By Tyson Rauch
On Sunday the New York Jets (1-1) take on the Buffalo Bills (1-1) in a pivotal AFC East match-up at MetLife Stadium. The Jets are coming off of a disappointing loss to the New England Patriots while the Bills come stampeding in following a dramatic last-second victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Buffalo's Backs can Bring it
Sunday's match-up is going to feature two rookie quarterbacks, as the Bills will be starting E.J. Manuel while Geno Smith gets the nod for Gang Green. Manuel has a very strong supporting cast around him starting with running backs C.J. Spiller (144 rushing yards) and Fred Jackson (97 rushing yards). Spiller is a dynamic running back that can beat you running the ball and by catching passes out of the backfield. Jackson is a versatile back that can also be a dual threat in the Bills up-tempo style of offense. In order for the Jets defense to slow down the Buffalo ground game the front seven must get penetration at the line of scrimmage. The Jets linebackers must be active in the pursuit of the running back and remain consistent in terms of finishing off tackles.
Shut Down Steve Johnson
The Bills passing attack features an explosive playmaker in wide receiver Steve Johnson (150 receiving yards, 2 tds). Johnson is coming off of an excellent game against the Panthers where he caught eight passes including the game-winning touchdown with two seconds left on the clock. The Jets secondary must do a solid job defending Steve Johnson and prevent yards after the catch. It wouldn't be surprising to see Antonio Cromartie spend a lot of time matched up against Johnson. Rookie Robert Woods (86 receiving yards, 1 td) and tight end Scott Chandler (48 receiving yards) round out the top receiving threats for the Bills.
Man up Against Mario
On defense the Bills feature defensive end Mario Williams who had a 4.5 sack performance against Carolina. The Jets offensive line must do an excellent job containing Williams and prevent him from disrupting the passing game. Look for the Jets to go to the short passing game and to give right tackle Austin Howard support from either a running back or tight end.
The Buffalo defensive line also features tackles Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams who both have the ability to dominate at the line of scrimmage. The line is supported by linebackers Manny Lawson and Kiko Alonso, players that former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will try and move around in order to make big plays.
The Jets recipe for success on Sunday will be to win the battles in the trenches. Center Nick Mangold along with guards Vlad Ducasse and Willie Colon must prevent the Buffalo defense from getting pressure up the middle. This will be no easy task as the Bills will be aggressive with their blitz schemes.
As for the passing game Geno Smith is going to face a ton of heat from Mike Pettine's defense. The Bills are going to go all out in terms of pressure in hopes of forcing the rookie signal caller to make mistakes and turn over the ball. Geno must remain poised and take what the defense gives him. If the opportunity to run presents itself Smith must take advantage of it. The Jets offense should also look to screens and draw plays to slow down the aggressive pass rush.
Let the Best Rookie Win
Sunday's game features two teams with rookie quarterbacks and the same defensive approach. On paper the Buffalo Bills appear to have the advantage in terms of talent on offense but games are not played on paper. In order for the New York Jets to win on Sunday Geno Smith has to shine while his team plays smart, physical, disciplined football.
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Tyson Rauch is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.
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