TONY’S TAKE – A PREVIEW OF BILLS-JETS
by Tony Fiorello
ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 13: Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott reacts during the first quarter of the game against the Denver Broncos at Highmark Stadium on November 13, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Welcome to Week 11 of the 2023 NFL season. Here at Buffalo Sports Page we will attempt to inform and educate our readers about the Buffalo Bills’ upcoming opponent and what each team might do to emerge victorious.
The Bills’ 11th game of 2023 will take place at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York as they face the New York Jets. Here’s what you should know:
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 22: Cornerback Sauce Gardner #1, Linebacker Quinnen Williams #56 and Safety Jordan Whitehead #3 of the New York Jets make a stop in the Thursday Night Football game in the rain between the Jacksonville Jaguars vs the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on December 22, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
GANG GREEN’S DEFENSE BECOMING SEATTLE-LITE
Jets head coach Robert Saleh arrived in the Big Apple from San Francisco where he oversaw a defense that was among the NFL’s better outfits between 2017-20. Saleh was one of the original architects, along with Pete Carroll, Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn, of the Seattle Seahawks’ fabled Cover Three scheme (featuring deep zone coverage on the outside with one safety in the box and a deep safety patrolling centerfield) which they employed en route to back-to-back NFC championships and a Super Bowl title between 2013-14. Saleh himself used those same tactics to help the 49ers make an appearance in Super Bowl LIV in 2019, although he’s utilized more Cover Four and Six concepts as of late.
In addition to his favored pass coverages, Saleh will – like his predecessors – use one or two of his linemen to two-gap while the rest of the front seven will control just one, which eliminates the potential holes for opposing running backs to go through. He also has his linemen liberally execute stunts, twists and slants out of overloaded fronts to open up one-on-one opportunities in pass rush situations. Fortunately for Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, the Jets are accumulating the talent needed to make this system go.
New York once had shaky depth among their defensive backs, but not anymore. Rangy and intelligent safeties Jordan Whitehead, Adrian Amos and Tony Adams patrol the Jets’ back end while former 49er and Seahawk D.J. Reed holds down one outside cornerback spot and Michael Carter II is in the slot.
The opposite boundary corner position is occupied by Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. Last year’s fourth overall draft pick out of the University of Cincinnati, Gardner – who boasts smarts, length, strength to jam wideouts in press coverage and adeptness in both man and zone coverage, may be the best Cover Three corner to enter the NFL since Richard Sherman. Given the amount of zone the Jets use, they rarely ask Gardner or Reed to shadow top wideouts in man coverage.
Up front New York has a pair of talented defensive tackles in ex-Bill and Seahawk Quinton Jefferson and All-Pro Quinnen Williams. Former Bengal Carl Lawson, Jermaine Johnson, Bryce Huff, rookie Will McDonald IV and John Franklin-Myers are the team’s main edge rushers and they’re good enough to the point where Salah and Ulbrich hardly blitz.
Veteran C.J. Mosley continues to display a high football IQ, athleticism and good technique. He, Quincy Williams and Jamien Sherwood are New York’s starters at linebacker.
After ranking dead last in the NFL in points allowed and total yards surrendered in 2021, the Jets’ defense has taken some big leaps in improvement. In 2022 they were fourth in points and yards allowed. They were also seventh in sacks with 47 and were the fourth-best red zone defense in the league.
This year they’re seventh in points allowed, sixth in total yards and third against the pass while fifth in the red zone, but second-last in defending the run – an area the Bills could take advantage of.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 12: Wide receiver Garrett Wilson #17 of the New York Jets makes a catch during the 1st quarter of the game as safety Marcus Epps #1 of the Las Vegas Raiders defends at Allegiant Stadium on November 12, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)
BIG APPLE’S OFFENSE STILL STRUGGLING
Between 2021-22 Saleh’s offensive coordinator was Mike LaFleur, the brother of Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur. Mike’s system was identical to that of his brother’s and his former 49ers boss Kyle Shanahan’s – it emphasizes a running game built around zone-blocking (especially to the outside on “stretch” plays) and passes that are created off the threat of run-action. It’s a West Coast philosophy that can create a lot of big plays down the field from craftily designed routes that work off one another, and the skill position players often line up in reduced splits to the line of scrimmage to become both extra blockers on runs and to have more room to run routes on the field.
