The supposed worst team in football has a legitimate shot at going 2-1 this week, when the Jets host the Bills on Sunday afternoon. If the Jets are going to avoid being a bottom-feeder, they need to win games like this one.
The Jets are getting healthy this week, with defensive end/linebacker Quinton Coples and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson both practicing and wide receiver Jeremy Kerley back from his concussion. They face a Bills team coming off their own high, with rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel having orchestrated a late-game touchdown drive against the Panthers last week in a 24-23 win.
This is also a pivotal week for both teams, who each enter the game 0-1 in the division. Both the Bills and Jets will be looking to avoid the basement of the AFC East.
Three things to watch for …
1. Super Mario
Bills defensive end Mario Williams set a franchise record with 4 1/2 sacks last week against the Panthers, a dominant performance for one of the game’s best edge rushers when he’s on. The Panthers had no answers for Williams, who was constantly in the backfield and wrapping his arms around the hips of Cam Newton.
“The fact that God touched this guy, like gave him unbelievable gifts – he’s got the height, the size, the length, the arms, the speed – that’s kind of what jumps out,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan. “And he plays hard, he’s smart. He’s also got Kyle Williams inside. I think Kyle Williams is one of the most underrated guys in the league [and] has been for a long time. He creates a lot of stuff and creates some one-on-one opportunities for Mario as well.”
There is good news as Williams had zero sacks and just four tackles in two games against the Jets last year.
2. Geno’s bounce back
It has been an uneven first two games of Geno Smith’s NFL career as the quarterback. Last Thursday at the Patriots, Smith showed more of the downside, with three interceptions in the fourth quarter – all decisions that could have been avoided and cost the Jets a chance at a statement win.
“When I look at him now, I see a player that is developing,” Bills head coach Doug Marrone said.
Marrone is familiar with Smith from his time at Syracuse when Smith was the quarterback at West Virginia and both programs were in the now-defunct Big East. The two faced each other last December in the Pinstripe Bowl, a game where Smith struggled as he went 16-of-24 passes for 187 yards with two touchdowns. The Syracuse defense frustrated and limited Smith after a record-setting senior season.
3. The Jets’ rush
The sample size is small, but through two games the Jets already have mustered nine sacks, tied for third in the league. But they go up against a Bills offensive line that has been very stout, allowing just one sack and owning the fourth-best rushing offense. The Jets will be bolstered by the additions of Coples and Wilkerson, who had a second half injury at the Patriots.
“You always take pride in it and as an O-line that’s about all you can judge yourself on as opposed to just your personal and coach’s evaluation of you individual play,” Bills center Eric Wood said. “But as a unit, we’ve done some things well.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.