Saturday, October 17, 2009
Bills at Jets Preview
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets
The Meadowlands: 4:15 PM, CBS
After two straight losses on the road, the Jets look to get back to their winning ways Sunday against Buffalo. New York is 2-0 at home, and they want to regain the swagger that their defense may have lost Monday in Miami. Buffalo seems to be tailor-made for the Jets to take out their frustrations on, but the Bills still have enough talent to stay in the game, and the weather could be a giant equalizer.
When the Jets have the ball…
As always, Brian Schottenheimer’s gameplan will revolve around establishing the run. Thomas Jones and Leon Washington have struggled so far this season to find consistent running room. Jones (3.7 YPC) appears to be dancing a little more this year and falling down on first contact too often (as reflected by the fact that nobody seems to want Jones carrying the load on the poll to the left). Washington (4.1 YPC) has fared better than Jones, but the big plays have not been there for him as they have been in the past. Shonn Greene is starting to get some work, too, as he has had carries in each of the past two games.
Buffalo is the softest defense against the run the Jets have played since week one against Houston. They allow 4.7 yards per carry and 154.6 yards-per-game, the 4th worst total in the league. The last three opponents have racked up an astounding 643 yards on the ground. Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny might return this week, which would be a huge help for a linebacking corps already down Kawika Mitchell and Marcus Buggs. They signed journeyman Chris Draft who should play right away. On their line, DT Marcus Strud and DE Aaron Schobel are good players, but there isn’t much around them, and clearly they can be pushed around. It would be a good time for the Jets’ offensive line to show they are worth the money they are being paid.
The running game will be so important because of the wind and rain projected to be in the forecast. The wind should curb the deep passing game, which is a shame because even though the Jets will be missing their #2 and #3 receivers, the players that are left excel down the field. Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith are not expected to play, so David Clowney will get his first career start opposite Braylon Edwards. Not one receiver who will play Sunday had tallied a single catch with the Jets in the first four games, with Edwards, Clowney, Wallace Wright, and the newly promoted Danny Woodhead. The short passes will probably be the primary focus, so maybe Woodhead will receive some action in his first NFL game. More likely, getting TE Dustin Keller more involved will be stressed after his 0’fer in the stat-sheet last week.
The Bills’ secondary is also hurting with CB/KR Leodis McKelvin out for the year. That means top cover man Terrence McGee, who has also been a little banged up in practice, will battle Edwards. S Brian Scott will also miss this game, his third straight due to injury. S Donte Whitner is still dangerous, but the Jets’ injuries at receiver are matched by the Bills’ injuries in the secondary.
But this game will be won on both sides of the ball in the trenches. On offense, the Jets have a highly paid and highly touted offensive line going against a defense that has been gutted by injury and dominated by opposing rushing attacks. If Mark Sanchez can protect the football in the elements, a question he still needs to answer, the Jets should be able to put enough points on the board against this defense.
When the Bills have the ball…
Trent Edwards has earned the derisive nickname “Captain Checkdown” for his habit of throwing the ball short to his runningbacks and tight ends. As a result, receivers Terrell Owens and Lee Evans have yet to get going this year. The two have combined for 24 catches for 361 yards and a touchdown. By comparison, Jerricho Cotchery has 24 catches for 360 yards and a touchdown, and he only had one grab last week. Darrelle Revis and Lito Sheppard, who should return after missing three weeks, should keep the two in check again, assuming Edwards is willing to take chances down the field. If the weather is bad, he’ll just keep throwing short, which the Jets shouldn’t mind.
But the primary focus for the Bills will be running the ball. In Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo boasts two talented backs who offer contrasting styles. Jackson is shifty and performed very well in the first three games during Lynch’s suspension. Lynch is more of a bruiser, but both runningbacks are proficient at catching the ball.
New York’s defense has been merely average against the run so far, but in Houston, New England, Tennessee, New Orleans, and Miami, they have faced some of the better rushing games in the league. More importantly, they have faced four of the better offensive lines in football in the past month, which the Bills simply do not have. They start two rookies on the line and one second-year player, and if right tackle Jonathan Scott can’t play, a third rookie would start. A defense that is sure to be angry after an embarrassing performance last week probably can’t wait to tee off against the inexperienced Bills line.
The Jets defense struggled mightily last week, showing several chinks in the armor. The pass rush is near the bottom of the NFL in producing sacks, and if they can’t get to Edwards in their home park, something is wrong. The Bills offense has been inept most of the year, reaching its low point last week in a 6-3 loss at home to Cleveland who completed just two passes all game. The Bills have a lot to figure out offensively, and the Jets probably aren’t the best team to work out their problems against.
Both teams are coming off embarrassing losses, so the motivation should be there for each squad. However, the Jets problems are much easier to fix than Buffalo’s, and it seems likely that they come out fired up with less talk and more production. It’s getting ugly in Buffalo, and injuries have sapped much of the hope that could have been there. The difference between the two teams is that the Jets have seen the light on each side of the football and have reason to believe things will get better while the Bills seem to be on a downward spiral. With the game in the Meadowlands, where the Jets are 2-0, it’s even more likely that New York has a little more incentive than Buffalo.
The Jets have more talent on offense, on defense, and on special teams than the Bills, and they are playing at home. If Buffalo is to win this game, chances are it will be more like the New Orleans game than the Miami one. Donte Whitner and Terrence McGee can make plays, and if Mark Sanchez is careless with the football, the wind and the rain could take its toll and keep the Bills in the game. More likely, however, the Jets push the Bills around in the trenches and win fairly comfortably, even if it’s not a blowout.
Jets 24, Bills 6