Due to ineffectiveness, however, LaFleur was canned at the end of 2022 in favor of former Denver Broncos head coach (and ex-Bills and Packers offensive coordinator) Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett employs the same system that LaFleur has used, so there won’t be much of a change in offensive philosophy for Gang Green.
Yet there were major changes in the personnel that Hackett now has at his disposal compared to what the Jets displayed a year ago. To make this unit go, two years ago Saleh and general manager Joe Douglas traded former third-overall draft pick Sam Darnold and replaced him with Zach Wilson. The signal caller from Brigham Young University boasts a strong arm and good mobility, but it was evident that adjusting to life in the NFL would be a process and it has been.
Wilson needs to work on reducing turnovers, improving his touch and decision-making – he uses too much velocity on short throws – keeping his eyes down the field and not on the pass rush, quickening his dropbacks and not retreating backwards when an opponent gets in his face. He also pre-determines throws and doesn’t know how to sync his footwork with route concepts.
Because of his struggles and immaturity, Wilson wasn’t supposed to be the starter in New York this year. Rather, the Jets’ offense was going to run through ex-Packer and future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers, who was acquired in the spring in exchange for draft pick compensation.
Still one of the league’s best at 39 years old, Rodgers is as strong-armed and accurate as he was earlier in his career, and his intelligence and athleticism continue to remain sharp. What’s interesting about Rodgers is that at times he won’t play “on schedule”, as coaches like to put it. Sometimes he will try to pull off sandlot football – meaning not looking at his first receiver and holding onto the ball too long to try and make a greater play than what the original call designed.
According to former MMQB/SI writer Andy Benoit: “Though he is capable of beating defenses with presnap reads and quick throws, Rodgers frequently passes up open receivers and leaves clean pockets, which would warrant a reprimand for most QBs. But he’s so exceptional that he often goes on to make a better play.
“The tricky part is that Rodgers’s approach is more conducive to spread formations and isolation routes which, when relied upon too heavily, can lead to dry spells in the passing game. The challenge is to find the proper mix.”
But due to Rodgers suffering a torn Achilles tendon in Week One, Wilson is again the guy under center for New York and has continued to play poorly. He is second-last among starting quarterbacks in completion percentage and has accounted for just one touchdown in the Jets’ last five games. They’ve gone without a touchdown in their last 36 drives and have just two in their last 56.
Other familiar faces have accompanied Rodgers and Hackett from Green Bay. Wide receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb have joined Garrett Wilson (who is coming off an excellent rookie season) and all can carry out Rodgers’ favorite routes. Slants, posts and back-shoulder fades are staples of the LaFleur/Hackett offense, and not only do they excel at such pass-patterns but they also have a great feel for how to get open when plays break down. Tyler Conklin, who is particularly good on seam routes, is New York’s tight end.
Breece Hall was expected to be the Jets’ top running back going into last season but he suffered a knee injury. He is now healthy and paired up with one of the NFL’s better backs in Dalvin Cook, a strong and speedy ball carrier. The two operate behind an offensive line that at their best boasts tackles Mekhi Becton – a mountain of a man at 6’7” and 364 pounds – and Duane Brown, guards Laken Tomlinson and Alijah Vera-Tucker (and starting center Connor McGovern (no relation to Buffalo’s guard with the same name).
Similar to their issues here the last couple of years, due to injuries and ineffectiveness New York has had six different starting combinations in their front five over their first nine games. Brown, Vera-Tucker and McGovern are all injured and replaced by rookie Joe Tippman, Max Mitchell and Billy Turner – Turner is also out for Sunday’s game. It’s resulted in allowed the highest pressure rate in the NFL and the third-most sacks.
