|Entering his fourth season, Jets QB Mark Sanchez will look to get off to a strong start Sunday against the Bills. (US Presswire)|
Jets vs. Bills -- Week 1
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J. (turf, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Spread: Jets by 3
Forecast: Potential for thunderstorms. Projected kickoff temperature: upper 70s.
2011 records: Jets (8-8); Bills (6-10)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Nov. 27, 2011: Jets 28, Bills 24; November 6, 2011: Jets 27, Bills 11. Series record: Bills hold a 53-49 edge.
What matters: The wildcat has been talked about endlessly, and Jets coach Rex Ryan says they will unveil it in this game. Whether they have success at it will determine whether they are finally praised or skewered for the Tim Tebow trade. With receiver Santonio Holmes still recovering from a rib cartilage injury and rookie receiver Stephen Hill very green, the wildcat could have huge implications. In addition, the Jets will need to get their renewed ground-and-pound offense going with running back Shonn Greene carrying the load.
Who matters: 1. Quarterback Mark Sanchez. The spotlight is on the fourth-year quarterback to see if he can fully grasp the reins and provide the offense with the solid leader that it needs. Although there has been a lot of talk about the running game, there has also been strong focus on Sanchez and his abilities in the passing game and whether he can become a top 10 quarterback in the NFL. 2. The Jets offensive line. They need to contain Bills defensive end Mario Williams and the rest of a very potent Bills defensive line. Jets right tackle Austin Howard will have his hands full with Williams, but if the Jets are going to make any headway they'll have to bring their ‘A' game in both pass protection and run blocking.
Key matchups: Jets offensive line vs. Bills defensive line. The Jets offensive line contains three Pro Bowlers -- left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, center Nick Mangold and right guard Brandon Moore. They will be facing a solid front four, including Williams, who is a pass-rushing powerhouse. This game may be won or lost in the trenches. “One of the Bills' strengths has always been their front four," right guard Matt Slauson said. "We know there's a target on our backs this week. How we go is how the offense goes.”
Injuries of note: Safety Eric Smith (hip/knee) will miss the opener as he continues to rehab a hip and knee injury suffered in the first preseason game. This hurts the Jets' depth at safety and could be an even bigger impact with the team expected to run a lot of nickel and dime. Tight end Dustin Keller (hamstring) may be a game-time decision.
Inside stuff: This could be the first game where last year's fourth-round pick, running back Bilal Powell, has an opportunity to really showcase his talents. Joe McKnight has been dealing with a hamstring injury, which means it will be up to Powell to balance starting RB Shonn Greene.
Connections: Bills receiver Brad Smith was drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 draft by the Jets. Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin was drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Bills and Jets cornerback Ellis Lankster was also drafted by the Bills in 2009, in the seventh round. Bills QB coach David Lee was offensive coordinator under Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano when he was the Dolphins' head coach in 2007.
Stat you should know: The Bills led the NFL in 2011, allowing the least amount of sacks (23). The Jets now have a faster, more potent pass rush with linebacker Bryan Thomas back from an Achilles injury, an always-motivated Aaron Maybin facing the team that selected him in the first round in 2009 and then cut him and rookie end Quinton Coples, a first-round pick.
Record watch: Tight end Dustin Keller (17 career TDs) needs two more touchdowns to pass Johnny Mitchell for fifth on the Jets' all-time list for most receiving TDs by a TE. He needs three TDs to pass Anthony Becht for fourth place. Linebacker Calvin Pace needs one sack to reach a career total of 40. Linebacker David Harris needs 0.5 sacks to reach a career total of 20. Cornerback Darrelle Revis needs two interceptions to reach a career total of 20.
Looking ahead: This first game already has division implications. The Jets must win to avoid putting themselves in a hole in the division right from the start. In addition, the Jets will be on the road for three straight weeks following the opening game.
Prediction: Jets 17, Bills 14