This year’s AFC race appears to be wide-open, and the Bills and Jets square off to look to establish themselves as teams to beat in the AFC. The winner of this game will move to 2-1 and more importantly, 1-1 in the AFC East. Falling into an early 0-2 deficit in the division could prove fatal for potential playoff hopes. It may only be week 3, but every divisional game is important. Mike Pettine and Rex Ryan both field similar defenses, and Doug Marrone and Ryan are also playing rookie quarterbacks. This game looks to be a hard fought battle coming down to the wire.
What it Means
For the Bills, coming off a heart-stopping performance like last week’s final drive, momentum is definitely in their favor. It may only be week 3, but if the Bills fall to 0-2 in the division this early in the season, it would be extremely tough on the team to come back and win their divisional games in the future. New England will certainly be healthier with Gronkowski back (barring a freak accident) and the Dolphins look strong, and well, the Jets are the Jets-you never know what you’ll see from them.
For the Jets, they almost came away with a win on Thursday night against the Patriots. This game will prove to be a measuring stick for both teams. Both barely lost to the Patriots and won the other game in the dying seconds of the fourth quarter.
This game will prove to be a tough matchup coming down to who makes the least mistakes and who can capitalize on the mistakes.
Matchups to Watch
Stevie Johnson vs. Antonio Cromartie
In this week’s matchup, Stevie Johnson won’t have the privilege of making Darrelle Revis look like a fool, but he will have the chance to back up his words by going up against Cromartie. Cromartie is a tall, lanky, athletic guy who allows his instincts to control his game. This means that Cromartie likes to bite a lot, and Johnson loves to run unorthodox routes. This looks like a great matchup. Last week, Johnson lit it up with 8 receptions for 111 yards and the game winning touchdown reception. If Johnson can win this matchup, Manuel will have a lot easier time finding targets, and Spiller’s running lanes will open up.
Mario Williams vs. Austin Howard
Last week, Williams exploded and set the new Bills single-game record for sacks with 4.5. He blew up a lot of plays in the backfield, not only against Cam Newton, but against the run as well. Geno Smith has had an exceptional amount of trouble with turnovers and sacks. If Williams gets into the backfield, then Smith will definitely falter. Howard will have his hands full.
Kraig Urbik vs. Muhammad Wilkerson
The same could be said for Jets linemen Muhammad Wilkerson. He is arguably their best defensive linemen. He’s explosive and loves to blow up plays in the backfield. If Urbik can’t contain him, Manuel will be under constant duress, but more importantly, the Bills rushing attack will falter.
Nickell Robey vs. Jeremy Kerley
Robey somehow went undrafted after a fantastic senior year at USC. He played a strong game last week, but will have to up his performance going against the Jets’ number one slot receiver in Jeremy Kerley. He’s fast, has good hands, and is elusive. Robey needs to be able to contain him to keep the short pass completions away from Smith. This will allow pressure to get to Smith, probably causing turnovers and sacks.
The Bills Will Win If…
They get pressure on Smith. He has had a number of problems turning the ball over or just holding on to it for too long. EJ Manuel also has to keep playing the way he has. He may have had two costly turnovers last week, but he was able to put it behind himself and engineer a phenomenal game winning drive. However, Manuel has to start connecting on some of the deep balls to make the defense respect it, otherwise they will be all over the short game. The Bills must also have an effective rushing attack. This opens up a lot of options in the passing game, especially play action, and this would help Manuel out tremendously. Finally, it will be essential to convert on third downs. The Jets are ranked fourth in the NFL for third down defense, and that seems to be the Bills achilles heel, so if the Bills want to put up points, converting on third down is a great way to start.
The Jets Will Win If…
Geno Smith doesn’t really throw the football. Unfortunately for the Jets, their quarterback situation has not been solved by drafting Smith. He’s had a number of issues in his first two games. If Smith does drop back and pass, the offensive line has to give him time. On the other hand, Smith can’t hold onto the football all day long. The Jets also have to get pressure on the Bills. If Manuel has time, he has shown the ability to pick teams apart. This will also allow Spiller to run free, something the Jets really don’t want to deal with. Finally, the Jets have to get the Bills off the field on third downs. If the Bills can convert, it will be a long day for Jets fans.
Last week’s victory for the Bills is a huge momentum swing in their favor. They were so effective in many different facets, especially in the sack department. I believe that, although the Bills are playing their first road game, they have a more competent quarterback and have a great defensive front. I don’t see the Bills letting up on the aggression on defense, and I believe that it will be too much for Geno Smith and their offensive line to handle.
Bills Win 24-17!