Bills vs Jets : Bills vs Jets How much will Josh Allen play? How much should Josh Allen play?Sunday afternoon, the Buffalo Bills will be playing their 20th Week 17 game of the 21st century, and for the 18th time, it means absolutely nothing in relation to standings and/or playoff ramifications.
Bills vs Jets
Of course, the big difference between this encounter with the New York Jets and the other 17 in which only pride was on the line is this: This one isn’t a prelude to a cleaning out of lockers come Monday morning, it’s a tune-up for the playoffs, which begin for the Bills the following weekend, either in Houston or Kansas City.
You’ll recall the only other Week 17 games that truly mattered were the 2004 finale at home against the Steelers and the 2017 finale in Miami. The Bills needed to beat the Steelers to secure a playoff berth and they failed in epic fashion, one of the most disappointing losses they’ve ever suffered in a regular-season game.
The game at Miami wasn’t cut and dried like the one in Pittsburgh, where, if the Bills won, they were in the playoffs. Buffalo had to beat the Dolphins and needed the Cincinnati Bengals to defeat the Baltimore Ravens, and when both things happened the Bills’ 17-year playoff drought came to a glorious end.
This year, the Bills are already in the playoffs, and with no chance to improve their seeding this becomes the first Week 17 game since 1999 where they have the luxury of resting some starters in preparation for the wild-card round. Coach Sean McDermott said most of the starters will play, including quarterback Josh Allen, but how long remains unknown.
► Allen is expected to start, but I would think he’s not going to play too long. It could be a couple series, or maybe the first half, but I’d be quite surprised if Matt Barkley isn’t on the field to start the second half. Some people are up in arms about McDermott’s announcement Tuesday that Allen would play, but I can see his thinking on this. Allen is still a developing player who can benefit from playing time, “time on task,” as McDermott likes to say. He’s had a decent second season in the NFL, but as we see almost every week, he lacks consistency and he needs to continue to play and grow. That said, the risk of playing Allen against Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is probably higher than against other teams, given Williams’ well-documented ethos regarding knocking out the other team’s QB. Thus, I’d treat it like a preseason game: Give Allen a few series and then get him out.
► Another player the Bills might consider sitting down is Devin Singletary. The rookie has become their most productive offensive player, but it would make no sense to play Singletary much in this game, especially when the Bills can turn to veteran Frank Gore and give him one last opportunity to play close to a full game. You ask what’s the difference between Allen and Singletary? Singletary is a running back who doesn’t need “time on task” the way Allen does. Plus, the Bills can turn to Gore and perhaps even activate T.J. Yeldon and let him share time. True, the offense would struggle without Singletary, especially against the NFL’s No. 2 run defense, but again, this is an indulgence the Bills can afford because while it would be nice to win an 11th game, it isn’t necessary.
► The Bills have certainly had worse backup QBs through the years than Barkley, but Barkley has been dormant for all but one quarter of one game this season, back in Week 4 against New England. It’s going to be a difficult task for him to come in and be sharp against a Jets defense that will be anxious to make a statement, still remembering their collapse on opening day, when the Bills rallied from down 16-0 to win. It’s a great unknown as to how long the Bills’ skill players will be out there, guys like Singletary, John Brown and Cole Beasley, so the Bills would be best served to keep things simple and have Barkley hand off to whichever back is behind him and use a quick and short passing game. The goal should be to run the clock and get out of this thing healthy.
Bills on defense
► QB Sam Darnold’s first half of the season was a waste as he missed three games with mono and then wasn’t very good when he returned, which helped dig the Jets into a season-killing 1-7 hole. During the second half, like Allen, he’s had some head-scratching moments, most notably an utterly inexcusable performance in the Jets’ loss to the previously winless Bengals on Dec. 1. But overall, the Jets have to like what they’ve seen from the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft. You know Darnold wants to beat the Bills after what happened on Sept. 8, when Buffalo’s defense held him to 4.3 yards per attempt and sacked him four times.
► One way the Jets could hurt the Bills would be to get RB Le’Veon Bell involved in the pass game. Buffalo’s defense has struggled at times with backs catching the ball, especially on screen passes, and that’s one of Bell’s greatest strengths. Bell is second on the Jets with 61 receptions, though they have gone for only 425 yards. His only pass receiving TD came against the Bills, and if Buffalo starts pulling some starters, Bell could certainly become a dangerous weapon in this game, both as a receiver and of course as a runner.
► Jets slot WR Jamison Crowder leads the way with 70 catches, and an incredible 14 of those came against the Bills in Week 1, totaling 99 yards. The Bills could not guard him, and you would think the Jets will try to exploit the matchup again. Last week, Patriots slot WR Julian Edelman made several clutch plays against the Bills, so nickel CB Taron Johnson will need to play better than he did against Crowder in Week 1 and Edelman last week. One way to help Johnson and whoever comes across Crowder would be for the Bills to re-establish a pass rush that had been going well for a month, then came up empty against Tom Brady. If the Bills can get heat on Darnold, they could force him into mistakes.
