ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Here are my five takeaways from the Buffalo Bills’ 27-10 victory Sunday against the New York Jets at Highmark Stadium:
1. It wasn’t pretty – and at times it was downright ugly – but it was just enough to get the job done.
The job, in this case, was winning a second consecutive AFC East championship and securing a home wild-card playoff game next weekend. It marked the first time the Bills have won back-to-back division crowns since 1991 and they now own the No. 3 seed in the AFC behind Tennessee and Kansas City.
Accomplishing as much against one of the worst teams in the NFL shouldn’t have required more than minimal effort.
Don’t fret over the esthetics of this one. They didn’t matter. The Bills simply needed to find a way to win, though even that proved unnecessary considering the New England Patriots’ loss against the Miami Dolphins would have completed the task regardless of the Bills-Jets outcome.
Little of what the Bills showed resembled the performance of a playoff-bound team, but I’m not convinced they were approaching the game with the fullest amount of energy or focus. Yes, they wanted to win the AFC East, but a close second on the priority list was doing so without paying the price of a significant injury.
“It feels good,” Josh Allen said. “I mean, nobody at the end of careers looks back and figures out how many times you won your division. I think the main goal is the Super Bowl and winning the division just gives you the opportunity to do that.
“The (AFC East champion) hats and shirts are cool, but at the end of the day, we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
2. I can’t say, for a fact, Josh Allen and the rest of the offense worked with a vanilla-ish, preseason type of game plan, but it sure looked that way.
And it would make sense because the only game plan that matters is the one they’ll be installing for their playoff opponent next weekend. The Bills’ coaches undoubtedly did double duty last week, putting together what was needed for the Jets and also studying and preparing for potential postseason foes.
Time is a more precious commodity than ever for teams with a week or less to prepare for win-or-go-home game.
3. For a good portion of the game, Allen and his receivers were not particularly sharp.
They did pull things together in the fourth quarter, and Allen finished with respectable numbers: 24-of-45 for 239 yards and two touchdowns before giving way to Mitchell Trubisky for mop-up time in the last few minutes.
Most of the issues he and his pass-catchers had were related to timing. A solid week of practice would seemingly go a long way toward fixing them.
4. Big props to the Bills’ defense.
I realize the Jets’ offense is pathetic. Zach Wilson, their rookie quarterback playing his first game against Buffalo, is fairly raw, his previous impressive flashes notwithstanding.
The Bills’ defensive front overwhelmed the Jets’ O-line, sacking Wilson nine times and repeatedly causing him to run for his life. He finished with 15 net passing yards.
The Bills held the Jets to 53 total net yards (48 on the ground), compared to the Bills’ 424.
5. The Patriots are the best possible matchup for the Bills in Saturday night’s wild-card game at Highmark.
Some might argue that point, based largely on concern over whatever mind-bending game plan Bill Belichick will concoct in his brilliant football mind. But I base my opinion on the fact the Bills have superior talent across the board, especially at quarterback.
Mac Jones will be getting his first taste of NFL playoff football. There’s a reasonable chance it will be a rude awakening for him, especially going against the league’s top-ranked defense in yards and points allowed, and against the pass.
We’ve also seen how the Bills reacted to the embarrassment of losing a Monday night home game against New England, throttling the Pats at Foxborough, Mass., three weeks later. Expect them to carry the same sort of emotional fire into the third encounter between these teams this season.