The NY Jets will need to do these three things if they want to beat the Buffalo Bills in Week 1.
A year ago, the NY Jets opened their regular season at home with a demoralizing 17-16 loss against the Buffalo Bills. It’s a game that most Jets fans will never forget, no matter how badly they want to erase it from their memory banks.
On that fateful Sunday, Jets fans witnessed their hopes and dreams shattered all in one fell swoop. The range of emotions during that game went from glee when the Jets took a 16-0 lead to heartache and pain when New York collapsed in the second half and lost 17-16.
Jets fans had a sickening feeling, watching their team squander countless opportunities to win. A one-point loss ended up feeling like an entire season was lost.
New York snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as kicker Kaare Vedvik tormented the fanbase with shanked extra points and field goals. Little did Jets fans know what would come in the aftermath of the loss.
Things would only get worse.
As it turned out, the Jets’ franchise quarterback Sam Darnold played the entire game sick with mononucleosis. He would go on to miss a large portion of the first half of the season, and as a result, the whole franchise went into a tailspin.
For Buffalo, the improbable comeback win was a catalyst towards their second playoff season in three years.
They say you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Well, the schedule makers are either cruel or want to see redemption for Sam Darnold and the Jets.
This time, the script has been flipped, and New York opens its season in Buffalo. Can the Jets get off on the right note this year and kickstart their season by derailing the Bills, the same way Buffalo did to them a year ago on their home field?
If the Jets hope to give Buffalo a receipt and a dose of their own medicine from last year’s opener, here are the top three keys for victory on Sunday.
Next: 3. Get off to a good start on offense
3. The NY Jets must get off to a good start on offense
It sounds like a generic key to victory, but it is of utmost importance that the Jets offense comes out of the gate looking sharp. How’s the saying go? Make yourself at home. The Jets have an opportunity to do that because they are not playing a traditional road game.
For all of the criticism against Adam Gase, and most of it warranted, the Jets, under Gase and with Sam Darnold specifically, have been one of the better teams in the league at having success with their game scripts on opening possessions.
That type of track record will be needed against Buffalo early on.
Both teams are coming into the game with some level of doubt and uncertainty. The Bills, after all, are playing at home with no fans. The atmosphere will not be a factor against the Jets operating their offense because there is no crowd.
An advantage that Buffalo has lost in this unique circumstance.
It will take Buffalo’s players some time to get adjusted to their settings. The best thing that the Jets can do is inject some doubt into the Bills early on.
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The only way to do that is if the Jets offense strikes first. New York has to show balance, poise, and patience early on.
Buffalo has one of the league’s best defenses, and points will be hard to come by against them. The Bills boast one of the best pass defenses in the entire league. They can cover at all three levels of their defense — underneath, deep, and over the middle.
Early success by the Jets offense will instill confidence in the entire New York franchise and take the Bills off their heels.
Next: 2. Limit big plays on defense
2. The NY Jets must limit big plays on defense
This is one area where the Bills have exploited the Jets extensively in recent meetings.
In last year’s opener, the Jets bottled up Buffalo’s offense for the majority of the contest, but the game turned in the Bills favor when they were able to start making big plays. Buffalo hit on several plays of over 20 yards in both their ground and passing attack.
Former Jets assistant and current Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll has a propensity for attacking teams’ weakness, and their teams’ biggest strength on offense is Josh Allen’s arm and Buffalo’s speedy playmakers.
The addition of Pro Bowl receiver Stefon Diggs should only help intensify those efforts. Players like receiver John Brown and running back Devin Singletary have given the Jets defense fits in the past.
Brown broke the Jets back last year with a 38-yard touchdown catch in last year’s opener. Singletary is exceptionally elusive and can turn four-yard scampers into long gains leaving defenders flat-footed.
Make no mistake, with Jamal Adams gone, the Jets are going to be tested down the field and in space. The Jets secondary is going to be challenged early and often by Buffalo.
Eliminating explosive plays by Buffalo’s offense will be a significant factor in keeping this contest competitive. Without a preseason to iron out the kinks, the Jets defense might be inclined to have some early season miscues and breakdowns.
Against Buffalo, the Jets can ill-afford to have any lapses in cohesion.
Next: 1. The offensive line must live up to its billing
1. The NY Jets offensive line has to live up to it’s billing
It can be argued that no unit on the Jets is under more pressure to perform than the offensive line. The handy work of general manager Joe Douglas will be on full display in Week 1.
Four-fifths of the Jets offensive line is brand new. With a new center in Connor McGovern, new offensive tackles in Mekhi Becton and George Fant, and Greg Van Roten joins the returning Alex Lewis on the interior at guard.
The brand new car is in the shop. It’s time to take it for its first ride.
Above all these new parts is massive left tackle Mekhi Becton. It might be not fair on the teams’ first-round pick, but Becton is perhaps the most vital to the Jets’ entire success on offense. He is expected to be the catalyst for a rejuvenated ground and passing attack.
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Week 1 of his career will be a baptism by fire. Becton is being thrown into the trenches with the hope that he will be a dominant force. That’s a lot to put on a rookie, but the expectation level matches his high draft pedigree.
The Jets offensive line will decide whether New York wins this game or not. How well the newly formed unit plays will dictate how well Sam Darnold and Le’Veon Bell function.
The new offensive line didn’t have the benefit of an ordinary camp or a full preseason slate of games to iron out the kinks. In this regard, The Bills defensive front-seven has the edge in this matchup simply because New York’s offensive has never played together before.
Opening night may not be on Broadway in Week 1 this time, and the show may have a new cast, but if the Jets’ offensive line doesn’t perform at it’s best in Orchard Park on Sunday, it will just be a different script but with the same ending.