the room has been fine, although fans are tiring of Deonte Harty sweeps, even if one went for a first down last week.

This is the first week where tight ends make it closer. Part of it is that Dawson Knox and Dalton Kincaid have been OK so far this week. Knox deservedly won Kyle Brandt’s angry run last week. However, the 12-personnel has (not all that surprisingly) not been the juggernaut most expected it to be. Evan Engram, however, has great chemistry with Lawrence in his second year on the team with 25 catches for 232 yards. Still..

Advantage: Buffalo

Offensive Line

The Jaguars’ offensive line has been neither a strong point, nor really a deficit on the Jaguars. Rookie first rounder Anton Harrison has looked solid at right tackle so far, and paired with 5x Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff, the right side is good. It’s hard to tell what the left side will look like as steady but never spectacular Cam Robinson returns at left tackle, with Walker Little, who had been a positive there, kicks in to guard. That could be a spot for the Bills pass rush to exploit. I noticed center Luke Fortner a few times while watching tape and that’s never a good sign.

Meanwhile, the Bills o-line has been a pleasant surprise, a shocker even! A Twitter user named Computer Cowboy compiles all rankings of o-lines into one, and after four weeks, the Bills top that list. Two time Pro Bowl left tackle Dion Dawkins is off to the best start of his career with zero penalties and zero sacks allowed. He’ll have his hands full with the other Josh Allen. Center Mitch Morse and rookie right guard O’Cyrus Torrence also have a goose egg in the sack column. Left guard Connor McGovern has been good enough, while right tackle Spencer Brown has had some beastly run blocks while being otherwise invisible. Invisible is great after the 2021 3rd rounder’s extremely rocky start to his career.

Advantage: Buffalo

Defensive Interior

For the second week in a row, we’re gonna get more granular due to the 3-4 (Jax) vs. 4-3 (Buf) nature of the schemes. Despite that meaning the Bills only have two starters here, they are easily better than Jacksonville’s adequate trio of journeymen. Ed Oliver got paid and proceeded to show us all he was underpaid. He’s on pace for his first double-digit sack season and with six tackles-for-loss trails only Danielle Hunter. Meanwhile DaQuan Jones has been absolutely dominant all year. PFF is what it is, but Jones has a 91 rating there (that’s good) and has been the keystone of the Bills great defense with 2.5 sacks and five QB Hits. EXTEND DAQUAN TODAY!

On the Jacksonville side, Folorunso Futukasi, Roy Robertson-Harris, and Adam Gotsis are all solid veterans and do pair well with the rest of a promising defense that is very good at disrupting opponents’ rhythm. But the Bills are just balling out at the DT position so far.

Advantage: Buffalo (sensing a pattern?)

Pass Rushers

Josh Allen Prime has been a problem so far this year. The fifth-year linebacker is tied with TJ Watt and Khalil Mack for the sack lead with six. While it’s not quite as weird as Mack’s all coming last week, Allen’s have been evenly spaced between his first and most recent games. In week 1 and week 4, Allen absolutely dominated beond his three sacks. In between, he was neutralized by KC’s Donoan Smith while Houston did a good job employing a scheme. Last time these teams faced one another, Josh Allen sacked Josh Allen, Josh Allen intercepted Josh Allen, and Josh Allen recovered a Josh Allen fumble (I’ll stop).

The rest of the Jacksonville pass rush has been underwhelming, including recent first round picks Travon Walker and K’Lavon Chaisson who have combined for their other three sacks. If everyone not already declared out plays, the pass rushing units will be heavy on former first rounders with players selected 1 (Walker), 2 (Von Miller), 7 (Allen), 9 (Leonard Floyd), 19 (Shaq Lawson), and 20 (Chaisson), with the Bills’ Gregory Rousseau (a 30th overall pick) on the bench.

It just figures that right as the Bills get Miller back (maybe), Rousseau is out with a foot injury. Meanwhile, Lawson is a late addition to the questionables. Thankfully, the Bills are deep at the position, with Floyd being a godsend late free agent signing and AJ Epenesa finally coming on in his contract year. And I’m very excited to see what Kingsley Jonathan, who has quietly made some plays the last two weeks.