My pick: Jets 20, Bills 17
This is a very difficult game to decipher given the roster decisions the Bills will be making. Buffalo is the better team if all of its players are out there, and the game is at New Era Field, but if some of the front-line guys are only going to play a fraction of the time, the Jets might be able to take advantage of that.
After starting a disastrous 1-7, the Jets have made a nice turnaround in the second half and have won five of their last seven games, due mainly to their stout defense and some better play from Darnold. The game probably means more to them because 7-9 looks a whole lot better than 6-10, and if the Bills are using backups on offense, it’s going to be tough to score against New York unless the Jets completely mail it in, which, according to some comments this week, appears they won’t be doing.
When: 1 p.m. Sunday
Where: New Era Field
TV: CBS (Tom McCarthy and Jay Feely)
Satellite TV: DirecTV channel 705
Satellite radio: Sirius 134, XM 228
Radio: WCMF-FM (96.5)/WROC-AM (950)
Series: Bills lead 62-55
By the Numbers
30 — Straight games the Jets had failed to score a TD on their game-opening drive, a streak that ended Oct. 27 against the Jaguars. In the eight games since then, the Jets have scored 40 points on their first drives, most in the NFL.
26 — Games teams coached by Adam Gase (Dolphins and Jets) have lost by double-digits. This is only his 64th game as a head coach, and his career four-season record is 29-34.
1 – Win Allen has against the other four members of the 2018 first-round draft class, that coming against Darnold in Week 1. Allen lost to Darnold in the 2018 season finale, and to Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson this season.
► Bills FS Micah Hyde on not looking ahead to the playoffs: “Everybody in the locker room understands, and the coaches do a good job of letting us know not to look ahead. I don’t think anyone needs to be told with this opportunity we have in front of our home crowd. It quite possibly could be our last home game so we’re going to go out there ready to play. It’s another opportunity to get to 11.”
► Jets WR Demaryius Thomas on the late-season turnaround: “Win or lose, one thing we did do when we were 1-7 was stay together as a group. Me and Jamal (Adams) are always talking about changing the culture and the core around here and stop being OK with what the Jets have been the last couple of years. I think you should be excited for next year that this is going in the right direction.”
► Jets SS Jamal Adams on hearing the Bills would play their starters: “We’re coming after them. We’re hunting, man. It’s a playoff game for us. We hear they’re going to start the starters. That’s good. We’re looking forward to the matchup, I can tell you that.”
Total offense: 331.6 yards (24th); 273.1 (32nd)
Rush offense: 132.1 yards (6th); 78.1 (31st)
Pass offense: 199.5 yards (27th); 195.1 (30th)
Points scored: 20.5 (23rd); 17.5 (28th)
Total defense: 300.1 yards (3rd); 324.1 (7th)
Rush defense: 104.2 yards (T12th); 87.9 (2nd)
Pass defense: 195.9 yards (3rd); 236.2 (15th)
Points allowed: 16.4 (2nd); 23.5 (19th)
Bills: Devin Singletary 151 carries, 775 yards; Frank Gore 160-573; Josh Allen 109-510; T.J. Yeldon 10-45; Robert Foster 2-29; Isaiah McKenzie 6-19.
Jets: Le’Veon Bell 229-748; Bilal Powell 52-202; Ty Montgomery 32-103; Sam Darnold 30-64.
Bills: Josh Allen 268 of 456, 3,084 yards, 20 TDs, 9 interceptions; Matt Barkley 9 of 16, 127 yards, 0 TDs, 1 interception.
Jets: Sam Darnold 250 of 405, 2,825 yards, 18 TDs, 12 interceptions.
Bills: John Brown 72 catches, 1,060 yards; Cole Beasley 67-778; Devin Singletary 29-194; Dawson Knox 28-388; Isaiah McKenzie 25-247; T.J. Yeldon 10-100; Frank Gore 10-84; Duke Williams 6-58.
Jets: Jamison Crowder 70-767; Le’Veon Bell 61-425; Robby Anderson 49-761; Demaryius Thomas 36-433; Vyncint Smith 14-189; Ty Montgomery 13-90; Bilal Powell 7-33; Braxton Berrios 5-104. Coaches in the NFL have some big decisions to make in Week 17. Some have to weigh the benefits of resting players versus the chance of gaining a higher seed or first-round bye. For others who are locked into their seeds, it’s an issue of rest versus trying to stay sharp.
One of the coaches in the latter group is Sean McDermott. His Bills are 10-5 and will be the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Sunday’s game against the Jets in Orchard Park means nothing. At midweek, McDermott still was planning to play Josh Allen and the starters, at least for a while.
