Jets vs. Bills: 3 things to watch

Ryan Fitzpatrick.
TOM SZCZERBOWSKI/GETTY IMAGES

The great experiment that is the Jets’ 2012 season begins on Sunday afternoon against their AFC East rivals from Buffalo. There are more question marks than answers for the Jets, who have severe issues on offense and must jell in their secondary. Expectations are relatively high, even after last season’s 8-8 record.

Then, there’s that Tim Tebow fellow.

Three things to watch for

1. Better Bills offense 

After a strong start to last season, the Bills’ offense fizzled down the stretch and Buffalo lost eight of their last nine games. The decline was directly tied to the performance of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who signed a contract extension midseason then plummeted statistically. Six times in the season’s final nine games Fitzpatrick had multiple interceptions, including four times in the season finale at New England. His numbers weren’t perfect in preseason, but Fitzpatrick didn’t throw a single interception.

“Offensively, they’ve always had talent, but it was just a matter of putting the right drives together and being able to get those points on the board. Fitzpatrick has settled in now. He’s their bona fide leader,” Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin said. “They’re behind him, and they’re producing for him. It’s definitely a game where you’ve got to be on top of everything. You have to know what the game plan is. You have to know how they’re going to attack you and you have to execute.”

2. Troubles for the line

The struggles of the Jets’ offensive line during preseason were well documented, with whipping boy Wayne Hunter conceding three sacks against the Giants in the second preseason game. Hunter is gone and Austin Howard is the starting right tackle, meaning that Mario Williams must be licking his lips.

Entering his seventh season in the league, Williams has 53 career sacks and is going against a player in Howard with just one career start.

“We are trying to rush four straight and get it done. The biggest thing is we have some pretty good guys over here on this side of the ball that can get after the quarterback. We just want to go out and put pressure with four. That is the goal,” Williams said. “If you can put pressure with four, you have a lot better chance at winning games.”

Expect the Jets to give Howard some help on the right side, with fullback John Conner chipping in to provide extra protection.

3. Unveiling the Wildcat

It has been wall-to-wall Wildcat talk in Florham Park these days, with the Jets finally set to roll out their great offensive wrinkle. They used the Wildcat in 2009 and 2010 with current Bills wide receiver Brad Smith, but they’ve never had someone with the skill set of Tim Tebow to utilize in the role. Bills head coach Chan Gailey admitted that he didn’t know what to expect from Tebow or the Wildcat, a clear advantage for the Jets in their game preparation.

“It can be if you’re effective with it,” Tebow said of the element of surprise. “I think that’s the key. You have to have effective, efficient plays and that’s our goal.”

Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.


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