The New York Jets will open their season on the road to play the Buffalo Bills in Week 1. What are the top things to watch?For the New York Jets, Sunday is all about the opponent. No more tank talk, no more outside noise on how bad this team is going to be this year, it’s a Sunday fun day.
That said, I think I speak on behalf of every Jets fan that every Sunday, we’ll be cheering for a victory. But if and when we lose, the loss will sting a little less because we see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
I pride myself on being the most optimistic Jets fan on planet Earth, (it’s true, read my Twitter bio @BoyGreen25). Let’s break down the top-five things to watch in the season opener!
5. STOP LeSean McCoy
Here’s the worst kept secret in the NFL: You stop LeSean McCoy, you stop the Buffalo Bills. Here’s a fun fact: In McCoy’s two seasons in Buffalo, the Bills are 8-2 when he runs for over 100 yards. When he doesn’t, the Bills are abysmal.
Although that’s easier said than done I’m afraid. The Jets haven’t exactly been the same against the run since NT Damon Harrison split to the New York Giants. Gang Green gave up over 1,500 yards on the ground last year.
Looking at the two-deep backfield for the Bills, it appears that they are going to ride McCoy this season. He’s had 200-plus carries every year of his career outside of his rookie campaign. New Bills head coach Sean McDermott continued that conversation earlier this week:
Sean McDermott on LeSean McCoy's workload this Sunday. Says "whatever it takes to win the game" even if that means playing every snap. @WGRZ pic.twitter.com/TG6qyTmqCJ
— Heather Prusak (@haprusak) September 6, 2017
EVERY SNAP?! While that seems unlikely, this season could rival 2013 with his 300-plus snap count. He’s got a lot of tread on the tires and is getting up there in age. If the Jets can contain McCoy’s impact, they have a great chance of coming out victorious in Buffalo.
4. The Battle of the Tight Ends
There are three big keys that come to mind when thinking about tight ends.
- Targets in the red zone: Tight ends provide a big target that can serve as decoys or run fade routes in the corner of the end zone in single coverage.
- Security Blanket: Tight ends can stay near the line of scrimmage and roll into the flat—or across the middle—giving the QB a dump-off option.
- Attacking the seam: Tight ends are faster than linebackers and bigger than cornerbacks and safeties. It’s a mismatch nightmare for the opposing defense and can be attacked all day. Just ask anyone who has to play the New England Patriots.
The Bills have a high-priced guy in Charles Clay who can hit on all three of those keys. Problem is, they don’t use him enough. Blame Tyrod Taylor.
But it’s not like the Jets come into this game fully equipped. The team’s ‘secret weapon,’ Austin Seferian-Jenkins is serving a two game suspension that’ll keep him out of action until Week 3.
One thing to watch out for with the Jets is Will Tye, who they claimed off waivers from the Giants. Depending on how fast he can pick up the offense, expect the Jets to give him significant reps in this opening tilt.
Sheldon Richardson, who had been with the Jets for the last four years, is gone. While some say the Jets are screwed, I suggest otherwise. The only time playing the big three together all at the same time worked was in the Madden video game.
Now the Jets can let their two stars, Leonard Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson, dominate. Wilkerson, by the way, is coming into this season healthy which is huge.
If rookie safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye can avoid being overwhelmed by the speed of the pro game, the Bills will have trouble moving the ball against the Jets. If they can’t, Gang Green could be in trouble.
This is going to be a divisional slugfest that’s going to be an ugly 17-16 kind of game, in my opinion. Defense wins championships. Let’s see if they win season openers.
2. A QB’s Best Friend
No, it’s not a tight end, but a running back. Matt Forte and Bilal Powell better saddle up because they’re going to get the rock early and often for this team. Outside of that, I don’t see how the Jets are going to be able to score consistently throughout the season.
Forte may be getting up there in age, but he still has some gasin the tank. An injury riddled 2016 campaign didn’t only derail his season but seemingly his perception as an elite level running back in the NFL.
While he’s not what he used to be, he’s still a viable option out of the backfield. Heck his running mate, Powell, should serve as the fresh legs and finally get his chance as a feature back down the stretch.
I expect he’s going to get his name called early, as opposed to last season when Chan Gailey was making some questionable personnel decisions. If the Jets want to keep this game close and have a chance to win, they need to establish the running game.
1. Quarterback Driven League
While it sounds like a crappy cliche, it’s true. That’s why the Jets haven’t been relevant for some time. That could all change in 2018, but let’s deal in the present. Josh McCown is the starting quarterback of this squad.
Here’s another fact: He’s gone 2-20 in his last 22 starts. That’s not a winning recipe, quite literally, but we’ll put that aside and focus on the positives.
He’s a savvy veteran who has been around (the Jets are his eighth team). While his stats are nothing to run home to mom about, he’s steady.
If you can remember back to Week 1 of the 2015 season, the Jets opened the season against the Cleveland Browns. McCown was under center and led the Browns right down the field on the opening drive.
He didn’t punch it into the endzone—ironically he got the ball punched out when he did a John Elway helicopter move heading into the end zone. But every snap before that, he was crisp and efficient. In his limited preseason snaps, he showed that same savvy. Expect the same level-headedness in Week 1 in a hostile environment at New Era Field.