With first place in the AFC East at stake, the Buffalo Bills host the New York Jets to kickoff the regular season. Neither team enters the new campaign with high expectations. The Jets seem to have embraced a full-fledged “tank,” while the Bills are teetering in that direction themselves. A loss in Week 1 to New York could initiate a rebuild even sooner than expected.
Here are three keys for Buffalo to avoid that:
1) Feed LeSean McCoy
As cliché as it is, getting the ball in LeSean McCoy’s hands is the single most important thing Buffalo can do, not only in Week 1 but throughout the entire season. There’s a reason why Sean McDermott said he’d play McCoy every snap if that’s what it takes to win; the Bills offense practically depends on it. Expect an increased workload for Shady this season, particularly in the passing game where offensive coordinator Rick Dennison has talked about getting him the ball more in open space. The Jets game plan is no secret, stop LeSean McCoy and make the offense one dimensional. Even they know that’s easier said than done.
2) O-line play
This will be a key not only in helping spring McCoy but also in protecting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. We already know the Bills offensive line can run block. They’ve led the way for the league’s top rushing attack in each of the last two seasons. The bigger issue is whether or not they can give Taylor enough time in the pocket to lead a competent passing attack. If the preseason was any indication, Taylor could spend a lot of time running for his life this season. The Bills O-line gets an early test in New York – their only noticeable strength is their defensive front – and it’s of the utmost importance that they perform well considering Taylor is still building chemistry with his revamped receiving corps.
3) Don’t overlook the Jets
The general consensus with the Jets is that they’re going to be one of the worst teams in NFL history this year, which could very well come to fruition. They have no obvious strengths outside of the defensive line. Their quarterback depth chart is the definition of mediocrity. Their only real weapons on offense are running backs Bilal Powell and Matt Forte, who’s beyond his prime. Look at this roster and it’s hard to find much salvageable talent outside of several established vets and a few young building blocks like safety Jamal Adams. And that’s exactly why this is the perfect storm for an upset. If the Bills think they’re going to cruise past this team, they’re in for a rude awakening. Buffalo isn’t so far ahead of the Jets that they can come in and think this will be a cake walk. For what it’s worth, McDermott has preached “respecting their opponent” all week, so we’ll see if the Bills practice what’s been preached.
At one point the Vegas Sportsbook was giving the Jets 9.5 points for this game. That’s slowly dwindled down to 8 in the Westgate Superbook in recent days. That number is a little better but being that it’s Week 1 of the season, it would still make me nervous if I’m expecting Buffalo to cover. Look, the Jets are going to be historically bad, yes. But are the Bills really that much better than them, that they’ll win by more than a TD? I’m hesitant. Defensively, Buffalo should absolutely dominate this feeble Jets offense. The question becomes is the Bills offense good enough to completely runaway from New York? If the Jets are even moderately successful in slowing down McCoy and the rushing attack, which with the defensive line they have could very well happen, this thing could become one of those low scoring, grind it out type games. Don’t forget that Taylor is still getting in sync with his receivers and it’s an intradivision matchup. Bills win but not overwhelmingly, 24-16.
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