Last year the Jets were 29th in scoring, 25th in total yards, 15th in passing, 25th in rushing and second-last in red zone efficiency. It’s been more of the same this year as they are 30th in scoring, 29th in yards, 18th in rushing and 30th in passing, and are dead last in third down efficiency and in the red zone. Additionally, they haven’t scored more than 22 points in each of their last nine outings against the Bills.
ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 13: Dane Jackson #30 and Greg Rousseau #50 of the Buffalo Bills tackle Javonte Williams #33 of the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter at Highmark Stadium on November 13, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images)
BUFFALO’S DEFENSE USUALLY ELITE, BUT UNDERGOING CHANGES IN 2023
For the majority of head coach Sean McDermott’s time in Buffalo, the Bills’ defense – led by longtime stalwarts such as Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Matt Milano and Ed Oliver – has been one of the league’s best in the regular season. Points allowed (second in the NFL in that category in 2022), total yards per game allowed (sixth), rushing yards surrendered (fifth), takeaways (tied for fourth), interceptions (tied for fourth) and red zone defense (second) have generally been the categories that the Bills have excelled at (last year’s 15th ranking against the pass not withstanding).
Buffalo, however, was inconsistent in two areas – creating a consistent pass rush and, from time to time, stopping the run. These issues are mainly caused by poor tackling (a year ago their missed and broken tackle percentage were among the highest in the NFL), a lack of gap integrity and a lack of versatility along the defensive line. This problem came up again this year against the Jets in Week One, where the Bills allowed 172 yards on the ground but a week later they held Josh Jacobs – last year’s rushing champion – to -2 yards on nine carries, the first time a reigning rushing champion was held to negative yards in a game according to ESPN.
To address this over the years, McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier (who has taken this season off, leaving McDermott to call the defensive plays) have brought in more talent. Out went names like Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, Star Lotulelei, Carlos “Boogie” Basham and Harrison Phillips, and in came talented and versatile linemen like Greg Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa (who earlier this season became the first Bills defensive lineman to return an interception for a touchdown since Aaron Schobel in 2009), Da’Quan Jones and Tim Settle, and the return of former Bills like Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson were also welcomed additions. This season Buffalo has signed veterans such as Leonard Floyd, Kaylon “Poona” Ford and Linval Joseph to help out, and they’ve fit like a glove – especially Floyd, whose length and athleticism were needed on the edge. They’ll be needed even more after Jones, perhaps their best run-stuffing lineman, tore a pectoral muscle against Jacksonville.
Beyond improving against the run, the Bills had also lacked an elite pass rusher off the edge who could command double teams on a consistent basis since Mario Williams was employed nearly 10 years ago. With this in mind, in 2022 general manager Brandon Beane signed future Hall of Famer Von Miller. But Miller suffered a torn ACL after putting up eight sacks in 11 games and missed the first four games of this season while recovering on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. He’s back now and on a snap count as he shakes off the rust, but his return is good news regardless. With Miller the Bills were fourth in the NFL in pressure rate with four or less pass rushers in 2022, without him they were 27th in that category – however their pressure rate has been among the best in the league thus far even without Miller.
Schematically the Bills’ defense mostly relies on basic zone coverages after the snap (they’re usually among the top units in the NFL in usage of Cover Two, Four and Six) but before the snap it is complex – safety rotations to disguise their intentions keep opposing quarterbacks guessing and selective pressure looks at the line of scrimmage and coverage exchanges are the team’s calling cards.
