The Buffalo Bills and the Jets have had much in common through the first two weeks of the season. Each franchise starts a rookie at quarterback and both teams have a won a game in the final seconds to go along with a disappointing loss to the New England Patriots.
When EJ Manuel and Geno Smith go head-to-head, it will be a matchup of the first two quarterbacks taken in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Buffalo selected Manuel with the 16th pick overall and it has paid off thus far. He’s completed an efficient 68.2% of his passes and kept turnovers to a minimum. The rookie is yet to take his act on the road though, where the atmosphere isn’t as friendly for quarterbacks. How he’ll handle the noise and pressure at MetLife Stadium remain to be seen.
”I know it’s going to be loud and everybody is going to be against us except for the Bills fans that are there,” Manuel told his team’s website. “I think the biggest thing, early in the game you really want to try to hush their crowd down if you can go out there and put points on the board or try to get the momentum on your side.”
In addition to the crowd, another obstacle will be a Jets defense that ranks second in the league in total yards allowed. Look for New York to try and get Manuel out of his comfort zone and apply pressure whenever possible. Already a strength, the defense could get even stronger with the possible return of linebacker Quinton Coples.
“Who knows, I hope he plays because this guy’s worked his tail off,” Ryan said following practice on Thursday. “We’ll obviously lean on the trainers and the doctors, but he looks good out there, so we’ll see”
Not to be outdone, the Jets will have their hands full going up against Bills defensive end Mario Williams and their former defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine. Williams set a franchise-record with 4.5 sacks in last week’s 24-23 victory over the Carolina Panthers and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
"He's one of the premier defensive ends in the league," right tackle Austin Howard told Newsday. "He has a lot of talent and you really have to focus in on the game film and really study his techniques. He does a lot of things well."
The Jet's offensive line has already allowed nine sacks in the first two games and must contain Williams to take some of the heat off Smith. Following a rough game last week against the Patriots, Smith needs more protection up front but also has to do a better of job of getting rid of the ball.
“You never want to sit back there and pat it and babysit the ball,” Smith told ESPN. “So that is an emphasis and going up against a defense and a guy like Mario, it is going to be an emphasis to get the ball out. At the same time, I trust my offensive line. I think those guys are definitely going to be prepared for the challenge and I look forward to it.”
Gang Green must get a better effort out of their receivers following a nightmare outing for the group in New England. The return of wide receiver Jeremy Kerley from a concussion is a huge addition for a unit which dropped six passes last game.
With a rough patch in the schedule coming up for New York, this Week 3 matchup with a divisional rival has more meaning than usual. Sporting a 2-1 record before two straight road games could make a world of difference for a team looking to establish themselves. Should they find themselves 1-2 after this weekend, the light at the end of the tunnel could look a little dimmer.
The Jets need their offense steps up after last week’s showing. The defense has been a bright spot early on but they can’t do it all by themselves. If Smith and his receivers can bounce back from a week ago, they should be in good shape before heading to Tennessee next Sunday.