The Buffalo Bills got the 2017 season and the Sean McDermott era off on the right foot, with a 21-12 win over the dilapidated New York Jets. At 1-0, Buffalo holds sole possession of first place in the AFC East after the Patriots fell to the Chiefs on Thursday night and the Dolphins remained idle due to Hurricane Irma.
There was plenty to take away from the first-place Bills Week 1 performance. Here are 10 things we learned…
1) The Jets are who we thought they were
The Jets are definitely bad. Not necessarily 0-16 bad because they did show some fight – enough to probably clip a team sleeping at the wheel at some point this season – but bad nonetheless. One of their only notable strengths is the running back position where they feature Bilal Powell and Matt Forte, and yet all they could muster was 38 yards of rushing for the entire game. They are definitely in for a long year.
2) The Bills are who we thought they were
Buffalo may be all alone atop the AFC East standings but they’re far from a great team. The fact that they dominated the Jets in many phases of the game and yet New York was just a two point conversion away from tying it up in the third quarter and kept things interesting into the fourth, made that abundantly clear. Enjoy the win, because there may not be too many more this season.
3) Tyrod Taylor targeting familiar faces
Tyrod Taylor has seen his receiving corps change quite a bit since the start of training camp, making it hard to establish much rhythm with the group as a whole. So on Sunday when the Bills needed a play in the passing game, guess who he looked to? LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay, two players he already has chemistry with after spending each of the last two seasons as their quarterback. Both Taylor and McDermott called it part of the game plan afterward but it’s far from a coincidence that Taylor found comfort in those guys.
4) No reliable fourth receiver
It became abundantly clear throughout Sunday’s win that the Bills don’t really have a reliable fourth wide receiver option. In passing situations, Buffalo almost always had TE Charles Clay out on the pattern with the trio of Zay Jones, Jordan Matthews and Andre Holmes at wide receiver. And in the few situations the offense went empty they’d line up LeSean McCoy as a wide receiver. The fact that no other wideouts even saw the field confirms just how paper thin the Bills are at the position.
5) Jordan Poyer fits right in
Granted it was against a Jets offense whose top receiver is Jermaine Kearse, the Bills new-look secondary looked fantastic. No one looked better though than safety Jordan Poyer. He recorded the Bills only sack of the game in the second quarter, running unevaded off the right side to chase down Josh McCown. Then a couple plays later he made a fantastic tackle in coverage in the flat to help hold New York to a field goal. Of course the highlight of his day was a perfectly timed leaping interception midway through the fourth quarter that helped Buffalo preserve the 21-12 lead, and eventually win.
6) Ramon Humber could have a monster year
Bills fans were sad to see the NFL’s runner-up for total tackles last season, LB Zach Brown, sign with Washington during offseason but Ramon Humber may make them forget all about Brown. Humber was flying all over the field making plays against the Jets and finished with a team-high 13 tackles. Go check this season’s tackle leaderboard and you’ll find Humber in fourth after Sunday’s performance, ironically enough one spot ahead of Brown. Whether it was stopping the run, blitzing or dropping into coverage, Humber showed he can do it all.
7) Charles Clay could be great
Clay had a nice day, catching four passes for 53 yards and the Bills first touchdown of the season. That said, it could have been even better if not for a few drops, one of which would have been a touchdown on the Bills opening drive of the game. In fairness, Tyrod Taylor did air mail that specific pass, but as the old saying goes: if it hits your hands you gotta catch it. If Clay can avoid being so Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to catching the football he could be in a line for a huge year.
8) Same old Bills O-line
One area where there’s no qualifying the Bills success with “well yeah, but they did it against the Jets,” is the offensive line. New York has an impressive defensive front led by Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Kony Ealy, and Buffalo physically overpowered that group for most of the game on Sunday. The Bills outgained the Jets 408-214 and the discrepancy was even larger in the run game where Buffalo racked up 190 yards to New York’s 38. Run blocking will clearly be this O-line’s strength for a third consecutive season.
9) Penalty problem resolved?
Penalties were a major problem for the Bills in each of Rex Ryan’s two seasons in charge and it looked like the trend may continue during the preseason, when Buffalo racked up 39 of them over the four games. In Week 1 though they yielded only six penalties. Call it progress.
10) No need for Jonathan Williams
For as bent out of shape as Bills fans were after the team released running back Jonathan Williams last week, Sunday should have helped soften the blow as McCoy and 31-year-old Mike Tolbert combined for 152 of the Bills 190 total rushing yards. Tolbert added a touchdown as well. No other back even touched the field. Can’t imagine that would have changed much even if Buffalo had retained Williams. They seem pretty content with McCoy and Tolbert.
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