This would go to the Bills if everyone was healthy, but with Rousseau out and Miller and Lawson questionable, this one is…

Advantage: Push


2022 first rounder Devin Lloyd had a solid rookie season, including over 100 tackles and three INTs. He did not look great to me (nor PFF fwiw) so far this season, but it doesn’t matter, because he’s not playing. So Chad Muma, picked two rounds later will likely start, so {shrug}. On the other hand, Foyesade Oluokun has been an underrated and steady presence at the other inside linebacker. We’re not sure if he has the boorish manners of the Yalie he is, but he could be a definite bother to the Bills. He’s a big part of why the Jax defense has been stout against the run. However, he’s been a liability at times in coverage with a 94.4 QB rating against.

Matt Milano, on the other hand, is the best among linebackers in that category with a staggeringly low 28.0 QB rating against. After earning his first All-Pro selection last year, Milano may be even better this year. Milano was expected, but no one saw middle linebacker Terrel Bernard coming. He’s matched Milano with a pair of INTs, while earning Defensive Player of the Week vs. the Raiders. The 2022 third rounder also is on the leader board in QB rating against with a 55.4

Advantage: Buffalo

Defensive Backs

The Bills took a hit here with Tre’Davious White about to miss the rest of the season. It’s depressing to see the shutdown CB and one-time future Hall of Famer lose such a large chunk of his last three seasons. Thankully for the Bills, their cornerback room is deep, at least deeper than most think. Unfortunately, standout Christian Benford is also on the injury report. This means the strange saga of 2022 first rounder Kaiir Elam may add another chapter, should he start across from the steady Dane Jackson (who has looked great every time he’s been called on, oh, by the way).

Elam has never been terrible, at least from what we’ve seen, and he posted a 0.0 QB rating against the Dolphins in last year’s playoff win. He’s just never been able to surpass late round picks on the depth chart. I’m tired of talking about Elam, however. At safety, Jordan Poyer has had a stuttery start, while Micah Hyde has shown no sign of slippage post-yearlong injury with two INTs. Oh, and Taron Johnson may just be the best nickelback in the league.

The Jaguars don’t have any huge names on defense, but that might be changing soon. Two of them truly deserve their flowers. Undrafted Darious Williams has developed slowly over his career into the league’s quietest shutdown corner. From the start of 2022 til now, he has held QBs to below 50%. Safety Andre Cisco is similarly under-the-radar and scary.

Jacksonville’s secondary is on the rise, but they’re 21st in passing yards allowed (Bills are 4th best), so even with the injuries, it’s gotta be…

Advantage: Buffalo

Special Teams

Jacksonville’s punt returner Chad Askew is a threat every time he touches the ball on returns. He’s also a danger to fumble every time he touches the ball on offense, but that’s irrelevant here. Their coverage teams have also looked fierce so far. They also have vet kicker Brandon McManus. McManus has missed two field goals, which happens to everyone.

Check that, it hasn’t happened to the Buffalo Bills’ Tyler Bass once this season. He gets to play in front of his number one fan, UK Bills fan, and the most wonderfully weird Twitter follow, Chaotic Trish. The rest of Bills special teams has been good, but not their usual dominant.

Advantage: I Don’t Know, Push, I Guess

So, with zero advantages going to the Jaguars, you’d think this would be a guaranteed Bills blowout. And if the Bills won by 28 or more, they’d be the first team since the 1943 Bears to win by that much four weeks in a row. 1943?!?!

Unfortunately, visions of 9-6 still dance sinisterly in our heads. That this Jaguar team is better than the one from 2021 is immaterial. However, they are also just a strange team. Watching their highlights lulled me to sleep., a listless sleep where I again saw moments from that unwatchable game from two years ago. I’m picking the Bills, but… this game worries me.

On the other hand, if the Bills avoid the letdown and roll to a win, it could be a good sign that this team is something special. In the end, I’m going with…

Prediction: Buffalo 30, Jacksonville 21