The football season is upon us. Yes, it’s finally here. The talks of how the Wildcat and Tim Tebow will be used will cease. No more crying over completion comparisons between Mark Sanchez and Tebow during 11-on-11 drills in practice. We’ll be able to see with our own eyes if the offensive line has really put last season’s woes behind them. The questions surrounding the inexperienced and young wide receivers will be answered.
And it all starts Sunday at 1 p.m. from MetLife Stadium.
The speculation surrounding this lightning rod of a team can be put on the shelf — if only for a few days.
Never mind if it’s the first game of the year, this match-up against the divisonal foe Buffalo Bills will be a measuring stick for a team that has a lot of questions surrounding them, particularly on offensive side of the ball.
Rex Ryan has never been shy about proclaiming the importance of divisional games, having said they are worth a game and a half when you start looking at tiebreakers for playoff spots. And their playoff resume starts Week 1. It’s been widely conceded that the New England Patriots will be the class of the AFC East once again, but the battle for second place will between the Jets and Bills — and, likely, a wildcard spot in the playoffs.
And these aren’t your older brother’s Bills either. They boast a revamped defense anchored by their $100 million stud defensive end, Mario Williams. Here’s everything you’ll need to know heading into the NFL’s kickoff weekend.
WHEN: Sunday, September 9, 2012 @ 1 p.m. EST (Can be seen on CBS or heard on ESPN Radio).
WHERE: MetLife Stadium / East Rutherford, NJ (Capacity: 82,500)
SERIES HISTORY: 103rd meeting / Bills lead 53-49 (Opening Day Series: Jets lead, 7-3)
LAST MEETING: BILLS 24 – @ JETS 27 (11/27/11)
NOTABLE: The Jets have won the last five regular season contests and seven of the last eight games since 11/2/08. During that stretch, New York has averaged 27.5 points a game while allowing an average of 16.1.
- BILLS — Chan Gailey / Third Season with Bills / Regular Season 28-38
- JETS — Rex Ryan / Fourth Season with Jets / Regular Season 28-20 / Postseason Record 4-2
- BILLS — OUT – CB Ron Brooks (foot). QUESTIONABLE – WR Stevie Johnson (groin). PROBABLE – WR Brad Smith (groin), RG Kraig Ubrik (low back).
- JETS — OUT – S Eric Smith (knee/hip), OL Dennis Landolt (knee) . QUESTIONABLE – DT Sione Po’uha (back), DT Mike DeVito (calf), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) . PROBABLE – WR Chaz Schilens (ankle), WR Santonio Holmes (ribs), CB Ellis Lankster (quad), LB David Harris (ankle), S Josh Bush (concussion), LB Nick Bellore (shoulder), RB Joe McKnight (hamstring), WR Stephen Hill (calf), OL Brandon Moore (hip), LB Bryan Thomas (ankle) S LaRon Landry (heel).
- JETS O-LINE vs. BILLS D-LINE: I’ve been hyping up the battle of the trenches all week. No need to rehash all the points from the story, so just click the link. I will say the key battle on the line will, obviously, be first year starter Austin Howard against All-Pro end Williams. Howard battled admirably against the Panthers’ Charles Johnson (12 sacks last season) during preseason. His next test will be no joke.
- SCOTT CHANDLER vs. BELL/LANDRY: The Jets struggles against pass-catching tight ends have been well documented. So have the big additions of Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry to the Jets already stellar defensive backfield. They definitely have the intimidation factor down, particularly in box against the run. The question will be how the perform in coverage. While not a name you think of regarding elite tight ends, Chandler is effective for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Last season at MetLife stadium, Chandler proved his effectiveness with six receptions for 50 yards.
- YOUNG WRs vs. YOUNG CBs: The Bills’ defensive backfield (Stephen Gilmore/rookie, Aaron Williams/2nd year) is young, leading many pundits to surmise the Jets will air it out against an untested secondary. Not so fast. This is still an unproven receiving corps, even with Holmes and Jeremy Kerley. And with a ball hawk like Jarius Byrd (13 career interceptions), it’ll be important that Sanchez in on the same page with all his receivers.
- C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills: Averaging 5.75 yards per touch last season, Spiller represents the type of weapon that hurt the Jets defense the most. As a “scat back”, Spiller’s skill set of outside shifty speed and pass-catching ability matches up perfectly on a situational basis against the Jets aging linebacker corps. Filling for an injured Fred Jackson in 2011, Spiller totaled 461 all-purpose yards with four touchdowns over the final four games. While the Jets have added speed on the outside with Aaron Maybin, his coverage skills are still in question. And don’t expect aging Calvin Pace or Bryan Thomas to keep pace with the Clemson product.
- Tim Tebow, ATH, Jets: By design, I think Tebow is the x-factor for his offense. He’ll be brought in to spark an offense and keep the opposing defenses off balance. Isn’t that the definition of an x-factor? Of course, I have no concrete basis for this pick as Ryan and offensive coordinator have kept the Tebow package under wraps. But by all accounts we’ve been told that his role will be to change the game.
THE PICK: Bills 10 — NY Jets 14. It won’t be pretty, the Jets will find a way to squeak out a win. I think the Bills’ front four will cause problems for Sanchez and the offense, but the Jets defense will be dominant. A touchdown from the defense or specials teams wouldn’t surprise me.