Ah, the importance of match-ups in the NFL. Last week, we pointed out here at TOJ along with many other Jets fans how essential it was for them to do whatever it takes to stop the ball from consistently reaching Julian Edelman’s hands. While they have tried to prevent this, Edelman scorched the Jets with conversions all game long, and it was basically the nail in the Jets’ coffin. With match-ups ever so important in a game that should be evenly matched between the Jets and Bills, let’s take a look at some that could end up tilting the game either way.
The Jets come back to the gridiron healthier than they have been all season, with Quinton Coples, Jeremy Kerley, and Muhammad Wilkerson all ready to play. The Bills, on the other hand, will be without backup guard Doug Legursky, star cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and backup corner Ron Brooks, meaning Justin Rogers will get the start. Jarius Byrd, one of the NFL premier safeties, will be questionable going into the game. Now, on to the match-ups…
Jets Receivers On the Boundaries
With both Gilmore and Brooks out, the Bills will be forced to start Leodis McKelvin and Justin Rogers on the outskirts of their defense. ogers hasn’t hit the ground running with his starting spot this year, and he gave up a 40 yard touchdown last week versus Carolina. McKelvin has actually started off this season well, and he’s playing better than he ever has in his underwhelming career. Still, this could be the game for the Jets to attack the boundaries against the Bills’ corners.
The Bills’ defense features some adept talent through the middle of the field in coverage. Rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso has been electric in the first two games of the season, and he’s been particularly effective picking up receivers through the middle in zone coverage. Strong safety Aaron Williams is a converted cornerback, so his coverage skills, specifically in man-to-man coverage, should come as no surprise. If the Jets want to help Geno out more so than they did versus New England, they’ll need to challenge the Bills’ starting corners early and often in man coverage, while trying to avoid the middle of the field baring blatantly open receivers (especially if Byrd suits up to play). Santonio Holmes has a big chance to regain the production he uses to put up on the stat-sheet. Jeremy Kerley could even see most of his snaps come out wide in his return to further test the Bills.
An Balanced Jets Offense vs the Bills’ Blitz-Happy Defensive Scheme
It’s no surprise that the Bills have been blitzing more effectively with the arrival of former Jets’ defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. In fact, the Bills rank fourth so far in 2013 in holding opposing passers to a lousy 50% completion percentage when they send five or more defenders to rush the passer. Now, Marty Mornhinweg has frustrated most of us Jet fans already this season. He has sent Chris Ivory and his 4.9 yards per carry to the bench in favor of Bilal Powell (3.6 yards per carry). While that was frustrating enough, the Jets have been arguably passing the ball too much overall this season, especially versus New England when the ground game was steam-rolling.
When you consider how often Mornhinweg likes to spread the field and pass, and the fact that most of these passes have come out of the pistol or the shotgun, it’s astounding that Geno Smith is still standing. Smith could be under serious duress from Mario Williams (4.5 sacks last week!) and the Bills if the Jets don’t keep them honest with not only some run plays out of the basic I-formation, but some from out of the shotgun.
Jets’ Pass Rush vs E.J Manuel
Rookie quarterback E.J Manuel is pretty special. He’s mobile, he senses pressure around him, he can make almost all of the throws while escaping the pocket and on the run, and he can break your defense down with his legs. So, it’s kind of a difficult situation to make your gameplan for if you’re the Jets. Of course, you need pressure on the quarterback. Manuel is a rookie, and his decision making is still very questionable, especially in a collapsing pocket. The Jets’ strength is getting penetration through the interior of the opponent’s offensive line, but you don’t want Manuel to have an easy exit of the pocket.
While the Jets can still get interior pressure against a shaky Bills’ interior line with Sheldon Richardson facing Colin Brown, the pass rush needs to be more of an all-around effort. Antwan Barnes, Garrett McIntyre, Calvin Pace, and the returning Quinton Coples (not evident how much he’ll play) will need to keep a strong edge to collapse the pocket so they can contain Manuel.
New Special Teamers
With kicker Dustin Hopkins out for the Bills, the infamous Dan Carpenter is slated to start for the Bills, and we all know what that mean. Carpenter has floated around the league just about everywhere trying to get another kicking job, but his missed field goals haven’t made it easy. For the Jets, Ryan Quigley, who was with the Jets this summer, will start at punter after the Jets cut the underwhelming Rob Malone earlier this week. Sure, it’s just kicking, but these players could change the slate of the game in a negative way if they disappoint.
Single Player Matchups
Antonio Cromartie vs Stevie Johnson
This is a big one. Johnson is one of the most underrated players in the league, and he’s been proving it this year with his production in an offense led by a a rookie quarterback in E.J Manuel. Cromartie says he’s finally feeling 100% from his hip frustrations, but he might still be at risk with Johnson’s finesse and challenging route running. Cromartie needs to have a distinct comeback game so that Johnson doesn’t have a Vincent Jackson-like day. This should be a good one to watch.
Austin Howard vs Mario Williams:
Nothing was better than Howard, then an undrafted rookie in his first NFL start, getting the best of Williams in last year’s season opener. Howard will have to have a similar performance if he wants Williams to be a non-factor in tomorrow’s game, which is a tough task. The Jets will likely give blitz-protection to his side of the line on third downs.
I’m taking the Jets this week, in a game that they should win. They’re healthier than ever, and the defensive line could win them this game with their dominance versus a Bills’ offensive line that has shown some holes. Geno Smith has to perform, but he gets his easiest task of this season versus a depleted Bills’ secondary. Score: Jets – 24, Bills – 17