Those blitz looks usually happen in the A-gaps with the smaller, but smart, speedy and athletic Milano and Terrell Bernard (replacing the departed Tremaine Edmunds) to confuse opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks, but they rarely send five or more pass rushers – their favorite blitz tactic besides A-gappers are four-man zone exchanges. Bernard has stepped up to the challenge so far, leading Buffalo in tackles and recording two sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery against Washington – becoming the first NFL player to do so in one game since Brian Urlacher in 2007. Milano, however, is out for the foreseeable future after suffering a broken leg and a knee injury against the Jaguars, so backups A.J. Klein, Tyrel Dodson and rookie Dorian Williams will need to pick up the slack. So far they’ve struggled to defend the run well because of a lack of experience and not diagnosing those plays at the line of scrimmage (especially Williams) and Klein and Dodson are limited athletically.
The Bills mainly utilize nickel personnel, as evidenced by Buffalo using five defensive backs between 90 and 100 percent of their snaps since 2020. They did use nine snaps of dime against Kansas City in Week Seven last year – a matchup that saw them rely on three-man rushes and Milano utilizing a spy technique on Patrick Mahomes, and that setup returned against Tampa Bay in Week Eight with three safeties (on 38 percent of their snaps) to help offset the loss of Milano in pass coverage. Generally it features Hyde and ex-Ram Taylor Rapp on the backend and Poyer near the line of scrimmage.
White, one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, was back to full form after tearing his ACL against the New Orleans Saints two years ago but is injured again – this time after rupturing his Achilles tendon against Miami in Week Four. Opposite him at the other boundary corner spot were second-year man Christian Benford, Dane Jackson and Kaiir Elam (who has underwhelmed so far as a pro).
Slot corner Taron Johnson remains elite, but with White’s upper-echelon ability to play both man and zone coverage gone, will McDermott lean on more zone from Jackson, Elam, Benford, Johnson, Josh Norman and newly-acquired Rasul Douglas than they ever have? It would make sense, especially given that Douglas and Norman are primarily zone corners. Douglas, an ex-Green Bay Packer and Philadelphia Eagle, has great size and length, is versatile and a gambler – he can take chances because he understands route combinations very well.
Hyde and Poyer have reunited to form perhaps the league’s best duo on the back end after being in and out of the lineup with various injuries throughout 2022, and the rangy and physical but inconsistent Damar Hamlin has also returned to full health after suffering a cardiac arrest episode against Cincinnati in Week 16.
Special teams were also solid for the Bills in 2022, having been 13th in punt return average and sixth in kick return average (which was boosted by Nyheim Hines’ two kick returns for scores in Week 18, the first player in Bills history to return two kicks for scores in one game and the first kick return for a touchdown by a Bill in three years) and were 18th and third in covering punts and kicks, respectively. However, Hines was lost for the season after a knee injury was sustained during the summer and the team allowed a punt return for a touchdown in overtime in Week One – the first time an NFL game ended on a punt return score since 2011.
Despite their injuries, through 10 weeks Buffalo is fifth in points allowed, 17th in total yards allowed, 12th against the pass, 19th versus the run, second in sacks despite blitzing among the least of any NFL team and ninth in takeaways. Their nine sacks and four picks against Washington allowed them to be the first team to put up those numbers in a game since the 1985 Dallas Cowboys, but they haven’t gotten an interception since Week Four.
BUFFALO, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 13: Josh Allen #17 of the Buffalo Bills calls a play during the game against the Denver Broncos at Highmark Stadium on November 13, 2023 in Buffalo, New York. The Broncos beat the Bills 24-22. (Photo by Lauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images)
BILLS’ OFFENSE AN UPPER-ECHELON UNIT, BUT SLUMPING
Led by quarterback Josh Allen and a cadre of gifted pass-catchers, between 2020-22 the Bills boasted one of the NFL’s elite offenses for the first time since the K-Gun was running roughshod over the league 30 years ago. Allen’s improved processing skills, ball placement, patience within the pocket and touch on passes allowed Buffalo to become one of the most feared attacks in pro football (he was second in passing and total touchdowns and seventh in yards in 2022).
