This feature was geared around the idea that the Buffalo Bills can win if … they played well in certain areas and other things fell into place. But their season has become so screwy that winning the game could mean losing in the grand scheme.
You know things are bad in Buffalo when the Bills have more confidence in a quarterback that they signed off the street two weeks ago, Matt Barkley, than they do in a man who has been with them for two seasons and was their Week One starter, Nathan Peterman.
Today’s unsightly matchup at Met Light Stadium is a battle of AFC East lightweights. The Bills are 2-7, Jets are 3-6. Buffalo has gone to the postseason once in past 18 years while the Jets have missed the playoffs in seven straight years – and counting.
Fans in both cities weren’t anticipating the game so much as bracing for it, but there was a mildly entertaining nugget intact early last week: Rookie first-round picks Josh Allen and Sam Darnold had a chance to square off for the first time.
Allen vs. Darnold was worth watching. Matt Barkley vs. Josh McCown leaves you with Cleaning the Garage vs. Mowing the Lawn.
Another, greater conflict is determining whether the winning team actually wins in the long run. Winning the game solves very little in terms of the playoff race. Losing the game goes a long way in getting a higher pick in the NFL draft.
The Bills can win today, and hurt their draft position, if …
Matt Barkley doesn’t throw an interception. This isn’t a shot at Peterman, who has thrown 12 picks on 130 passing attempts in his career. Barkley has started only six games in his career. He has thrown an interception in five of them. His only win as a starter came against San Francisco in 2016, when he did not throw an interception. He has eight touchdown passes and 18 picks on 266 attempts in his career.
UPDATE: Not only did Barkley meet a modest requirement, he became the first Buffalo quarterback this season to throw two TDs in the same game. They had five all season. He completed 15 of 25 passes for 232 yards and the two scores.
LeSean McCoy regains his form. McCoy has 24 yards rushing on 24 carries in his last three games, all losses. The Bills have failed to get the running game going this season. McCoy has not rushed for more than 85 yards in 11 straight games, the longest such stretch of his career. He has averaged just 3.1 yards per carry this season after averaging at least 4 yards per carry in his first nine seasons.
UPDATE: McCoy had a season-high 113 yards on 26 carries and scored his first two touchdowns of the season. The Bills had 212 yards rushing in their best game this season.
Score a touchdown in the first half. The Bills have been outscored 71-3, in the first two quarters during their four-game losing streak. They have been outscored, 141-9, in the first half of their seven losses. They have thrown just three touchdown passes all season. They haven’t had a quarterback throw three in a game since 2016. A first-half touchdown pass would work wonders for both pathetic stats.
UPDATE: The Bills built a 31-0 lead in the second quarter and never looked back. They had a 27-0 lead against Minnesota. When they're good, they good. They're not good often enough.
Sack Josh McCown three times or more. It’s not asking for too much. On average last season, McCown was sacked three times per game. The Jets were 2-7 last season on games in which he was sacked at least three times. He’s making his first start of the season at age 39. He has relied on the short-passing game in recent years. If the Bills can score early, they can force him to drop back more often.
UPDATE: McCown was sacked three times for 19 yards and finished with 135 yards passing.
Don’t get discouraged. The Bills have had so many demoralizing performances on offense that the defense was bound to buckle. The ‘D’ has held their opponents in check for most of the season, but they folded in the second quarter against Chicago and Indianapolis in the past three games. They ranked third in the NFL in yards allowed and 26th in points, which explains how often the offense has put the defense in terrible position. They might need to hold the Jets to seven points or less.
UPDATE: The Bills came out firing on offense and scored an early TD, which allowed the defense to settle into the game. They were in control all afternoon.
Score a touchdown. We all know the offense has problem scoring, but the defense can score, too. The Bills’ opponents have scored four defensive touchdowns against them while the offense has scored only three in the past four games. It’s time for the defense to get on the board with a pick-six. The defense has played well this season. It’s bound to force a turnover and score on their own. Last year, they had three defensive TDs. This year, the Bills have three passing TDs.
UPDATE: OK, so the defense didn't find the end zone. Neither did the Jets when it mattered. The Bills did have two interceptions.