The fact that it's only Week 3 of the 2013 NFL season hasn't done a thing to minimize the magnitude of Sunday's matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
"This is a must-win game," CB Isaiah Trufant said.
Mathematically, it will be quite a few weeks before the Jets find themselves in a gotta-have-it football game, but head coach Rex Ryan agrees with the third-year corner.
"This is a divisional game and both teams need it," he said. "Obviously, they're coming off an emotional high, a big win. We're coming off a disappointing loss. At the end of the day both teams are 1-1 and it's a divisional game."
New York has a win and a loss, as does Buffalo, with both teams' defeats the result of close games against another division rival, the New England Patriots. The Miami Dolphins, like the Pats, are also undefeated.
Walking away with the much-needed victory could come down to which team's quarterback makes fewer rookie mistakes. The Jets will play in a game in which both teams start a rookie signalcaller — Geno Smith for us and EJ Manuel for them — for just the second time in franchise history.
"He was an outstanding young man, very impressive," Ryan said of having scouted Manuel before the draft. "You notice the physical — when he walks in the door, he fills up that doorway. But he was really a tremendous person and you can see why Buffalo's excited about him."
The 6'5", 240-pound Florida State product has thrown only one interception to go along with three touchdowns, but as CB Darrin Walls points out, he hasn't been asked to do too much.
"I think the offensive coordinator does a good job of putting him in positions where he's going to be successful," Walls said. "He hasn't thrown the ball that much downfield, but we know he has a strong arm, so we'll be ready for that regardless."
Ryan described Buffalo RBs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson as "a two-headed monster." Having an effective run game makes Manuel's job easier, Walls added.
While the OC and RBs have helped alleviate the difficulties for the young QB in Buffalo, Walls is still impressed with Manuel's decision-making based on what he's seen on film.
"I think he gets the ball out quick, and I think he makes good decisions," the third-year Notre Dame product said of Manuel, who's been sacked only once in two games. "He's very precise on who he's going to, so he's done a good job of managing the offense."
Whether he conservatively manages the game or freely chucks a few longballs and challenges our secondary, our defensive production vs. Manuel will be key to getting the defense off the field and ultimately entering Week 4 with a winning record.
It may only be the third game of sixteen, but the Jets understand the challenge that we'll face if we dig ourselves too deep of a hole in the AFC East standings.
"These division games are very important," Trufant said. "If you can get a game up on a team in your division, that's always big. We have to get it done this week." And it starts with stopping EJ Manuel.