His core of targets is talented. Stefon Diggs is an exceptional route runner who excels in making contested catches and operates well out of bunch and stack formations. His presence along with the physical but inconsistent Gabriel Davis has balanced out Buffalo’s wide receiver corps. But one element – speed – was lacking a year ago, so the Bills addressed this by letting veterans Jamison Crowder, Cole Beasley, Isaiah McKenzie and John Brown walk and brought in names like Trent Sherfield, Deonte Harty and Andy Isabella to go along with second-year man Khalil Shakir. Tight end Dawson Knox (out after wrist surgery) is now joined by rookie first-round pick Dalton Kincaid from Utah, and their diverse skillsets should allow the Bills to throw curveballs at opponents with multiple tight end sets.
The Bills’ offensive line is composed of Dion Dawkins, former Dallas Cowboy Connor McGovern, Mitch Morse, rookie O’Cyrus Torrence and Spencer Brown. This crew along with fullback Reggie Gilliam, while not elite, has mainly executed outside zone runs along with zone-reads, pin-and-pull concepts, traps, counters, split inside zone and sprint draw plays sprinkled in for running back James Cook. Cook has taken on more of a featured role (and played well) since Devin Singletary left for Houston and is backed up by physical ex-Patriot Damien Harris (out with a concussion and sprained neck) and veteran Latavius Murray, who has rushed for a touchdown with six NFL teams – tied with Adrian Peterson for the most all-time. Former Jaguar and Buccaneer Leonard Fournette, a bruising type, was also signed to the team’s practice squad and can catch out of the backfield.
The starting front five, while not bad, has been iffy in providing push in the running game and in pass protection over the last couple of years. Most of the team’s rushing production came from Allen’s legs and few came from their backs – the Bills’ rushing attempts per game in 2022, 18.2, was last in the NFL but that number has increased this year. Also, in Week One against New York Buffalo surrendered five sacks, tied for the fifth-most in Allen’s career, but has been taken down just eight times in the last nine weeks.
Buffalo’s passing offense is a Patriots-style system built upon concepts involving option and crossing routes from the slot, downfield routes from the outside, run-pass options (especially in the red zone), designed quarterback runs to take advantage of Allen’s mobility, deep dropbacks and alignments that create favorable matchups and some trick plays with jet/orbit motion and sweeps. They’ve also used plenty of pre-snap motion and shifts – in the past it was mostly out of “11” personnel groupings (one back, one tight end and three wide receivers) and “10” personnel (one back, no tight ends, four receivers) – and will also go no-huddle from time to time to limit the opposition’s defensive calls. However, they’ve gotten away from those concepts recently and have tried to rely on their talent winning one-on-one matchups too much instead of the scheme helping them. This needs to return.
The Bills’ multi-receiver sets were traditionally their offensive calling card. In 2020 they used four wide receivers or more 155 times – the second-most in the NFL at the time – and they utilized someone in motion on 43 percent of their offensive snaps, a huge increase from their 25 percent rate in 2019. Former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll – now the head coach of the New York Giants – also called for a passing play on 64 percent of their first downs, according to ESPN Stats and Information – no team with a winning record in the last 20 years did it more than Buffalo – and that rate continued in 2021 and ’22 with “11” personnel used on nearly three-quarters of their plays.
However, Buffalo’s usage of “12” personnel (one back, two tight ends) has gone up with the employment of Knox and Kincaid. They were last in the NFL in usage of that grouping a year ago (three percent – it has gone down again after injuries to Knox and Kincaid throughout the year), and their amount of play-action passes has dropped after being a top-four team in those concepts used in 2020 and ’21 to 25th a year ago – especially while under center, which when utilized helps the Bills be one of the most efficient play-action teams in football. It also gives Diggs time to set up double moves, masks any pass protection weaknesses and improved their timing, rhythm and efficiency.
