THE GAME: The Jets (0-1) at the Buffalo Bills (0-1) at New Era Field in Orchard Park, N.Y. on Thursday, Sept. 15 at 8:25 p.m.
THE WEATHER: It's not fall yet, but it's Buffalo, so expect a crisp, cool night -- great football weather. Temperatures should be about 60 at kickoff and dipping into the mid-50s as the game goes along.
WHAT IT MEANS: It's Week 2, so don't panic but … well, keep the panic button handy. Because while an 0-2 start wouldn't kill the Jets it would certainly open the question of whether they're going to start the season 1-5 or 0-6. Remember, their next four games are against playoff teams and three of those are on the road -- at Kansas City (1-0), vs. Seattle (1-0), at Pittsburgh (1-0), and at Arizona (0-1). If the Jets fall to 0-2 they may need to win three of those four to stay afloat in the division. And good luck with that.
PLAYER TO WATCH: CB Darrelle Revis. Both he and his coaches insist they're not worried after his disastrous opener against Bengals receiver AJ Green. Maybe things get a little easier for him against Buffalo's Sammy Watkins because they have a lesser quarterback (Tyrod Taylor) and Watkins is battling foot issues. Still, it's worth remembering how Watkins torched the Jets -- and mostly Revis -- for 11 catches for 136 yards in the Week 17 game last year that kept the Jets out of the playoffs.
It'll be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers plays this after isolating Revis on Green for most of the Jets' 23-22 loss to Cincinnati last Sunday. Will he give Revis the help he promised he'd give him last week? Or will he trust that this isn't the beginning of the decline for the all-pro corner and leave him one-on-one?
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Jets defensive line against Buffalo's offensive line. The Jets' defensive line was fantastic in the opener, sacking Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton seven times, hitting him a ton, and never allowing the Bengals to get their running game going. Meanwhile, in the Bills' opener in Baltimore, their O-line was terrible. Taylor was only sacked twice, but their vaunted run game produced just 65 yards and in part because Taylor was often rushed the offense as a whole finished with a comically low 160 yards. And now they have just four days to prepare for a devastating Jets front that now gets Sheldon Richardson back?
The Jets' front of Richardson, Mo Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Steve McLendon can push around anybody. But this seems like a mismatch -- especially with left tackle Cordy Glenn out (see below). And if it is, the Jets should have little trouble escaping with a win this time around.
INJURY REPORT: It looks like LB Jordan Jenkins (calf) will miss another game for the Jets, since he's officially "doubtful", as is CB Darryl Roberts (foot). QB Bryce Petty (shoulder) is the only player "out". DE Mo Wilkerson (ankle, toe), LB David Harris (shoulder), and LB Bruce Carter (shoulder) are all "questionable". Wilkerson and Harris are definitely expected to play. … For the Bills: LT Cordy Glenn (ankle) is out, and he'll be replaced by Cyrus Kouandjio, the Bills' second-round pick from 2014. WR Sammy Watkins (foot), TE Charles Clay (knee), and DT Jerel Worthy (knee) are questionable.
THE PICK: A road game on a short week is always a tough spot, but the good news for the Jets is the Bills are a mess. After a tumultuous summer (an injury to rookie LB Reggie Ragland, the suspension of DT Marcel Dareus and the suspension and release of RB Karlos Williams), the Bills got off to a terrible start against a mediocre Ravens team. It showed what many around the NFL suspected -- that they have a questionable offense led by a mediocre quarterback (who just got a five-year, $90 million deal).
The Jets' opener was disappointing, but they showed they have a dominant defensive front, a pretty good offensive line and plenty of offensive weapons. They were undone by mistakes that likely won't happen again -- Brandon Marshall's drop, Ryan Fitzpatrick's erratic throws in the second half, and Nick Folk's missed extra point and blocked field goal. The defensive line alone should be able to keep the Bills to around 200 yards of offense. I know that Rex Ryan's Bills have seemed to have the number of his old team, but this matchup does not favor him at all. And really, there's an air of desperation for the Jets because they absolutely know how imperative it is that they don't start 0-2. … Jets 27, Bills 21.
MY RECORD: 0-1.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
Here's a quick look at the Bills through my three-question interview with Howard Simon, co-host of the morning show on WGR Sportsradio 550 in Buffalo. You can follow him on Twitter at @hsimon62, and listen to his show at wgr550.com:
1.) From afar it looked like Rex Ryan did pretty well to get the Bills to 8-8 last season, and it was only the Bills' second .500-or-better season in 11 years. So is he really on the hot seat this year? Did he wear out his welcome that quickly?
Howard Simon: I don't think Rex is on the hot seat. The owner of the Bills, Terry Pegula, has said they've only missed the playoffs one year in his ownership which is his way of saying he won't hold Rex accountable for the entire 16-year playoff drought. When Pegula bought the Sabres, he didn't make any quick moves and fans were certainly tired of the GM at the time. Pegula did eventually fire coach Lindy Ruff and later the GM, Darcy Regier, but he gave both time under his ownership to show what they could do. The Bills have also been preaching continuity since they seemingly go through GMs and coaches every three years or so. It would seem odd to preach that and fire the coach after two years. I think the only scenario where Rex gets fired is if the season is a five-alarm fire. Maybe 4 or 5 wins, the defense looks bad and players are rebelling.
2.) I know the Bills have a way out of that five-year, $90 million contract they gave QB Tyrod Taylor, but it's still a lot of money for a career backup who had a good -- but not great -- season last year. Do the Bills really feel he's the long-term answer to their QB woes?
HS: I don't think the Bills believe it and I think the structure of the extension will bear that out. If you ask me, that contract was part public relations and avoiding a possible awkward situation in the locker room. It was a bad off season for the Bills with stories about injuries and guys getting in trouble off the field. As late as last December, the GM Doug Whaley said he thought it would be a good idea to see another full season of Taylor before giving him a new contract. After they signed the deal, the Bills said they were impressed enough with what they saw in off season workouts and the start of training camp, they felt it was the right time to do the deal. I personally don't buy that. Perhaps they felt there would be resentment in the room since he was extremely low paid by starting quarterback standards and as I said, perhaps they just wanted to release some good news for a change. The fact they can walk away from everything after this season speaks volumes about whether or not they are convinced Taylor is a franchise QB.
3.) Considering Rex Ryan is known for defense, that side of the ball was a disappointment last year. Will it be better this year?
HS: I think the defense will be better simply due to familiarity. Last season went south for a couple of reasons. The players looked lost at times in his defense and apparently too many of them didn't take the initiative to speak with coaches and try and learn what they were supposed to be doing. Rex said he also tried to marry some of his concepts with some from Jim Schwartz's old scheme. He was the defensive coordinator in 2014. That proved to be a disaster. What could hold the defense back though are injuries they suffered in the off season. They expected the top two draft picks, Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland, to start right away and have an immediate impact. Lawson was going to help make up for the loss of pass rush when they cut Mario Williams. Ragland was going to be a badly needed thumping, three-down linebacker. He's out for the year and Lawson might not be back until midseason. The four-game suspension of Marcell Dareus only made matters worse. Outside of Jerry Hughes, the linebacking group is a big question mark and safety could be an issue too if Aaron Williams can't stay healthy and stay on the field. For what its worth, the defense looked very good in the opener in Baltimore. They stopped the run, only gave up one big play -- albeit a touchdown but the only TD they gave up. The pass rush was very strong, harassing Joe Flacco while producing four sacks.