This Sunday at 1 p.m. your New York Jets (5-4) will hit the road to take on the Buffalo Bills (3-7). As everyone knows, this is a very important game. The Jets are in the driver’s seat for the last wild card spot and have to prove to the world (and themselves) they can start winning road games. These two teams met week three in a game that saw the Jets blow a 20-6 second half lead only for Santonio Holmes to catch the go-ahead touchdown for a 27-20 win. Coming off the bye, the Jets should be well rested. Let’s see how this week breaks down.
Rookie QB E.J. Manuel has looked like a rookie. It’s hard to see the growth of Manuel because he hasn’t been able to stay on the field consistently, missing a handful of games due to injury. Manuel struggled last week on the road against a solid Steelers defense, not showing any threat to move the ball vertically.
Part of the problem Manuel could face is his lack of weapons. There’s not too good of a vibe surrounding WR Stevie Johnson and his game status and rookie WR Robert Woods has already been ruled out. Manuel is going to have to rely on a run game and will look to utilize tight end Scott Chandler (35 receptions, 388 yards, 2 touchdowns) even more than he does now. Also, wide receivers T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin will have to step up in their absence.
Besides a fluky Fred Jackson 60 yard run where Calvin Pace forgot to tackle Jackson behind the line of scrimmage in week three, Buffalo could not run the ball. C.J. Spiller has been battling injuries all year but has still been very effective the past few weeks. The Jets will have to make sure they contain the edge and always have a spy on him out of the backfield on passing situations. Spiller is a home run hitter.
The Bills and Jets, in a lot of ways, are built the same. The defenses are no exception. The strength of this Bills team is their defensive line. Mario Williams has 11 sacks on the season while Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams have five each. In assign situations, this front four is as dangerous as it gets. They have proven that you can run on them though, giving up an average of 117 yards per game and four yards per carry.
The new name on the front seven is Kiko Alonso, the rookie linebacker who is making a case for rookie of the year. Alonso has 99 tackles, two sacks, four interceptions, and a forced fumble on the year. Geno Smith is going to have to always know where Alonso is on the field or he will make you pay.
The secondary is kind of the Achilles heel of the defense but is finally getting healthy. In week three, the Bills played without their top two corners. This time, Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin will be playing. Also Pro-Bowl safety Jairus Byrd will be on the field as he missed the first meeting between these two teams.
How To Win
As stated in the beginning, the Jets have to prove they can win some road games, especially against teams they should beat like the Bills. The Jets haven’t been particularly strong coming off the bye week in the Rex Ryan era, going 1-3.
The running game seems to be hitting its stride with Chris Ivory taking over as the number one back. Bilal Powell is still a nice compliment but expect Ivory to start off getting the brunt of the carries. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, for as much as he loves to throw the ball, has shown he’ll pound the football. That should be the game plan again this week. If Geno Smith can avoid turning the football over and keep the offense moving on third downs, the offense should be okay.
Getting healthy is a nice advantage for the Jets too. Jeff Cumberland is back after a concussion and Kellen Winslow is back after a suspension. We should also see Santonio Holmes back. Say what you want about Holmes, but when the Jets pass offense has struggled it’s primarily because they’re missing a guy like him; a great route runner who draws help coverage and can force some flags.
This is a dream matchup for the Jets defense. A rookie quarterback without his two best wide receivers? Rex has to be drooling. Buffalo is going to try and establish the run. The Jets haven’t let anyone run on them this year and definitely won’t let the Bills. They’re going to make E.J. Manuel beat them. As long as they can limit Scott Chandler, the defense should be fine.
If not for anything else, the Jets have beaten the Falcons, Patriots, and Saints all on odd weeks. We can’t beat the Bills? I guess we’ll find out Sunday.