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New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills: Top 3 keys to victory for Gang Green

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 01: Jalin Marshall
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 01: Jalin Marshall
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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – JANUARY 01: Jalin Marshall #89 of the New York Jets tries to break free from Lorenzo Alexander #57 of the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on January 1, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – JANUARY 01: Jalin Marshall #89 of the New York Jets tries to break free from Lorenzo Alexander #57 of the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on January 1, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

The New York Jets are in line for a brutal campaign, but they can get off on the right foot with a win in Buffalo. Here are their three keys to victory against the Bills.

Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season is finally here and that means New York Jets football is too. Gang Green will visit Orchard Park to take on the Buffalo Bills in a heated divisional outing to set the tone for the rest of the year. Heading into this contest, neither squad has much to be proud of. Todd Bowles and company are considered one of the NFL’s worst teams and Sean McDermott‘s group isn’t far ahead of them.

The Jets went 2-2 in this year’s preseason showing promise defensively. Rookies Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye showcased their toughness right off the bat. The line may be missing Sheldon Richardson after last Friday’s trade, but studs Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson are still there. On the other side of the ball, New York obviously has work to do. Offensive coordinator John Morton must piece together the puzzle quickly.

Buffalo posted a 1-3 preseason record and is going through growing pains under McDermott as expected. The defense is in the midst of switching from Rex Ryan’s 3-4 to the 4-3 McDermott ran in Carolina, so the personnel will need time to adjust. Tyrod Taylor was recently activated after clearing concussion protocol. He’s now expected to get the nod, slotting fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman back to No. 2 on the depth chart.

Looking at this matchup on paper, you have to give the edge to Buffalo. The Jets are putting a weak team on the field in 2017 and they’re on the road. Can an upset happen? Absolutely, although New York faces a steep slope. Here are the three things they have to do to get the job done Sunday.

Next: 3. Contain LeSean McCoy

ORCHARD PARK, NY – SEPTEMBER 25: LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at New Era Field on September 25, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY – SEPTEMBER 25: LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills celebrates a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at New Era Field on September 25, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

3. Contain LeSean McCoy

The Bills offense revolves around All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy. In a total of three games vs. Gang Green, the 29-year-old has 273 yards on 52 carries with three touchdowns. In the receiving department, he has 11 catches for 73 yards. Against a defense that prides itself on stopping the run and keeping backs in check, those numbers are exceptional. What’s scary is they could get even better.

Buffalo has one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the league and it strengthened in the spring with the addition of Dion Dawkins. The second-rounder out of Temple is capable of playing tackle as well as guard. Look for him to share snaps with journeyman right tackle Jordan Mills throughout the day. The Bills need five fresh bodies at all times to pave the way for McCoy and keep New York’s ferocious front out of the backfield.

With that being said, the Jets have to do everything they can to dominate in the trenches. You could label Steve McLendon as the x-factor since Williams and Wilkerson will be drawing double teams from start to finish. McLendon made a huge impact in 2016 when he was healthy, racking up 28 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 11 contests. If he can win the one-on-one battles inside vs. Eric Wood, it’ll be tough sledding for McCoy. Jordan Jenkins and Josh Martin should prepare for action on the outside.

Next: 2. Play press coverage

2. Play press coverage

While New York’s defense needs to put most of their effort into containing McCoy, they also have to defend the pass. Defenses don’t get off the field if they don’t defend the pass. We’ve seen that from the Jets a lot in the past few seasons. Bowles typically uses man-to-man coverage, but he gives receivers 5-10 yards of cushion, even on third down. You can’t do that and expect to make stops.

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Bills wideouts Jordan Matthews and Zay Jones are both known for their quick first step. Jones actually crossed up Maye when East Carolina took on Florida in 2015. How do you stop a quick first step you may ask? Press coverage.

If Bowles can stick his corners at the line of scrimmage and provide safety help over the top, Buffalo will have trouble executing through the air. It’d additionally give the pass rush more time to get after Taylor.

The matchups the Jets might want to create are Juston Burris on Matthews and Morris Claiborne on Jones. Burris is New York’s most physical corner, so you obviously want him on Buffalo’s tallest and heaviest receiver. Jones and Claiborne match up from a size standpoint as well. Bowles could use Buster Skrine on Jones, however strictly in the slot. Skrine sacrificing several inches on the outside is a disaster waiting to happen. We learned that outcome in 2016.

Next: 1. Pound the rock

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – JANUARY 01: Bilal Powell #29 of the New York Jets runs with the ball during the first quarter of their game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on January 1, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – JANUARY 01: Bilal Powell #29 of the New York Jets runs with the ball during the first quarter of their game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on January 1, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images)

1. Pound the rock

Everyone knows how bad Gang Green’s offense is going to be. If you thought last year was bad, get ready for more dysfunction. Josh McCown under center, no 1,000-yard receiver, no tight end with 100 career catches and a deteriorating line has defenses licking their chops. New York has no choice but to lean on their rushing attack which honestly is formidable enough to keep them in ball games, including this one.

Matt Forte is fully recovered from his training camp hamstring injury and is prepared for a sizable workload. In 14 outings in 2016, he recorded 813 yards and seven touchdowns on 218 touches. He also caught 30 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown. If general manager Mike Maccagnan plans on trading him this season, he has to raise his value as soon as possible. Week 1 would be a good week to start.

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Bilal Powell is the offense’s most valuable piece. The Louisville product had 722 yards and three touchdowns on 131 attempts along with 58 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns. Powell should earn the bulk of the carries despite Forte being listed as the No. 1 guy. He’s clearly the more explosive back who has better upside as a pass catcher. Regardless of how they do it, the Jets have to run the ball A LOT to come out on top.

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