Bills should start Josh Allen despite Matt Barkley buzz

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Little the Buffalo Bills accomplished in Sunday's 41-10 win over the New York Jets made sense.

Dion Dawkins, a 320-pound left tackle, caught a touchdown pass. Levi Wallace, an undrafted rookie fresh off the practice squad, started at cornerback in his NFL debut and was part of a defense that limited Josh McCown to 135 passing yards. Robert Foster, also an undrafted rookie elevated last week from the practice squad, became the Bills' first player with 100 yards receiving in a game in more than 12 months.

Yet nothing turned MetLife Stadium into bizarro world more than Matt Barkley -- 11 days into his tenure with the team and not having played since 2016 -- leading the team's most successful first half of offense in 19 seasons.

Kick-started by Barkley's 47-yard heave to Foster on the game's first play, the Bills entered halftime having gained 312 yards and scored 31 points, including four touchdowns. The 31 points were Buffalo's most in a first half since 2007, and both the yards and offensive touchdowns were the most since Doug Flutie led the Bills to a win in the 2000 season finale.

The sudden explosion disrupted the Bills' offense from what had been a fairly consistent plodding toward NFL statistical infamy, snapping a four-game losing streak that seemed to erode some amount of confidence in a rebuilding effort. It also came after the Bills made a noticeable shift toward youth in recent days, inserting Foster and Wallace into prominent roles but also giving rookie fifth-round pick Wyatt Teller his first start at left guard and making second-year receiver Isaiah McKenzie, claimed off waivers last week, part of the game plan.

However, the victory comes with two major caveats. First, the reeling Jets showed little signs of life on their home turf in a game that probably will be interpreted more as an indictment on coach Todd Bowles than anything else. Second, the momentum from Buffalo's victory with Barkley at quarterback could be lost if rookie first-round pick Josh Allen returns to the lineup when the Bills host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 25.

Bills coach Sean McDermott has not committed to a starting quarterback, but it would be overrating Sunday's game to keep Barkley in the lineup as a reward for his performance against the Jets or in hopes of making a late-season run toward a more respectable record.

Although the Bills remain mathematically alive in both the AFC East race and the AFC wild-card race, the playoffs are no longer a realistic outcome. At 3-7, the Bills seemed resigned to their fate this season in making personnel decisions that favored the development of younger, less experienced players.

No player is more closely tied to the direction of the organization and its management than Allen, who will return from the bye week not having been a part of live game action in five weeks. When Allen did play earlier this season, his flaws were often striking. Allen's 31.3 Total QBR is worse than any other quarterback with a qualifying amount of pass attempts this season.

Starting Barkley after the bye week would provide Buffalo with a steady hand that avoided any turnovers in Sunday's win. It was only the second game this season in which a Bills quarterback has started and finished a game without a turnover. If the development of rising second-year receiver Zay Jones, tight end Jason Croom and other young skill-position players on offense was the primary goal, starting Barkley would make sense.

But the need to develop Allen, evaluating his viability to become a franchise quarterback, should trump all other aims.