JACKSONVILLE – Each week during the 2021 season, Jaguars experts – Rick Ballou, Tony Boselli, Frank Frangie, Jeff Lageman, Brent Martineau, John Oehser, Brian Sexton, J.P. Shadrick and Ashlyn Sullivan – will analyze the following day's Jaguars matchup.
Up this week:
The Buffalo Bills at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.
Brian Sexton, jaguars.com senior correspondent
The Jaguars will win if: They win the turnover battle for the first time this season. The Jaguars are on pace to set the NFL record for fewest takeaways in a season; they have two in seven game – a pace for five, which would break the 2018 San Francisco 49ers' record of seven. Against a powerful team such as the Bills, the Jaguars must take the ball away – and rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence can't give it back to them. Lawrence needs more possessions and preferably short fields to give his team a chance to beat the best of the AFC.
The Bills will win if: They protect quarterback Josh Allen. Allen stands in the pocket like Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger; he's so big he has zero fear of the pass rush. If the Bills keep the Jaguars' Josh Allen from their Josh Allen, he should have time to find his receivers against a pass defense that struggled to shut down Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith. If the Bills' Allen has time, it's going to be a very long afternoon for the Jaguars.
As Sexton sees it: The Bills are four years ahead of the Jaguars. They started taking their roster apart in 2017, when General Manager Brandon Beane and Head Coach Sean McDermott arrived. They drafted Allen in 2018, went to the wild-card round 2019, traded for wide receiver Stefon Diggs in 2020 and are now the AFC's best team. I expect the Jaguars to play much better than they did in Seattle Sunday, but their current best isn't good enough to beat a Bills team that's playing well.
John Oehser, jaguars.com senior writer
The Jaguars will win if: They finish plus two in takeaways and get game-long pressure on Allen. Doing the second could lead to the first, and perhaps we saw progress on this front with a strong second-half performance against the Seahawks. It's hard to see the Jaguars winning without momentum-turning plays from the defense.
The Bills will win if: They play close to their level they have played so far this season. The Bills' defense is the NFL's best, and their offense is more than potent enough to expose a Jaguars secondary that has struggled this season. If the Bills play mistake-free, they have more than enough playmakers to pull away in this game.
As Oehser sees it: This may be the Jaguars' toughest matchup of the season. Where would this rank among the team's biggest all-time upset victories? Way, way, way up there.
Brent Martineau, Action Sports Jax Sports Director
The Jaguars will win if: They play their best game of the season. The Bills are really good, but this is the NFL, and they are beatable. I think this must be one of those flood-of-turnovers kind of days for the Jaguars' defense. It would be rare. The Jaguars haven't forced more than two turnovers in a game since October of 2019 – a 31-game stretch. The Jaguars need three or more turnovers forced to win Sunday.
The Bills will win if: They slow the Jaguars' running game. The Jaguars have run very effectively and can work play action off the run game. If the run game isn't there, Lawrence has had to throw 51 and 54 times a couple of games this season – and that has not been a good formula. The Bills bring the NFL's top defense to Jacksonville and will prioritize stopping the run.
As Martineau sees it: It sure looks like the Bills are in a different class of the NFL right now than the Jaguars. Crazy things have happened, but crazy wins around here haven't happened in a long time. I don't see this being the time. The Bills will win, 31-13.
J.P. Shadrick, jaguars.com senior reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They play a clean game, mostly free from mental errors, dead-ball penalties and giveaways. There is little margin for error, but the Bills are first in the league in scoring offense and first in the league in scoring defense with the most takeaways in the NFL. The Bills have the ability to exploit any Jaguars weakness. A Jaguars non-offensive touchdown would be HUGE this Sunday.
The Bills will win if: Allen continues his string of 100-plus rating games. It's now five in a row. A couple takeaways from the Bills defense would be a killer for the Jaguars.
As Shadrick sees it: The Bills may be the best all-around team in the AFC right now, and have their eyes set on the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. There's a lot of football left this season, but the path is there with some perennial powerhouse AFC teams starting slow and other contenders dealing with issues on and off the field (see Tennessee Titans, Las Vegas Raiders). The Jaguars have the franchise quarterback but are still trying to find an identity. Any team can lose any given Sunday, including the Bills, but it feels like the Jaguars must play a near-perfect game to stay with them.
Frank Frangie, Radio Voice of the Jaguars
The Jaguars will win if: They improve two major areas. They must get some people open down the field and must find a way to make plays – to get takeaways – defensively. The Jags have run it well at times and held their own against the run. If running back James Robinson plays, they will be able to run it. The key is can they hit something down the field. And on defense, they must come up with takeaways. That has been a major problem.
