The Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars will meet this Sunday for a wild card matchup. The Jaguars are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007 and the Bills will play in their first playoff game this century. The Jaguars are a great first test for the Bills seeing as how they will take on a rebuilt team, led by former former Bills coach Doug Marrone.
Marrone, the man who walked out on the city Buffalo back in 2014 when the Bills finished 9-7 and with a winning record for the first time since 2004. Both Marrone and Bills head coach Sean McDermott have established discipline cultures in both Buffalo and Jacksonville. Both have built up the teams in various ways.
Marrone has a dangerous team overall, especially their offensive unit. The offense is ranked 17th in passing with Blake Bortles taking the snaps and are the best offense in rushing. The Bills defense has had its moments in shining as a top unit, but have also suffered in games.
The Passing Game
Bortles has done a surprisingly good job in helping the passing game for the Jaguars. Passing for 3,687 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, Bortles has stayed consistent for the most part and he lowered his number of interceptions as compared to the past three years.
The passing game is in the middle of the pack and if the Bills secondary is completely healthy, Bortles may face trouble. The Bills secondary will go up against a receiving core led by Keelan Cole who has been reliable for the Jags. The Bills pass defense can hold their ground against Bortles easily. If the secondary sticks to their man/zone and play effectively, Bortles may run out of options for the pass.
The Running Game
Here’s where the Bills face major trouble. Near the bottom of the barrel against the run, the Bills defense will face the best rushing offense in the NFL. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette has rushed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns and has carried the Jags offense a majority of the season. The rushing game averages 4.3 yards per carry which is scary for the Bills.
This running game has the Jags as one of the top offenses’ in the entire league. If the running game gets going, and gets going early, it’ll be a long day for the Bills. A major factor in a potential win for the Bills? Not just contain, but stop the run. Stopping the run will make the Jaguars pass and face a threatening Bills secondary that has underrated and productive players.
It Won’t Be Easy…
When the Jags offense hits the field for each drive, the Bills defense will have a lot on their hands. Leslie Frazier will need to lead this weaker Bills defense versus a top Jaguars offense. If Fournette gets in the open field and lowers his shoulder to make plays, this offense could excel just by running the ball.
Stop the run and force Bortles to pass into a secondary who has led the Bills defense all season long.
Brandon Ray is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the Buffalo Bills. Follow him on Twitter at @brandon_ray79 and @FPC_Bills for Bills coverage.