For everything the Bills did right on offense last year (first in third down conversion percentage, second in points scored and in total yards per game, fifth in passing, seventh in rushing and ninth in red zone percentage), two flaws remained – they were one the league’s sloppiest teams with 27 turnovers and the team’s ability to create sustained offense slipped during the stretch run of the season. Allen had 14 interceptions and 13 fumbles in the regular season and had three turnovers in the wild card playoff round versus the Dolphins (mainly due to perceiving pressure that wasn’t there, playing too fast and a lack of speed at wideout). Those issues have persisted in 2023, as Allen has thrown an interception in six straight games, the first Bill to do so since Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2011 and Buffalo is tied for the second-most giveaways in football with 18.
In 2022 the Bills won eight in a row (including playoffs, their longest streak since eight in 1990) and included winning six straight non-Sunday games – the first team to have done so since the 1962 Boston Patriots. Additionally Buffalo lost just three games by a total of eight points and tied the franchise mark for wins in a season with 13 (along with the 1990, ’91 and 2020 teams).
Through 10 weeks the Bills are eighth in scoring, seventh in total yards and passing yards, and 13th in rushing. They’re also among the best in the league in third down rate and red zone efficiency, yet their offense has performed poorly in their last six games. In that timeframe they’ve averaged just 20.5 points per game and haven’t won the turnover battle since Week Four (six games is their longest streak since 2012), resulting in offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey getting the boot in favor of quarterbacks coach and former Carolina Panthers play caller Joe Brady. Brady’s work is cut out for him – he needs to create better route concepts, utilize Cook more, create better synergy between Buffalo’s running game and play-action plays and get back to more shifts, motions and under-center formations.
Punter Sam Martin and kicker Tyler Bass have also been their usual excellent selves, especially Martin as of late. While McDermott elected to punt four times in fourth-and-one situations against Tampa (according to OptaSTATS, no other NFL team in the last 30 years got within a yard of or past midfield on each of their last four drives of a game and punted all four times), Martin answered the call by pinning the Bucs inside their own 10-yard line three times.
ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 13: Josey Jewell #47 of the Denver Broncos attempts to tackle Stefon Diggs #14 of the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter at Highmark Stadium on November 13, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images)
STATS AND MUSINGS
· Allen has compiled 37 career regular season games with a passer rating of 100 or better and has reached that mark in 20 of his last 32 outings. In those games Buffalo’s record is 34-3, and he had a perfect quarterback rating against Miami in Week Four – Doug Flutie was the only other Bills passer to accomplish that feat in one game.
· Only Steve Young has had more career regular season games (eight) with 300 or more passing yards and 50 or more rushing yards than Allen (seven). He’s second all-time in games with a passing and rushing score (39) – behind just Cam Newton (64).
· Buffalo’s franchise quarterback has eight career games with three passing touchdowns and a rushing score – only Drew Brees and Tom Brady (nine) have more all-time. He also became the first signal-caller to throw for 250 yards, run for 50, toss three touchdowns, run for one, complete 80 percent of his throws and win a game in league history against the Rams in Week One last year. His completion percentage against Miami in Week Four was 84, the highest in team history.
· Allen has moved past Young for second all-time in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback – only Newton has more (75).
· Buffalo’s quarterback has defeated every team in the NFL at least once except two – Arizona and Philadelphia. Allen’s also become the only signal caller with 4,000 passing yards and 750 rushing yards in a season twice (he’s the only one to do so once).
· Diggs and Allen have connected for a touchdown 36 times, second on the Bills’ all-time list (Jim Kelly and Andre Reed have 65). Diggs also tied Bill Brooks’ team record for touchdowns in a season in 2022 (11), has moved past Elbert Dubenion for fourth in franchise history in scores, has moved into fourth in team history in receptions and has surpassed Frank Lewis for fifth in team annals in yards. He and Stevie Johnson are the only Bills with three straight 1,000 yard seasons.
· Speaking of Diggs, he became the sixth player ever with 100 receptions and 1,200 receiving yards in three straight seasons – joining Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, Herman Moore, Antonio Brown and Michael Thomas. He’s also the first to do so in each of his first three years with one team and has three 100-yard receiving games with the Bills in the playoffs, joining Reed (five).
