The NFL held its Kickoff Game on Thursday in Kansas City, which means that the madness is finally underway. Twenty-six teams will begin their campaigns on Sunday, and the New York Jets are no exception. Valued as underdogs by 6.5 points, the Jets are making a tough visit to Buffalo to face the favorites for the AFC East title, the Bills.
At 1 pm Eastern Time this Sunday, the Jets will start what promises to be a long and difficult season. The offseason overhaul shifted the balance between the team’s components, namely weakening the receiving corps. This could mean bad production offensively, which could be fatal against a high-quality defense like Buffalo’s. The Jets offensive unit might be in for a brutal mismatch. This year, the defensive group is nowhere near good enough to make up for this hole.
Meanwhile, last year’s meeting between the two sides on the opening Sunday of the season still leaves a bad taste in Jets fans’ mouths. After the Jets got off to a 16-0 halftime lead, the Bills came back to prevail, 17-16. New York was then victorious in the Week 17 game in Buffalo, but the Bills rested most of their important players ahead of their Wildcard Round clash with Houston.
Overall, the Jets have won three of the past five games with Buffalo and have split the last ten clashes. This Bills team is very different than the team Gang Green faced in 2017 and 2018.
PASSING UNIT IS UP FOR A STRUGGLE
The Bills come into the 2020 season after allowing the second-fewest points and the third-fewest total yards. Buffalo’s defensive unit undisputedly stood out as one of the best in the league in 2019 on all fronts. The one that will be relied on to completely silent the Jets on Sunday, the passing defense, was the fourth-best in the NFL. Moreover, Tre’Davious White established the reputation of one of the most dominant outside corners before receiving a four-year extension in early September. The LSU product allowed a mere passer rating of 45.0 when in coverage on 90 targets.
The Jets offense was a disappointment, and there isn’t much room for surprise or change here in 2020. New York accumulated just 273 yards per game during the 2019 campaign, by far the league’s worst figure. It has to be noted that Sam Darnold’s absence in four games due to battling mononucleosis had a huge impact on the team early on. However, the 2020 edition of the Jets might have even more problems.
Joe Douglas was able to fix New York’s most woeful component by adding several quality offensive linemen. However, the effect of other moves is that a Jets team with a healthy Darnold might not perform much better than last year.
During the spring, the Jets left Sam Darnold with Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman as his secondary targets. Of course, Jamison Crowder will lead the pack after a wildly productive campaign, catching 78 passes for 833 yards and a catch percentage of 63.9. The other pass-catchers on the Jets depth chart have not proven to play up to the same efficient standard as Crowder.
Firstly, Denzel Mims, a second-round pick out of Baylor, is questionable as of Friday. Also, he is expected to see a limited workload on Sunday. This then leaves Perriman and Chris Hogan. Perriman only caught 52 percent of his 69 targets as the Tampa Bay third-choice receiver. This further proves Perriman’s status as a liability and lack of credibility to his role, compared to Robby Anderson’s role in New York. Against a dominant passing defense, both could have a difficult day.
On the other hand, the Jets might finally provide Darnold with some protection in the pocket. The Jets had one of the worst offensive lines for a couple of years, but this seems to be the year where they get it right. This could also give the Jets a favorable matchup against a subpar Bills pass-rush. Buffalo posted just 44 sacks last year, the 12th-most throughout the NFL.
Even with a worrying receiving core, protection could prevail and make the Jets passing game more solid and consistent in getting first downs and moving the ball. However, this will be a lot more difficult against the Bills defense, which stands out in every task and succeeds exceptionally against air raids.
CAN BELL FINALLY LIVE UP TO THE EXPECTATIONS?
The former Pittsburgh Steeler was brought in after two straight years with 1,000-plus rushing yards on a big four-year, $52 million deal. Needless to say, he wasn’t the factor in the ground game that he was meant to be.
Le’Veon Bell registered just 245 carries, his fewest in three years, and posted a figure of 3.2 yards per rushing attempt. This amounted to 789 yards total for the season. His average-per-carry value in 2019 was the lowest in his six professional seasons.
After Bell didn’t live up to his name and the big investment, the Jets elected not to look for help around him. Next in line are Frank Gore, entering his age-37 season, and rookie back La’Mical Perine. Perine is listed as questionable, and Gore is not to be relied on at his age. It’s beyond clear that Bell simply needs to improve his production to duplicate his contributions in Pittsburgh. Also, this would give hope to a shorthanded passing unit to be effective due to decreased workload. However, that required an exceptional improvement by Bell.
He’s slated to face a top ten defensive unit on Sunday afternoon against the rush, making the task even harder. The Bills ranked 10th in allowed yards per game on the ground in 2019 with 103.1.
GOOD MATCHUPS FOR THE JETS DEFENSE?
At first sight, it seems that the Bills could be on their way to having a lot better of a season offensively. This is likely to be the outcome over the course of the whole campaign. However, this game provides some very favorable matchups for the Jets defense, which they could come out on top of.
The Bills were in the bottom part of the table in yards per game, ranking 24th with 330. The Jets defense made a late turnaround and finished as the seventh-best defense with 323.1 yards per game. Here are two matchups which could help New York post an impressive defensive showing:
Bills running game (128.4 y/g, 8th) vs. Jets defense against the run (86.9 y/g, 2nd)
- Le’Veon Bell (245 rushes, 3.2 yrd/rush) vs. Bills defense against the run (103.1 yrd/gm, 10th)
- Bills running game (128.4 y/g, 8th) vs. Jets defense against the run (86.9 y/g, 2nd)
- Jets Offensive Line vs. Bills Pass-Rush (44 sacks, 12th)
- Jamison Crowder (78 rec, 10.7 y/rec, 63.4 c%) vs. Tre’Davious White (45 targets, 50.0 com%, 45.0 allowed passer rating)
- Stefon Diggs (63 rec, 17.9 y/rec, 67.0 c%) vs. Pierre Desir (74 targets, 64.9 com%, 96.5 allowed passer rating)
The Jets can hold back a still unpolished Bills offense to a low-scoring performance and gain leverage to cover the spread. However, Buffalo’s dominant passing defense won’t leave the Jets a chance after a brutal offensive display. Prediction: Bills win 20-17
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