Josh Allen was searching for any British phrases he might know in preparing for his first trip to England, when the Buffalo Bills quarterback smiled and said: “Mind the gap.”
Not bad for someone from Central California in referencing how London Underground commuters are cautioned to not trip over the space between the platform and car when entering or exiting at each Tube stop.
It serves as a useful reminder to the Bills (3-1) as a whole in being mostly unfamiliar with traveling to England and yet designated the “home” team for their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.
The gap for the Bills in making the trip across the Atlantic is a large one in comparison to Jacksonville.
The Jaguars are 5-5 since making London their home for a once-a-season game (excluding 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic) since 2013. And on Sunday, they’ll become the NFL’s first team to play consecutive games outside the United States, following a 23-7 win over Atlanta at London’s Wembley Stadium.
“I guess the advantage goes to them,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said in noting how the Jaguars have previously played at Tottenham and enjoy the benefit of being acclimated to the time change with Buffalo not arriving in London until Friday morning.
Allen acknowledged it doesn’t feel like a home game and isn’t sure how the Bills will be received even though his No. 17 jersey is among the top-sellers in the United Kingdom.
“I’m not sure if I’m liked, loved or hated there,” Allen said. “I guess we’ll find out on Sunday.”
Buffalo might be on a roll in having blown out its past three opponents by a combined margin of 123-33. And yet the uniqueness of the setting is reason for pause even for a team accustomed to scheduling quirks. In November, a major snowstorm forced the Bills to relocate to Detroit to play a “home” game in a win over Cleveland last season.
In acknowledging the Jaguars having an edge, quarterback Trevor Lawrence said the key is taking advantage of it.
A year after enjoying a breakthrough by winning just their second AFC South title since the divisions were realigned in 2002, and first since 2017, the Jaguars are off to an inconsistent start.
Jacksonville followed a season-opening win against Indianapolis with a pair of duds in losses to Kansas City and Houston.
The outing on Sunday represents another shot on the big stage against an AFC power, after Lawrence acknowledged the Jaguars “laid an egg offensively” in a 17-9 loss to the Chiefs.
“This is a big game, an AFC matchup, a team that’s been playing really good football right now who’s been one of the top teams in the AFC for the past few years,” Lawrence said.
“It’s a challenge for us,” coach Doug Pederson said of the Bills. “It’s something we can maybe learn from that Chiefs game with preparation and hard work and all of that.”
And a little extra rest.
The one home advantage the Bills had was choosing to stay at The Grove, a luxury golf resort hotel and spa located a 45-minute drive from Tottenham. The Jaguars were staying at the hotel and forced to relocate to the Hanbury Manor Hotel and Country Club, 41 minutes from the stadium.
While Pederson gave his team Sunday night and Monday to enjoy London with their families, the coach spent the time preparing for Buffalo.
“My wife is here, and she’s had a chance to experience the city and surrounding area,” he said. “She says it’s great. I’ve been right here.”
No Bills players or coaches are left from the Rex Ryan-coached team that dropped a 34-31 decision to Jacksonville at Wembley in 2015, the only time Buffalo has played a regular-season game in London.
The Jaguars are 4-5 at Wembley and 1-0 at Tottenham all as the home team. Their 23-20 win over Miami at Tottenham in 2021 snapped an 0-20 skid.
The Jags are struggling in short-yardage situations and hope left tackle Cam Robinson can make a difference.
The veteran returned to practice this week after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancers.
“There’s physicality there and a mindset that he brings,” Pederson said. “Cam definitely brings that leadership and maybe a little more stability to the offensive line.”
Robinson will be evaluated in practice this week. Walker Little started in his absence.
Lawrence is well aware the Bills enter the week tied for the league lead in sacks with 16. And that’s not counting Von Miller.
“One thing that stands out about them is they play through the whistle every play,” Lawrence said. “Even if their initial pass rush doesn’t get home, when you step up, they’re retracing, they’re folding back in to make the play.”
Miller practiced this week for the first time since being sidelined by a right knee injury in late November. Though he’s eager to play, the 34-year-old said it might be smarter to not have to rush back into action.
AP Sports Writer Ken Maguire contributed from London.
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