By Danny Cox
Some may think that that the new NFL season still has a long way to go, and that the early weeks don't really matter. While that may be partly true, it's also accurate to say that every single game counts, and a loss now could come back to haunt teams later on.
That's why this week's match-up on Thursday Night Football is so important—it's a big AFC East battle that could have huge implications on the playoff race. The winner will get to .500, but the loser will end up falling to 0-2—and have a huge hole to climb out of in the race for the divisional crown.
This week, the New York Jets have a short travel schedule to Ralph Wilson Stadium to face off with the Buffalo Bills.
"And they are always a season pressure point, if you ask me," said CBS Sports' Boomer Esiason. "Especially for Rex Ryan. He can't lose this home opener to the Jets. He owns the Jets. Last year, beat them twice."
Esiason believes that Rex Ryan has Ryan Fitzpatrick's number, and he may be right. Fitzpatrick has struggled badly when playing against Ryan and the Bills, so look for New York to rely heavily on a running game consisting of Matt Forte and Bilal Powell.
Forte had 96 yards on the ground last week against the Cincinnati Bengals while Powell had just four carries for 41 yards. Look for a much bigger game out of him as the Jets are going to work on utilizing a double-headed running game.
New York is going to have to do whatever they can to get their passing game to coexist with their running game, as it just wasn't there last week. In the season opener, Forte was also the leading receiver for the Jets, who just couldn't get some very talented wide receivers involved in the game.
On the other side of the ball, Buffalo's offense was almost anemic against the Baltimore Ravens, and it's going to have to improve this week. While the Ravens have always been known for a good defense, the Jets have a stronger one this year.
Getting running back LeSean McCoy rolling and putting a focus on him is exactly what the Buffalo Bills are going to attempt to do. They have so many weapons including Reggie Bush, Sammy Watkins, and Robert Woods, which makes it hard to imagine that they had a mere 160 yards of total offense in the opener.
"You look at this football team," said Bill Cowher, "and they do match up well against the New York Jets.
The responsibility of putting up big numbers in the passing game for Buffalo will be a test that Sammy Watkins has to prove he is ready for. Darrelle Revis was torched repeatedly last week by A.J. Green of the Bengals, and Watkins is well on his way to being as good as Green, if not better.
It is obvious that both the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills have problems they need to fix, but this game is too important to leave those corrections for later in the season. Falling into an 0-2 hole in the AFC East is not something that either one of these teams want to do, as it could be far too difficult to get out of.
Rex Ryan may very well have Ryan Fitzpatrick's number, but these are not the same Jets from last year. Revis will make some corrections and could have a field day with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who just can't seem to remember to stay in the pocket.
When it all boils down to it, if the Bills can't get their offense going, they aren't going to win a game against a strong defensive team like the Jet.
Prediction: New York Jets 27 - Buffalo Bills 13
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