After back-to-back divisional wins, Jets have now stolen the division lead from the Miami. This week, they travel to Ralph Wilson Stadium to take on the winless Bills, looking to go 3-0 in the AFC East.
Many are predicting it to be a letdown spot for Gang Green, but I don't see that as being the case here. Let's break this one down.
Three Little Statistics:
MUST IMPROVE: Jets rank No. 31 in the NFL in third down defense, as opponents are converting 23 of 45 times against them.
Good to know: Offensively, Jets are 12/24 on third down conversions, which they struggled immensely with last season and in week 1 against Baltimore (converting 1 out of 11 times).
Surprising? Nick Folk is now 6/6 (in my eyes), as the only kick he missed was blocked last week by Jeremiah Bell. I must admit I was a doubter before the season, but he appears to be in a rhythm and has been a strongpoint for Jets' special teams thus far this year.
Keys to Victory:
Run the football
I cannot stress this enough. Jets rushed for 567 yards combined in the last two games against Buffalo last year. I don't see how this team is going to stop the duo of LaDainian Tomlinson & Shonn Greene with Brad Smith operating out of the wildcat to keep defenses spread out and honest. Tomlinson has rushed 37 times for 208 yards this season, let's put the ball in his hands.
Bills DT Marcus Stroud is out for Sunday's game, and their interior/run-stopping ability takes a hit. Bills are awful against the run as is giving up 141 ypg, and I think the Jets will rush for 200+.
[[Fearless prediction: Shonn Greene has a breakout game and re-gains his confidence this week. ]]
Don't Turn the Ball Over
In the first matchup against Buffalo last season, Sanchez turned the ball over six times in what was a very humbling game for the young QB.
Jets are tied for No.1 in NFL in turnover margin, at +2.0/game. Bills are near the bottom at -1.0/game.
This is a game where Jets should be able to move the ball consistently on offense and dominate the time of possession, and unless they turn the ball over a couple of times, they should be able to put up enough points to win this game. Turnovers are the one thing that can even the playing field tomorrow.
Jim McNally spent four years (2004-07) as Bills' offensive line coach. He's now on Jets' payroll as a consultant, and he has helped them to prepare for the Bills this week.
I like this, as it shows Jets are not taking this game lightly and are actively preparing for it.
Stop the Run & Put the Pressure on Fitz:
If the Jets and their No. 4 ranked run defense (61 ypg) can stop the ground game duo of Lynch/Spiller, they'll put themselves in a great position. As a result, I look for Bills to find themselves in many passing downs which puts the pressure on QB Ryan Fitzpatrick's shoulders.
If Jets can put the Bills in many "third and long" downs, I like their chances against the weak WR corps comprised of Lee Evans/Roscoe Parrish/Steve Johnson/. Fitzpatrick's career TD/INT ratio is 23:29, and I think Pettine's deceptive 3-4 looks will force him into making errant throws with a couple of turnovers to boot. Jets do an excellent job of bringing and disguising blitzes, and I think their deceptiveness will give Fitzpatrick trouble.
Spy on Spiller:
I'd like to see Jets keep a linebacker or safety to spy on RB CJ Spiller every down, as he's their only player with game-changing ability. With his two touchdown effort last week against New England, he became only the second player in Bills' history to record a kick return touchdown and receiving touchdown in the same game.
Jets LB David Harris has phenomenal foot speed, covers a lot of ground and is great in coverage, and I'd like to see him (or S Eric Smith) spy on Spiller every down and prevent him from breaking through into the back line of Jets' defense and busting a big play.
This year, Jets have rushed for an average of 27.3 times/game, and passed for 26.3 times/game. You can't be more balanced then that. I like the balance Jets have had on offense this year, and if they can run to setup the pass and keep Buffalo's defense guessing, I think they can dominate time of possession and control the game.
If the Jets can stop Buffalo's rushing attack, I think they can put the pressure on Fitzpatrick and force Bills into passing downs.
Jets simply have more playmakers on offense, and if they can win the turnover battle, they will win this game comfortably while controlling the clock and keeping Buffalo's defense on the field and wearing them down in 4Q with their running game.