One thing to consider, though, is that if the Bills end up playing the Texans in the wild-card game, it figures to be Saturday afternoon, making it a short week. The alternative would be the Chiefs. Either way, McDermott would want to have a well-rested core to give the Bills the best shot to advance.
This isn’t to say the Buffalo backups couldn’t beat the Jets, but the situation is favorable for Adam Gase and the Jets to finish the season with their seventh win.
The pick: Jets, +1¹/₂.
NEW YORK GIANTS (+4¹/₂) over Philadelphia Eagles: Philadelphia can achieve its goal of an NFC East title with a victory here, but even so, there’s a little wiggle room with the spread. The Giants covered as 9¹/₂-point underdogs on Dec. 9 in a 23-17 OT loss in Philly, but that was with Eli Manning. This will be the Eagles’ first time dealing with Daniel Jones, who has some confidence after beating the Redskins.
CINCINNATI BENGALS (+2¹/₂) over Cleveland Browns: Cincinnati has clinched the top pick in the draft so there would be no negative consequences for winning here. But the Bengals are 1-14. It’s not as if they can snap their fingers and win a game. But I’m afraid to back the Browns, who could be in a mail-it-in spot.
Enlarge ImageMitchell Trubisky
Mitchell TrubiskyGetty Images
Chicago Bears (PK) over MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Minnesota is locked into the No. 6 slot in the NFC. This is one team that really needs to rest its stars to have a chance to beat an elite team on the road in the wild-card round. Getting to 8-8 should matter to the Bears.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (PK) over Atlanta Falcons: Bucs are 4-1 straight up and 4-0-1 ATS in their past five, and the Falcons 5-2 SU and ATS in their past seven. Riding with Jameis Winston as he becomes the eighth man to reach 5,000 yards passing in a season.
CAROLINA PANTHERS (+13) over New Orleans Saints: New Orleans could earn the No. 1 or No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a win here and some help. This is a heavy price to pay, though, considering Drew Brees (knee) and Michael Thomas (hand) appeared on the injury list midweek.
Miami Dolphins (+15¹/₂) over NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: New England has incentive to play this one full-out to claim a first-round AFC bye. However, the Pats don’t have to win by more than two touchdowns to accomplish that goal. Temperatures in the mid-40s shouldn’t discourage Miami much.
DETROIT LIONS (+12¹/₂) over Green Bay Packers: Green Bay clinches an NFC bye with a win and could get to the top seed if the 49ers also lose. A Saints fan offered David Blough a new truck if the Lions quarterback beats Green Bay, but the key number here is the Packers are averaging fewer than 20 ppg in their last seven. It would be tough to cover this number with that output.
Los Angeles Chargers (+9) over KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: KC’s motivation for a bye would dim if the Patriots start pulling away from the Dolphins. Would Andy Reid pull Patrick Mahomes, who has limped off the field so many times this season?
Tennessee Titans (-3¹/₂) over HOUSTON TEXANS: Titans clinch a playoff berth with a win. Texans will know by kickoff if they are locked into the No. 4 seed or can move up to No. 3 (if KC loses). As mentioned above, the Texans are likely to play next Saturday afternoon so they might opt to rest some key players.
Indianapolis Colts (-3¹/₂) over JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: These two eliminated teams couldn’t be more different. The Colts are a professional outfit that can still crush bad teams (33-13 over Jaguars, 38-6 over Panthers). Jacksonville has lost six of its last seven games by double digits.
Washington Redskins (+11) over DALLAS COWBOYS: We could get the juicy outcome that defines and ends the Jason Garrett era if the Eagles lose to open the NFC East title door for Dallas, but the Cowboys lose, too. Glad to take double digits with Case Keenum versus all that pressure and karma.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-2) over BALTIMORE RAVENS: John Harbaugh is resting Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram and a few others. Though that presents opportunities for players who have been on the bench, it also signals to the team that the real Ravens will return in two weeks for a run at the Super Bowl. Steelers need a win and a lot of help they probably won’t get.
LOS ANGELES RAMS (-4) over Arizona Cardinals: Line was off the board at many books due to uncertainty about Kyler Murray’s hamstring. He said he expects to play but could be hindered. Cardinals had a shocking 27-13 win in Seattle last week. Rams have been very erratic, but did win 34-7 in Arizona on Dec. 1.
Oakland Raiders (+3) over DENVER BRONCOS: Oakland must win and have a laundry list of results come through to win an AFC wild card. Josh Jacobs is hoping to play just a few days after having shoulder surgery. Jon Gruden can use that to rile up the other Raiders.
San Francisco 49ers (-3¹/₂) over SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Winner takes the NFC West and loser is a wild card. The 49ers would clinch the No. 1 seed with a win, and Seattle could move up the ladder with help. Problem is the Seahawks are so banged up, Pete Carroll had to call in Marshawn Lynch. Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers are in good shape for this showdown.