The Bills will win if: They continue to protect Allen and allow him to get into a rhythm. He is becoming one of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL, and success all comes to protecting him. It also will help to have wide receiver Cole Beasley, who has missed some practice time this week.
As Frangie sees it: This is a tough one. The Bills are very good, very explosive. The Jags have to find a way to stay in it early and keep up if the Bills get it going. As always, that fast start is critical.
Tony Boselli, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars left tackle
The Jaguars will win if:They start fast and play a clean game. For the Jaguars to beat arguably the best team in the AFC, they are going to need win the turnover margin and score a non-offensive touchdown. They are going to need to play aggressive and take some chances – i.e fake pints and going for it on fourth down.
The Bills will win if:They play smart and don't give the Jaguars extra possessions by turning the ball over. The Bills are clearly the better team at this point, and just need to make sure they do not look past the Jaguars.
As Boselli sees it:This is a really tough game for the Jaguars. The Bills are really good on both sides of the ball. They are at the point where you hope the Jags are in Lawrence's third season. I don't see how the Jaguars will be able to pull out the win. I think they keep it close for a while, but the Bills are just too good and will pull away late: 34-17 Jaguars loss.
Jeff Lageman, Jaguars analyst and former Jaguars defensive end
The Jaguars will win if: They play an aggressive style of football, taking chances in all three phases, and execute at a much better level than they have thus far this season. The Jags have to elevate their execution or the game will not be a competitive one as the Buffalo Bills are one of the best teams in the NFL. The Jags have to find a way to score more than 17.6 points in this game and may have to do it without their best player in Robinson.
The Bills will win if: They and execute at the level at which they have played so far this season. Buffalo's defense is No. 1 in points allowed (15.6), No. 1 in yards allowed and No. 1 with 18 takeaways. Buffalo's offense is No. 1 in scoring (32.7), has the second fewest giveaways with five and is led by a dual threat quarterback in Allen that has accounted for 20 touchdowns this season. And the Bills' offense likes to play multiple wide receiver sets, which will be a challenge for the Jaguars' defense.
As Lageman sees it: This will be a tough game for the Jaguars. The Bills can score a lot of points and have an excellent young quarterback in Allen. The Jags defense has struggled to affect the quarterback, allowing the NFL's highest passer rating a 113.5. Robinson is the best offensive player that the Jaguars have – and if he is unable to play, it will create a stiffer challenge for Lawrence, who took a step back in Seattle. Penalties and mental mistakes impacted the game in Seattle. If that doesn't get cleaned up, it will be a long day for Jacksonville.
Rick Ballou, Jaguars sideline reporter
The Jaguars will win if: This is Jacksonville's toughest opponent yet and the Jaguars must play a perfect game. Lawrence will have to take some deep shots and try to fool a Bills defense that has 11 interceptions on the year. Jacksonville will have trouble running the ball if Robinson it out, so if the Jaguars have a chance, it's all on the passing offense.
The Bills will win if: Buffalo is the best team in the AFC – and as long as the Bills don't self-destruct, they should win this game. They struggled in the first half last week before getting it going in the third quarter. Allen should be able to have a huge day against this Jaguars pass defense.
As Ballou sees it: The Jaguars get a massive test against this well-oiled Bills machine. Very few expect Jacksonville to win this game. Hopefully you see some growth Sunday from Lawrence – and even more consistency with wide receiver/returner Jamal Agnew and tight end Dan Arnold, who have had productive games the last couple of weeks.
Ashlyn Sullivan, team reporter
The Jaguars will win if: They play the most absolute perfect game … and get two takeaways. The Bills are much more talented than the Jaguars and have much more speed; there is a reason they are 5-2 and the Jaguars are 1-6. The margin of error for the Jaguars is nonexistent this week. Coming off a week where the Jaguars had twelve penalties against the Seahawks, they cannot have anywhere near that number and stay competitive with Buffalo.
The Bills will win if: The NFL's No. 1-ranked defense takes away the Jaguars running game. Robinson will be questionable; if the Bills stop him or backup Carlos Hyde, I do not see how the Jaguars can stay in this game. Lawrence passed 54 times last week due to Robinson's injury. That's way too many attempts. If the Bills take away the running game and force the Jaguars wide receivers to beat them, Buffalo will come up successful.
As Sullivan sees it: The Jaguars must play ten times better than last week for this game not to be ugly. I do not think the Jaguars have a shot at winning this. What you want to see is the Jaguars staying competitive and cleaning up the many mistakes we saw against the Seahawks. I foresee this game being somewhat close in the first half and Buffalo pulling away in the third and fourth quarter because the Bills are the better team.