You only get to play 16 games in the National Football League, so every one of them is important. But the Jets' opener against the Bills feels gigantic for a number of reasons.
For the first time in the Rex Ryan era, the Jets will start the season inside the division. The Green & White have swept the Bills each of the past two seasons by an average score of 33-14, but Chan Gailey's crew feels like it is playoff ready. If either one of these clubs want to compete for divisional supremacy with the New England Patriots, they have to separate from each other first.
You are supposed to hold serve at home. Despite missing the playoffs in 2011, the Jets were 6-2 overall and 2-1 against AFC East opponents at MetLife Stadium. If the Jets can repeat that home mark or improve it by a game to 7-1, the path to the postseason will be manageable.
We all know what awaits the Jets in Week 2 and that's a visit to the Steelers in Pittsburgh. You want to go to Pitt feeling good about yourself because Heinz Field is always a tough place to play and the Jets are 1-6 all-time in Blitzburgh.
In Week 3, the Jets will face a rebuilding Dolphins team in South Florida. Ryan Tannehill is certainly talented, but the Dolphins should have their hands full. A rookie signal caller vs. this talented Rex Ryan/Mike Pettine-led defense could lead to some interesting results. If the Jets defeat the Bills Sunday, then their record should be no worse than 2-1 overall and 2-0 inside the division heading into Week 4.
That would set up the three-game homestand consisting of the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4, the Houston Texans in Week 5 and then the Indianapolis Colts in Week 6. Some people believe the 49ers and the Texans are the top teams in their respective conferences while Colts QB Andrew Luck appears anything other than typical.
Then prior to the bye, the Jets will return to division action at the Patriots in Week 7 and home to the Dolphins in Week 8. New York's AFC representative plays four of their six division games (67%) by the halfway point.
No better time to start making headway in the AFCE than Sep. 9. In each of Coach Ryan's previous three seasons, the Jets have won their first divisional home game.