This week, the 3-7 Buffalo Bills have a chance to avenge their Week 3 loss to the 5-4 New York Jets. This will be the second duel between rookie quarterbacks Geno Smith and E.J. Manuel. They will be kicking off at 1 p.m. on Sunday at a chilly Ralph Wilson Stadium. The game will be broadcast on CBS, which means you have a chance of listening to the legendary Dan Dierdorf repeat himself all afternoon. Let’s look at some key matchups.
E.J. Manuel vs. the Jets secondary
Last week, in E.J. Manuel’s first game back after a knee sprain, Manuel struggled to move the ball through the air. I don’t know if it was rust, the weather, or the fact that the Steelers defense is back to their championship form. Whatever the case may be, Manuel needs to play much better if the Bills want any shot of winning Sunday. The New York Jets secondary has been susceptible to giving up big plays in the passing game. The Jets made a move during the week to fix that, signing veteran Ed Reed. Reed may not be a factor given his age and lack of experience in the Jet’s defensive system, but Reed has always been a player to play off instincts. Manuel is going to have to bounce back in a big way and move the ball through the air.
Buffalo’s running game vs. the Jet’s front-7
Buffalo’s bread and butter has been handing the ball off to Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Buffalo’s running back tandem is the 3rd ranked rushing attack in the NFL. The New York Jets come into this game with the best running defense. This will be a battle of strength vs. strength. In their first meeting, the Jets were able to limit C.J. Spiller to just 9 yards on 10 carries. Jackson had a better game, running for 72 yards.
This matchup may be the one that determines the game. If Buffalo can get their run game going, it will force the Jets defense to respect the run. This will leave receivers with one-on-one opportunities, and give Manuel more open passing lanes down the field.
Buffalo’s secondary vs. Geno Smith
Geno Smith has had almost all privileges taken away from him in the pass game. Coach Rex Ryan has put training wheels on the play book to ensure Geno doesn’t continue to be a turnover machine. Buffalo is going to have to capitalize on the mistakes that Smith is bound to make throwing the ball down the field.
In Week 3 when these two met last, Geno had a field day throwing the ball down the field. Smith threw for 330 yards and 2 touchdowns. But, this was during the period that Buffalo’s secondary was in shambles. Now that our secondary has all of its starters back in action, I expect to see a different outcome. This secondary has been great, leading the league in interceptions. Look for Jairus Byrd and company to end up with a few interceptions Sunday.
Buffalo’s front-7 vs. New York’s running game
It’s no secret that the Bills cannot stop the run. Buffalo is ranked 29th when it comes to stopping the run. Last time these two teams played, running back Bilal Powell rushed for 149 yards. Buffalo NEEDS to stop the run Sunday. If the Bills can neutralize the running game, it will force the Jets to have to throw the ball. If the Jets throw the ball a lot, it give Geno Smith all the more opportunity to throw an interception.
Buffalo’s defensive line vs. New York’s offensive line
Buffalo’s defensive line is among the best in the league. The Bills are 2nd in the league with 33 sacks on the season, only trailing the Kansas City Chiefs. Buffalo needs to keep pressure on Geno Smith all game. If Geno starts hearing footsteps, it can force him into making quick decisions, something that he has struggled with so far this year. This could also cause him to tuck the ball and run it, which is one of his strong suits. Buffalo can’t allow Smith to make play outside of the pocket. I expect to see Mario Williams and Marcel Darius in the backfield all game Sunday.
Hold your hats folks, the Buffalo Bills aren’t underdogs this week, but they aren’t favored either. The line is even…take your pick folks.
I don’t know what to expect from the Jets. In a 3 week stretch earlier in the year, the Jets beat the Patriots, lost by 40 to the Bengals, and beat the Saints. This team is all over the board. The Bills on the other hand, have been pretty consistently mediocre all year. I can see Geno struggling at a sold out Ralph Wilson stadium. My pick; Buffalo 24, Jets 17. Let’s circle the wagons Bills nation.