· Secondary target notes – last year Knox moved past Jay Riemersma for second in team annals with 21 receiving scores by a tight end. He’s behind only Pete Metzelaars (25) and became the fifth Bill with five or more receiving scores in the playoffs all-time while also catching a touchdown in five straight games (only Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski have had longer streaks among tight ends). Meanwhile, Davis has the second-most receiving touchdowns in team playoff history (six), tying James Lofton. Reed had nine.
· Since 2017 the Bills are 51-7 when leading at halftime and Week Six versus the Giants was the first game in which they were held scoreless through three quarters and won since December 1993 against Philadelphia (it was first time it had happened at home since 1987 – also against the Giants).
· Miller is the first defensive player in league history to sign two contracts worth at least $100 million. He is also vying to be the second player to win a Super Bowl with three different teams (Matt Millen was the first), has moved past Robert Mathis for 19th on the all-time sack list and is two quarterback takedowns away from tying Dwight Freeney for 18th.
· Buffalo’s point differential was plus-169 in 2022 – the second-best in the NFL and second-best in franchise history (2021) – and recorded 5,000 yards of offense for the third time in team history, joining the 1991 and 1975 teams. This year it’s plus-78, fourth in the league.
· After beating Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson in 2022, according to Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports Allen became the first quarterback to defeat three former MVPs in a four-game span since Troy Aikman downed Dan Marino, Young and Brett Favre in 1996. He’s also the first signal caller to beat three former MVPs in one month since David Woodley in September 1981.
· The Bills have compiled a road winning percentage of .66 (24-12) since 2019. Buffalo is also 12-1 at home in December and beyond in their last 13 games.
· The Bills rushed for 100 yards in every game but one last year. They clinched a playoff berth for the fourth straight year, which tied the second-longest streak in franchise history (1963-66, six years from 1988-93 is the longest) and was the fifth time McDermott clinched a playoff berth, trailing just Marv Levy (eight) for the most. Buffalo also won a third straight AFC East title, which is their longest streak since 1988-91.
· McDermott’s record against the AFC East since 2017 is 24-15 – a winning percentage of .615. He also became the 11th coach all-time to make the playoffs five times in his first six years – joining Andy Reid (PHI), John Harbaugh (BAL), John Madden (OAK), Mike Holmgren (GB), John Robinson (LAR), Paul Brown (CLE), Dennis Green (MIN), Chuck Knox (LAR), George Seifert (49ers) and Bill Cowher (PIT).
· Buffalo hasn’t won a road playoff game since the 1992 AFC title game in Miami – they’re 0-7 since.
· Buffalo’s regular season record over the last three years with Allen is 42-17, and he’s 57-30 all-time as a Bill.
· Since 2020 the Bills’ record coming off a loss is 12-4 and in Allen’s career they’re 21-6 after a loss.
· McDermott is the third coach in Bills history to appear in 100 games with the franchise along with Levy and Lou Saban.
· Since 2020 Buffalo has the best home record in the NFL – 28-8 including playoffs.
· Allen’s career record in primetime is 14-6 and he and McDermott are 5-1 on Sunday Night Football. They’re also 6-1 on Thursdays, but just 3-4 on Monday Night Football.
· Six of the last 12 games between the Bills and Jets have come down to just single digits on the scoreboard. Allen’s career record against the Jets is now 6-4 while McDermott’s is 8-5, and Buffalo’s best winning percentage all-time against an AFC East team is .540 (68-58) – against the Jets (Buffalo has won five of their last seven meetings against New York and three straight at home against them).
· Oliver leads all defensive tackles in pressures and pressure rate according to NextGen Stats.
· Buffalo became the first NFL team with 30 or more yards in penalties in the last minute of the fourth quarter while holding a lead and losing the game since a playoff game between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the 2015-16 season.
· Allen’s thrown a touchdown in 18 straight games, tying Kelly’s team record set between 1986-87.
· Allen also needs two touchdowns to break Mahomes’ record for most scores by a quarterback in his first six seasons.