1. Make Chad Henne restless. The Jaguars’ new starting quarterback is willing to hang in the pocket in an effort to make plays down the field. He’s not especially mobile, though, so the Bills’ pass rush, led by Mario Williams, should have some opportunities today. Henne was sacked seven times last week against Tennessee, which had only 16 sacks on the season coming into the game. The Bills’ pass rush is better than the Titans’, especially considering Williams is looking more and more like the player the team hoped it was getting when signing him to a rich free agent contract in the offseason.
2. Shore up the coverage units. The Bills have given up three return touchdowns this season, including two in the past two weeks. Buffalo needs better play out of its “gunners” – receiver Ruvell Martin and cornerback Ron Brooks – but the problems don’t stop there. The Bills’ coverage on punts in particular has been bad. The Bills are allowing 16.4 yards per punt return this season, almost 3 yards more than any other team in the league. Long snapper Garrison Sanborn was the only one to even have a sniff at the Colts’ T.Y. Hilton on his momentum-shifting 75-yard punt return touchdown last week. Luckily for the Bills, the Jaguars do not have a returner in Hilton’s class.
3. Keep taking some shots. From News Sports Reporter Tim Graham’s Twitter feed last Sunday: “Watching Ryan Fitzpatrick connect with Stevie Johnson for a 63-yard gain makes me feel like an archeologist who just found a rare fossil.” In sticking with that theme, the Bills need to keep digging for those big plays. The Jaguars are 28th in the league against the pass, allowing 275 yards per game. It’s on Fitzpatrick, then, to hit those deep balls. That’s something he’s been woeful at this year.
4. The Jaguars have some receivers (seriously). Jacksonville struggled for years to find capable receivers, but has done it this season with Justin Blackmon and second-year man Cecil Shorts. Blackmon was the fifth overall pick of the draft, while Shorts leads the NFL with a 20.8 yards-per-catch average. A product of Division III Mount Union, he has a touchdown catch of 50 or more yards in three straight games. The Bills will need good games out of cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin.
5. Keep the faith. Here we are on Dec. 2 and it’s already “playing for pride” time after the Bills’ soul-crushing defeat against the Colts last week. A loss at home to 2-9 Jacksonville would have to put coach Chan Gailey’s job status in question. The Bills say they’re behind him. They need to back up their words.
Outlook: The Jaguars would like to prolong the Bills’ misery, but they don’t have the firepower.
Prediction: Bills 20, Jaguars 13