An AFC East divisional battle takes hold of Thursday Night Football, as both the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets are coming off losses, hoping to avoid another one that might put a serious dent into both teams playoff aspirations.
The way both teams lost was very different. The Jets’ front line was storming, sacking the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback 7 times. However, Nick Folk missed field goals and an extra point, and the Jets ended up losing 23-22 to the Cincinnati Bengals, struggling to contain them on the deep throws, as Darrelle Revis got burnt again and again by A.J. Green, while the Bengals posted the highest yards-per-pass attempt in week 1.
The Bills problems were completely different, and all fingers are pointing at Greg Roman, the offensive coordinator. They ended up putting a week 1 worst 160 yards on offense, their worst in 10 years and the team’s lowest in a season opener since 1979. The play calling was questionable at best, something Roman had admitted he should have done better. Tyrod Taylor attempted only two throws for more than 10 yards, and on five instances of second and 8 or longer, the Bills went for the run every time, not a single play producing a first down. Their sole touchdown came on a touchdown run by LeSean McCoy with 58 yards on 16 carries.
If Revis and the secondary is the Jets achilles heel, you’d expect to see more deep throws from the Bills this week. However, Sammy Watkins, with 4 receptions for 49 yards in the opening game, is questionable, which seems to the usual case with the talented wide receiver, who can never stay healthy for too long. The other problem will be protecting Taylor against the fearsome line that includes Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. It’s going to be difficult with the injured Cordy Glenn at left tackle.
For the Jets, they feel their game plan in week 1 worked, and they just missed out on the little things, like making a field goal, or the last desperate drive from Ryan Fitzpatrick, ending in an interception. Matt Forte has declined as a runner, but he adds a terrific dimension of pass-catching out of the backfield, leading the team with 5 receptions for 59 yards. At some point, that work will allow Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker to find more space and make bigger plays, while Fitzpatrick, who started training camp and preseason late, still has some rust to shed.
The Jets have a very difficult schedule at the start of the season, and although a loss isn’t the end of the world, it might create that unwanted snowball effect that kills seasons too early on. For the Bills, a loss here is a bit worse. Their schedule isn’t as bad, but it will put the hiring of Rex Ryan and whole direction of the organization into a tailspin. For a team desperate to make the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, more instability is the last thing they need.