In the first Monday Night Football game of the 2023 NFL season, the Jets host the Bills in an AFC East showdown. Four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers makes his Jets debut while safety Damar Hamlin makes his triumphant return for Buffalo.
The Bills are the betting favorites at -2.5 on the spread, while the over/under is set at 46 points. Let’s dive into the odds, injuries and depth charts to know for this game, and make a Bills vs. Jets pick and prediction.
Bills vs. Jets Prediction
After a 2022 season with a much-maligned Monday Night Football schedule that featured some less-than-compelling matchups, it doesn’t get much better than Bills vs. Jets in Aaron Rodgers’ Big Apple debut.
No team made a bigger move this offseason than the Jets’ acquisition of the future first ballot Hall of Fame quarterback. Rodgers is the 7th quarterback in NFL history who won multiple MVPs before changing teams. The previous six were Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Brett Favre, Joe Montana, and Johnny Unitas.
The most recent two – Brady and Manning – improved their team’s win totals by 4 and 5, respectively, in their first seasons with their new team, and both won Super Bowls (Brady in his first season, Manning in his fourth). That is the precedent for what Rodgers and the Jets are trying to do this season.
The Jets were 7-10 last season, so a 4-win improvement should put them squarely in the AFC playoff picture. If Rodgers can pull that off, it will be with a similar formula that both Brady and Manning followed, by leaning on an outstanding defense and a strong running game, not by doing it all himself.
That should be the game plan against Buffalo, just like it was when the Jets beat the Bills in week 9 last year. The Jets ran for over 5 yards per carry in that game with Michael Carter and James Robinson. Now Breece Hall is back from injury and he’s joined in the backfield by Dalvin Cook. That duo will be key for the Jets against a Buffalo defense that ranked 5th in rushing EPA per play allowed last season.
Running the ball and controlling possession will help the Jets’ defense with slowing down Josh Allen. After a poor start to the 2022 season, the Jets’ defense ranked second in total defense DVOA after week 3 of last season. Allen admitted this defense gives him more trouble than just about any other team.
#Bills QB Josh Allen seemed to agree w/ a reporter’s assertion that the #Jets defense gave him more problems than anyone else last year, ‘yeah they’re a really good group’ + called Sauce Gardner (@iamSauceGardner) ‘a great player’ also said DJ Reed (@D7_Reed) is ‘pretty dang… pic.twitter.com/TGQ4m6U9DD
— Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25) September 7, 2023
Despite the Jets’ improvements this offseason, the Bills are still the better team and the rightful favorites to win the AFC East. But the Jets have closed the gap significantly, and we expect them to split their two games with the Bills again this season, starting with a statement win in the opening week.
They’ll do it with their defense and running game while Rodgers has a solid but unspectacular debut against the Bills’ tough defense. That will lead to a low number of possessions and keep the total under 46 points.
Game pick: Jets 21, Bills 17, Jets moneyline (+120), under 46 total points (-110)
Bills vs. Jets Betting Odds
The Bills are the betting favorites at -2.5 against the spread (-112 at DraftKings), which is up from the opening line of -1.5. For context, the Bills closed at -10 and -11 in their two games against New York last season, so oddsmakers are telling us that Aaron Rodgers is worth roughly 8-9 points on the line (it’s not quite that simple, of course, but still a worthwhile comparison).
The Bills’ moneyline is at -142, which is also moving in the Bills’ direction after opening at -120. The Jets are currently at +120 on the moneyline, but those odds have been as low as -105.
In a game with two potent offenses but also two very strong defenses, the over/under of 46 seems about right. Both the over and the under are getting identical -110 odds at DraftKings, which is evidence of a fairly strong line, though FanDuel slightly favors the under at -115.
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Bills vs. Jets below.
Jets’ offensive line vs. Bills’ defensive front
As noted above, one of the biggest keys to this game for the Jets is running the ball effectively and protecting Aaron Rodgers. That starts up front with an offensive line that gets back Alijah Vera-Tucker and Mekhi Becton from injury and added center Joe Tippman in the 2nd round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
The Bills’ defensive front is still missing Von Miller, who tore his ACL on Thanksgiving Day and starts the season on the PUP list. Even without Miller, they are still one of the best and deepest defensive fronts in the NFL, with an emerging star on the edge in Gregory Rousseau entering his third season. Rousseau against Becton will be a key matchup to watch in this game.
Bills’ WR Stefon Diggs vs. Jets’ CB Sauce Gardner
Diggs and Gardner are two of the best players in the league at their respective positions and two of the most important players for their respective teams. Any time they are lined up against each other, it will be one of the most intriguing 1-on-1 matchups in this game.
While they weren’t exclusively matched up against each other when these teams played last season, Gardner mostly shut down Diggs when they did match up. The exception was a 42-yard completion on the first play of the first game they played.
Coverage matchups on Stefon Diggs' 15 tgts vs NYJ in 22:
SAUCE GARDNER – 1 tgt – 1 rec – 42 yds
Jordan Whitehead – 3 tgts – 3 rec – 50 yds
DJ Reed – 4 tgts – 2 rec – 24 yds
Michael Carter – 4 tgts – 1 rec – 13 yds
Quincey Williams – 1 tgt – 1 rec – 1 yd
2 others – 1 tgt – 0 rec
— Tweets by Sneaky Joe (@SneakyJoeSports) September 6, 2023
Diggs had 5 catches for 93 yards in the first half of that first game but was shut down in the second half. In the second game, Diggs had just 3 catches on 5 targets for 37 yards, the second-fewest catches, targets and yards he accumulated in any game last season. He had 0 targets when he was covered by Gardner in that game.
Look for the Bills to move Diggs around the formation and use him in the slot to try to get him more favorable matchups. While they won the game last year when Diggs was mostly held in check, finding ways to get him the ball will be critical to starting the 2023 season with a win.