8:25 PM EST, CBS – Line: Pick -1, Over/Under: 40.5
It’s may be cliché to label a game this early in the season as a must-win, but that’s precisely the situation that both the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills find themselves in, as they battle at Orchard Park under the bright lights of Thursday Night Football. Throughout the week, the various media outlets went on to overstate the doom coinciding with an 0-2 start to the campaign, as barely 20% of teams that earn that dubious mark , end up actually advancing to the Playoffs. And here’s another oft-used cliché: You can’t win a Super Bowl in September, but you sure can lose one. Of course, the Jets (0-1, T-Last in AFC East) very nearly qualified for the Postseason a year ago (10-6, 2nd in AFC East), before inexplicably falling to their division rival in the Regular Season Finale, the second time in 2015 that they would experience that outcome. However, there was plenty of optimism entering 2016, particularly after the team was able to bring back veteran Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick after a lengthy contract negotiation that lasted for what felt like the entirety of the Offseason. The traveled veteran apparently found a home in the Big Apple, posting career-highs with his sixth different team (he started for Buffalo from 2009 to 2012); the 34-year old completed 59.6% of his attempts for 3,905 yards (244.1 yards/game), thirty-one touchdowns to fifteen interceptions, all the while posting a solid 63.63 Quarterback Rating. In fact, his thirty-one touchdown passes stands as a franchise record, so you can see just how important it was for Head Coach Todd Bowels and Co. to get the bearded one back in Gang Green. With that said, after a disappointing 23-22 defeat to the Bengals, they’re going to have to correct a number of things if they’re indeed going to avoid falling into a two-game hole. In a tight, back and forth affair, the Jets struggled mightily to slow down Cincinnati’s passing game, allowing Andy Dalton to carve them up to the tune of 366 yards on a comfortable 23-of-30 passing, for a touchdown and an interception. Much has been made of All-World Cornerback Darrelle Revis permitting 180 yards and a score on twelve catches to A.J. Green, causing many in the media to question whether or not the seven-time Pro Bowler has in fact lost a step. The jury is out there, but a light needs to be shined on this team’s lack of discipline, for on Sunday they were flagged seven times for ninety-five yards, serving as a major reason as to why they couldn’t claim victory despite possessing the football for nearly ten minutes longer than the visiting side and outrushing them by ninety-five yards. Similarly, in New York’s two meetings with Buffalo in 2015 (a pair of 22-17 defeats), they served as the architects of their own demise; the Jets posted over 300 yards of offense in both contests, rushing for 128 and 122 respectively, but committed a staggering seven turnovers in the two matchups, with Fitzpatrick having a heavy hand in those struggles. Neither game could be described as a proverbial pelt on his wall, as he managed to complete just 43.66% of his passes for 374 yards, four touchdowns yet a miserable five interceptions, all the while averaging a meager 5.27 yards per attempt. Simply put, the tenth-year veteran must perform at a higher level tonight if he’s to validate the Front Office’s faith in retaining his services, and even more so, if he wishes to extend his stay with the team beyond 2016.
Meanwhile, if there was one team that had a terrible Offseason and needed a big win to kick off the 2016 season, it was the Bills. And yes they had a terrible Offseason, and no they didn’t get that victory. So let’s take a moment to run down their sad summer, shall we? First it was Pro Bowl Defensive Tackle Marcell Dareus, who ran afoul of the league’s Substance Abuse Policy and was thus suspended for the first four games of the campaign. Ditto for Right Tackle Seantrel Henderson, who will also be barred from participation for the first quarter of the season. Then came the disappointing news that the team would be without each of their first two Draft Picks, Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland, for at least the first two months of the term, with the former out until late October after undergoing Offseason Shoulder Surgery while the latter is out for the year with a torn ACL. But it didn’t stop there, folks, as backup Tailback Karlos Williams was unexpectedly released shortly before Preseason began, with reasons for his departure ranging wildly. Finally, Quarterback Tyrod Taylor put pen to paper on a lengthy new contract, that left many around the football world scratching their heads, as Buffalo made a rather lucrative commitment to another middling Quarterback, which was a mistake they’ve made not too long ago when the aforementioned Fitzpatrick donned their colors. So yeah, few teams needed some positive press heading into Week One like Rex Ryan’s charges, and opening up at Baltimore, one of Ryan’s many previous stomping grounds, seemed like an appropriate place to do so. Too bad they couldn’t finish the deal. In a sloppy 13-7 loss, the visiting side was absolutely anemic offensively, accounting for a pathetic 160 total yards (ninety-five passing, sixty-five rushing), recording just eleven First Downs, and converting only three of their thirteen Third Downs. Furthermore, as was the case last season, they continued to draw the ire of the Officials, being penalized eight times for eighty-nine yards. Taylor was a poor 15-of-22 for 111 yards, while rushing for eleven, sustaining a pair of sixteen sacks for a loss of sixteen yards, while LeSean McCoy added just fifty-eight yards and the team’s lone score on sixteen carries. Oh, and Sammy Watkins? He only had forty-three yards on four catches, before eventually limping off the field due to pain in his surgically repaired foot. Not to mention, Left Tackle Cordy Glenn (who also got PAID in the Offseason) left the contest with a sprained ankle, sidelining him for tonight’s division battle. While it may seem far too early to pronounce any team as an unmitigated mess at this juncture of the campaign, just remember these guys got a head start, which is likely to spell a very long final four months for Bills fans.
Predicted Outcome: Jets 20, Bills 14