Football is finally truly back! The New York Jets kick off the 2019 season with a week 1 matchup against the Buffalo Bills. Much has changed for the Jets this offseason, and there are plenty of storylines to follow. Let’s preview the Jets regular season opener with some weird stats, stories, and predictions.
It’s one of the most anticipated debuts in the NFL this season. Everyone is amped up to see Le’veon Bell as a Jet in week 1. So, how has he fared in his first game of the regular season in the past? In his career, he’s averaging 81 rush YPG and 47 receiving YPG in his first game (128 total yards per game). Now, not all of those were week 1 due to past suspensions and everything. But as a result, he does have a experience with a bit of a staggered start to the season. Yes, nothing compares to an entire year off, but Bell hasn’t had a problem hitting the ground running in the past.
There has to be one memory lingering in the minds of the Jets players this week. Particularly members of the defense. The last time the Jets faced off against the Buffalo at MetLife, Matt Barkley and the Bills handed them one of the worst losses of the Maccagnan/Bowles era. The 41-10 drubbing last November led to a memorable interview with Jamal Adams where he really started to express brutal honesty about the state of the team at the time. The common refrain from Adams was that something had to change. He carried that mindset through the offseason, as well, recruiting hard for players that can be difference makers. Now with a new season on the horizon and new players in the fold, Adams and the Jets need a performance akin to the strongest Listerine in existence, to rid the bad taste they have in their mouth from that matchup last season. Gregg Williams told fans at training camp that the team will defend MetLife. A great first step will be redeeming that home-field embarrassment from last season.
One of the most important matchups in week 1 is one that I think not many anticipated. Rookies Blake Cashman and Devin Singletary both have taken on more responsibility than was initially thought. For Cashman, it was the injury to Avery Williamson that will now see him taking up a bigger role in the Jets’ defense. For Singletary, it was the Bills trading away Lesean McCoy last week. As a result, this matchup will be an interesting one to watch in week 1. Cashman is one of the best coverage linebackers the Jets have (both a good and bad thing). He’s likely to faceoff against Singletary in coverage at points throughout the game when Frank Gore isn’t on the field. Should be interesting to see who gets the upperhand.
What if…Heroes and Zeroes
If the Jets win…
Hero: Adam Gase
Zero: Josh Allen
If the Jets win on Sunday, it’s going to take a strong performance from the offense. The Bills defense is only improving with a strong young core and a solid defensive coach in Sean McDermott. The Jets winning on Sunday is going to mean Adam Gase is able to unlock their defense with the new weapons at his disposal now in New York. Doing so without Chris Herndon will be particularly impressive and an encouraging sign for the long term success of the offense. In addition, I believe a Jets win means they were able to put the game on Josh Allen by forcing the Bills to air it out. I don’t think Allen is capable of winning games without strong support from the defense and the running game. Putting the game in his hands is best case scenario for the Jets.
If the Bills win…
Hero: Frank Gore
Zero: Jets defensive line
If the Bills win on Sunday, I believe it will be because they were able to establish the run with Frank Gore and convert big third downs. If the Jets can’t hold Gore under 80 yards, they could be in trouble. The Bills best chance any week is controlling time of possession as much as they can on offense and relying on their defense. Their improved offensive line increases their chances to do so. As much of a fear-point as the Jets cornerback group has been, I actually think its the defensive line that could make or break this game. The addition of Quinnen Williams makes them a formidable group in theory but it’s not always that simple. If the Jets struggle to stop the run and can’t manage to get pressure on Josh Allen, it could be a problem.
Long Live Le’veon
On the final preseason episode of One Jets Drive, Curtis Martin spoke to Le’veon Bell about becoming royalty in New York and what it takes to still maintain a hardworking mindset with all of that. I think Bell becomes official royalty on Sunday. The Jets will try to ease him into things but once they see what he does on the field and hear how the crowd reacts to him, they’ll have no choice but to let him loose a bit. I think Bell gets 125 total yards and 2 touchdowns in his first game as a Jet. Equally important, I also think we’ll get at least one play to replay all week of him breaking someone’s ankles.
Dreams & Nightmares
As much as the Jets remember the Bills 41-10 victory at MetLife last season, I think the Bills remember the Sam Darnold performance in Buffalo last December. Especially since the Darnold’s highlights were on repeat all offseason. I think Darnold gives them some more nightmares on Sunday. Darnold and the Jets offense convert more than 50% on third down, including multiple clutch connections to Jamison Crowder. Darnold will also add a new layer to his arsenal with a Manning-style naked bootleg touchdown run (except way more athletic), taking advantage of a young overaggressive Bills defense. I’m not sure there’s a more pleasant dream for Jets fans than knowing their franchise quarterback will haunt their in-state division rival not just in week 1 but for years to come.