The bye week is over and the Jets will be preparing for their trip to Orchard Park to face the AFC East divisional rival Buffalo Bills. The Bills are currently sitting at 3-7 following a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets are coming into the game with high hopes after an upset win over the New Orleans Saints. These two rivals duked it out during week three; a game which the Jets narrowly won 27-20. The Bills are looking to bounce back after losing three straight games. They will be equipped with a secondary that is much healthier than it was in week three. Let's take a look at some of the key match ups and stories for this divisional showdown.
Rookie Quarterback Battle
During the week three victory against Buffalo, Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith completed 16 of his 29 passing attempts for 331 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Santonio Holmes hauled in 5 catches for 154 yards and a touchdown. Smith played well against Buffalo exposing flaws in their injured secondary. He will need to remain efficient and eliminate rookie mistakes during the week 11 showdown with Buffalo. The Bills secondary is ready to exploit Smith's weaknesses. The rookie signal caller will need to remain calm and poised on the road. During the Jets upset victory against New Orleans, Smith only threw for 115 yards. Despite not putting up gaudy numbers, he was extremely efficient in not turning over the ball.
Tight ends Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow will return to the field this week after sitting out (Cumberland for a concussion, Winslow a suspension). Wideout Santonio Holmes will also return after nursing a leg injury. This is crucial due to the fact that Jeremy Kerley sustained a serious elbow injury against New Orleans. With a full arsenal of receivers, Smith should be able to have a productive game.
On the other end of the spectrum is Buffalo's rookie quarterback, E.J. Manuel. Manuel is returning to Buffalo after a mediocre performance in the loss to Pittsburgh (22/39 155 yards,1 interception,1 touchdown). During the week three match up with Gang Green, Manuel completed 19 of his 42 passing attempts for 243 yards. He certainly is not afraid to throw the ball, but his completion percentage is currently sitting at 56.4% (Smith is currently completing 58.1% of his passes, which is not much better). The Jets defensive front will look to wreak havoc against Buffalo Sunday. The stellar play of Rookie Sheldon Richardson has been creating hype around the first round pick. He was able to create pressure in the middle against New Orleans, nearly eliminating Drew Brees ability to step up into pocket. If Richardson and his fellow d-linemen can create pressure, they'll rattle the rookie quarterback.
Both quarterbacks have been sporadic this season, however if the Jets defense continues to create pressure up front Manuel will most likely perform poorly on Sunday. As long as Smith continues to read coverages smartly and not force throws he should perform well on Sunday. Smith should rely on the run game to bail him out in tough situations against Buffalo. During their week three match up, Bilal Powell rushed the ball for 149 yards. Running back Chris Ivory is coming off a big game against the Saints. Ivory ran the ball 18 times for 139 yards and a touchdown. If the running game can find success on Sunday, the Jets will create passing opportunities for Smith at the right time.
Kiko Alonso and Sheldon Richardson... Which Player Will Prove They're More Worthy Of DROY?
Stats don't lie. Only 15 linebackers have intercepted four or more passes in season. Bills rookie Linebacker Kiko Alonso is now part of this club. The 46th overall pick in the NFL draft has impressed fans and analysts alike this season. Alonso currently is second in the league in tackles with 99. He has become the backbone of the Bills defense. In addition to his interceptions, Alonso has 2 sacks and 1 forced fumble. His start was very impressive, but lately little has been said about the rookie sensation. He put up respectable numbers in his last three contests, but his motor has seemed to slow down. Against the Jets in week three, Alonso had 8 total tackles and an interception that he returned for 32 yards. Alonso is due for a big game. Hopefully the Jets can slow him down with the run game and create a mismatch in the passing game.
Gang Green has their own candidate for defensive rookie of the year... Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. The former Missouri Tiger has been earning praise for his play. He has been a nuisance for offenses, using his speed and leverage to create a mess in the middle. To date, Richardson has created 19 total pressures. He was known as a pure pass rusher during his collegiate days, but he has surprised many with his stout play against the run. In comparison to Alonso, Richardson is much more consistent. Although he doesn't put up astronomical numbers, he is a crucial piece in the Jets defensive scheme. He's stuffed 18 runs, which places him at third most in the league. Richardson displayed his ability to blow up the run in week three against Buffalo. During a third and one situation, Bills running back CJ Spiller took a handoff from EJ Manuel. Before he could even blink, Spiller was on the ground looking up at Sheldon Richardson. The rookie defensive tackle evaded his blocker with finesse and forced a crucial fourth down.
Although Alonso has an impressive stat line, Richardson is a key role player for the Jets. Alonso's stats may make him seem great, but Richardson's play helps make the Jets defensive front great. Sunday's showdown can help paint a clearer picture of who should be defensive rookie of the year (Note: There are other worthy candidates in the league).
Stevie Johnson: Will He Play Sunday?
It is uncertain if Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson will compete on Sunday against the Jets. Johnson sustained a right groin injury during the Bills' 23-10 loss to Pittsburgh. When asked about the status of the injury, Johnson had this to say: "I just don't know right now.I need to get more work done, then we'll find out later in the week." Johnson has been plagued by numerous injuries this season (this is the second time in three games that he's left early with an injury). According to Johnson, this injury is one that is painful and could affect his play. Johnson leads all Bills receivers with 41 receptions for 471 yards and three touchdowns.
Beyond injuries, Johnson has expressed his discontent with the status of the team. He claims that his frustration level is at a "ten". Johnson has been labeled as controversial and a malcontent at times. His chemistry with EJ Manuel has been up and down all season. NFL.com Around The League writer Marc Sessler even went as far to call Manuel and Johnson's relationship one that is reminiscent of "oil and water"...they just don't mix.
The Jets pass defense currently ranks 27th in the league. If Johnson does decide to play, the Jets could capitalize on shutting down the Bills weakened starter. If he doesn't play the Jets will be in an even better position. If Johnson sits, EJ Manuel will lose his top target. This could affect his decision making, thus forcing Manuel to hold on to the ball too long creating pass pressure situations for the Jets front line.
Given the circumstances, the Jets should win this game. Consistency has been the main issue with Rex Ryan's squad. They have yet to win two games back-to-back. This could be the week that the Jets break their inconsistent streak and notch a divisional win against a mediocre Bills squad. Each win brings Gang Green one step closer to the post-season. A win in Orchard Park will only bolster the momentum that is growing in the Jets locker room.