The New York Jets open their season at 1pm EST Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium.
Sunday’s game will be the eleventh meeting between the two teams. The Jets lead the series 9-1, and have never lost at home. The two teams last met in December 2009; the Jets won 26-3.
Geno Smith will become only the second rookie in Jets franchise history to start on opening day — the first was Mark Sanchez in 2009. Although Smith showed some promise during the pre-season, he didn’t look nearly developed enough to be a starting quarterback immediately. However, due to Mark Sanchez’s shoulder injury during the third pre-season game, the Jets had no other option than to begin the Geno Smith era.
Smith will be going up against a strong defensive backfield that includes former New York Jets star Darelle Revis. Sunday will be Revis’s first game back since he tore his ACL in 2012 and subsequently departed for Tampa Bay. Along with Revis, Smith will also have to contend with All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson — who signed with the team in the off-season — and second year player Mark Barron. Barron struggled at times in coverage in 2012, but paired with Revis and Goldson the Buccaneers potentially have one of the better defensive backfields in the league in 2013 — a steep first test for Rookie Geno Smith.
To help Smith, the Jets will likely employ a simple game plan that utilizes Smith’s athleticism and short area focused passes. The last thing the Jets want to do is throw too much at Smith. He had a tendency to over think situations during training camp, which led to tentative decisions, and too many sacks.
Defensively the key to the game for the Jets is how they handle “The Muscle Hamster,” Doug Martin. Martin is the backbone of the Buccaneers offense; he ran for 1,454 yards and caught 49 passes for 472 yards with twelve total touchdowns in 2012. Luckily for the Jets the staple of their football team is the defensive line. Muhammad Wilkerson is arguably the best defensive lineman in the league not named Watt or Atkins — Wilkerson led the Jets defense in stops (54) and total QB pressures (37), according to Pro Football Focus. With the addition of first round draft pick Sheldon Richardson, the Jets defensive line have the ability to control the line of scrimmage and shutdown the Buccaneers potent running attack, forcing inconsistent quarterback Josh Freeman to the air.
Sunday’s game is a fairly even match-up between two below average teams. The game will essentially be won or lost by Geno Smith. If Smith can move the team down the field, contribute at least two touchdowns, and protect the football, the defense can certainly hold the Buccaneers offense at bay.
According to the spread the Jets are 3 point underdogs. But with the euphoria of opening day and the home-field advantage, the Jets should have the edge. Either way it will be a close game that may come down to the wire.
Prediction: Jets 20 – Buccaneers 17