The New York Jets (1-1) return to MetLife Stadium on Sunday as they host the Buffalo Bills (1-1).
Sunday’s game will be the 105th meeting between the two teams. The Bills currently lead the series 54-50, and the two teams split the series in 2012; the Jets won the opening game 48-28 at home, but lost in Buffalo in the final game of the season 28-9.
Sunday’s match-up will feature a battle between the top two quarterbacks taken in the 2013 draft; the Bills’ EJ Manuel and the Jets’ Geno Smith. Back in April, Smith was widely thought to be the best quarterback available, until the Bills surprised everyone by taking EJ Manuel, ahead of Smith, with their first round draft pick. Smith told the media this week, “what happened at the draft has come and gone. I’m blessed to be in this position here with this team and I look forward to it.” Nevertheless, a win on Sunday will give Smith back a tiny bit of pride. However, to achieve it, he faces a tough task.
Smith will be going up against a rapidly improving defensive unit led by Rex Ryan’s prodege Mike Pettine. Pettine served under Ryan for 11-years and has developed a similar defensive philosophy, which utilizes multiple defensive ‘looks’ and a variety of blitz packages to confuse and overwhelm the quarterback, forcing him to make mistakes. Pettine also has Mario Williams, one of the games premier pass rushers, in his arsenal. Williams currently leads the league in sacks, and is coming off a monster performance in last week’s victory over Carolina, when he sacked Cam Newton 4.5 times.
“God touched this guy, like gave him unbelievable gifts,” Rex Ryan said of Williams. “He’s got the height, the size, the length, the arms, the speed — that’s kind of what jumps out. And he plays hard, he’s smart.”
Jets quarterback, Geno Smith, can negate Williams’ presence by speeding up his release. “That is an emphasis and going up against a defense and a guy like Mario,” Smith said. It is going to be an emphasis to get the ball out.” Smith has not managed get the ball out quickly during his first two games; he has had a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, and take unnecessary sacks (9).
If Smith can get the ball out of his hands quickly, it’s integral that the Jets receivers come down with it in their hands; a skill they didn’t always have in week two’s 13-10 loss to New England.
“You can’t afford to drop the ball that many times, there’s no way,” Rex Ryan told reporters this week. “You’re leaving a lot of plays out there. Clearly, you’re an NFL receiver, you’re paid to catch the football and we certainly need to do it. Not saying that drops won’t happen, it’s just we’ve got to reduce that number.”
That number will need to drop to zero this week if the Jets want to muster any sort of offensive firepower. To aid in this department the Jets welcome back the sure-handed Jeremy Kerley, who missed the game in New England with a concussion.
Defensively, the Jets will need to confuse and disrupt Bills rookie QB EJ Manuel. Manuel has looked strong through the first two weeks of the season — a narrow loss at New England, and a last minute victory over Carolina — he has completed 68% of his passes for 3 touchdowns and one interception, and also has the athleticism to move outside the pocket and run; he has scrambled for 36 yards on 7 attempts.
To contain the Bills rookie the Jets will call on the pass rush, and likely outside linebacker, Quinton Coples. Coples has made a miraculous recovery from a broken ankle in the pre-season. A recovery that even Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan was baffled by, “I don’t know how he’s doing it, but he’s done it,” Ryan said. Ryan wouldn’t specify how much the linebacker will play on Sunday, but EJ Manuel can expect to see a heavy dose of Jets players in his face throughout the game.
The Bills offense are arguably further along in their development, however, it’s the defense that will decide this game, and against a rookie quarterback, it’s tough to overlook a defense coached by Rex Ryan. The Bills’ Mike Pettine, who has learned everything he knows from Ryan, is a rising talent in this league, but it isn’t yet time for student to become the teacher.
Game Prediction: Jets 24 – Bills 13