The Jets haven't played a regular season game since Jan.1, but that is going to change Sunday when the Buffalo Bills make a visit to MetLife Stadium. There are many people who hold the belief that the Jets took a step backward in the offseason and we'll see soon enough.
The facts tell you the Jets have won 32 games the past three seasons. What if you were told on Jan. 2, 2012 that the Jets were going to make a major deal, shipping WR Plaxico Burress, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, S Jim Leonhard and RT Wayne Hunter in exchange for QB/Specialist Tim Tebow, S LaRon Landry, WR Stephen Hill and S Yeremiah Bell? Then throw in the facts that rookie DE Quinton Coples (4.5 sacks) appears ready to contribute immediately, NT Kenrick Ellis, K Nick Folk and RB Bilal Powell are all improved, OLB Bryan Thomas is back healthy and the linebacker depth with the selection of Demario Davis is better than ever.
Somebody has to help me out with this whole problem that the Jets did not run the Wildcat attack in the summer. Maybe we just selfishly wanted to see it all in game action, but why in the world would you do that? Shoot maybe somebody in here could make a PDF of the playbook and make it available online for everyone to take a look.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about the keys to the game:
Control the Fearsome Bills Front 4
Don't just focus on the expected matchup of LDE Mario Williams vs. RT . The Jets are going to help Howard out at times with help from tight ends and backs, but they need everyone to play well Sunday. C Nick Mangold, RG Brandon Moore and LG Matt Slauson are going to fight it out with the nasty tandem of Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. Jets Pro Bowl LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson will be in charge of Mark Sanchez's backside and he'll have to handle Bills speed rusher Mark Anderson.
Can Sanchez Exploit Green Corners
It goes without saying that the Jets have to establish the run game, but can they make the Bills corners pay on the outside? We have heard nothing but glowing reports about Stephon Gilmore out of Buffalo and it will be interesting to see if the Bills first round pick can stick with Santonio Holmes throughout this contest. Aaron Williams, a second-year player for the Bills, will start opposite Gilmore. He is a physical player, but perhaps the Jets will try to get down the field to 6'4" Stephen Hill on the 6'0" Williams.
Continue Defensive Dominance
The Jets have won the past five in this series and they've been physically dominant in those meetings. Frankly the Jets have been a tougher team than the Bills and they've improved in the physicality department with the safety pair of LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell. I have a sneaky feeling Darrelle Revis is getting sick of people talking about Steve Johnson and people tell me he's had a wonderful week of practice (not a shock considering he might be the best practice player I've ever seen). The Bills have a fine running back pair in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, but good luck running against this defense. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a heady ballplayer, but the Jets will mix-up their looks and LT rookie Cordy Glenn is starting his first professional game.
Force a Special Teams Stalemate
The Jets might not have many kickoff return opportunities because John Potter is B-Lo's kickoff specialist and he had an 85% touchback rate in the preseason. Robert Malone gets the call at punter for the Jets and he'll be counted on immediately if this game becomes a field possession contest late. Nick Folk comes in hot, nailing a 58-yarder in the preseason finale at Philly.
Potential Jets X Factors
QB/Specialist Tim Tebow, CB/WR/KR Antonio Cromartie and DL Quinton Coples
Potential Bills X Factors
WR T.J. Graham, OLB Nick Barnett and S Jarius Byrd