What a perfect game for Josh Allen’s return under-center. Not only does he get the chance to shut Jalen Ramsey up in front of the Buffalo faithful at New Era Field, but he also has to opportunity to send former-Bills head coach, Doug Marrone home with another loss. After “Saint Doug” gave the City of Buffalo the old Irish goodbye following the conclusion of the 2014 season, he’s been unanimously loathed by Western New Yorkers for opting out of his contract and leaving the franchise high and dry.
Last season, Marrone’s Jaguars defeated the Bills in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. This season, his team currently sits in last place in the AFC South with a 3-7 record. It’s been speculated as of late that the second-year coach could be on the hot seat given his squad’s regression in 2018. Could Allen deliver the last critical blow to Marrone’s tenure in Jacksonville?
Our Friend Nate Hackett
Who could forget former-Bills and current Jaguars’ offensive coordinator, Nate Hackett? In his two-year stint calling plays for the Bills’ offense, his notoriously milquetoast approach wore out it’s welcome pretty quickly. Fast forward four years later, and the fans in Jacksonville have echoed the same sentiment.
As a result of predictable play-calling and dreadful quarterback play, the Jaguars offense is one of the least effective in the league. They rank 24th in the NFL in total yards and 29th in average points-per-game. Only the Bills, Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals rank lower in both categories.
Long story short, Jacksonville is on a six-game losing streak thanks in large part to their offense’s inability to move the ball. During that stretch, they’ve managed 14.6 points per game. Woof.
In reality, they’re actually pretty comparable to the Bills. Anemic, inconsistent offenses and top-five defenses. At the end of the day, the game will be decided by which defense can help their team win the field position battle.
In terms of yards allowed, the Bills’ and Jaguars’ defensive fronts currently rank second and fourth, respectively. The Bills have allowed an average of 302.2 yards per game, just two yards more than the top-ranked Baltimore Ravens. The Jaguars aren’t far behind, allowing 320.8 yards per game, on average.
Both teams are very effective at limiting damage through the air. Buffalo actually ranks first in that category, allowing only 202.4 passing yards-per-game. Here’s where things get a little more interesting. On the ground, the Bills have allowed just-under 100 yards-per-game. Jacksonville hasn’t been quite as effective, allowing 109.3 rushing yards-per-game, which places them 15th in the NFL.
If the Bills want to make a dent on offense, they need the running game to be effective. Lesean McCoy had his best game of the season in the Bills’ victory against the New York Jets leading up to the bye week. The 30-year-old rushed 26 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns. With two weeks of rest, he’ll likely be in top form.
Conversely, the Bills defense will have their hands full with the Jaguars tandem of T.J. Yeldon and Leonard Fournette. While Fournette has struggled to stay on the field this season, he’s still one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the league and Yeldon has performed reasonably well in relief.
With two quarterbacks who have struggled to produce (albeit for vastly different reasons), this game will be decided by which side can effectively mitigate damage on the ground.
If Matt Barkley can help Allen understand what made him effective coming off the couch and torching the Jets two weeks ago, perhaps the rookie signal-caller can orchestrate some semblance of a passing attack against the stingy Jaguars. If not, the fate of the Bills will rest on the shoulders of McCoy and former-Jag, Chris Ivory.
The Bills do have the home-field advantage in this one and you can bet that those in attendance will be a raucous bunch with their old friend Doug in town. I’m sure they’ll be more than capable of making Blake Bortles’ day particularly difficult, especially in much colder conditions than he is used to playing in.
I’m predicting a battle of the kickers in this one, with the Bills having a slight edge with the extra rest coming off a bye. On weeks like this, it will pay to have one of, if not the best kicker in the NFL.
Final Score: Bills 16, Jaguars 12