Week 10 — vs. Buffalo (Thursday Night)Here it is — the matchup everyone circled on their calendars when the schedule first came out, as Rex Ryan makes his return to MetLife Stadium to face the Jets for the first time since his firing. The whole “return of Rex” aspect of this game will be nice for headlines, but this game has huge implications and will be more than just the return of a coach. These team will likely be vying for a wild card spot, or even the division title, and this primetime Thursday night game may go a long way in determining which team plays into January.
The current versions of the Bills and Jets are pretty much cut from the same cloth. They both have tremendous defenses, strong run games, dangerous receiving threats, and question marks at QB. Jerry Hughes, Marcel Darreus, Mario Williams, and Kyle Williams make up a stout defensive front, and the back end of the defense is strong with emergence of Stephon Gilmore. Buffalo has the edge in the run game after acquiring LeSean McCoy, and Percy Harvin and Sammy Watkins will form a dynamic receiving duo. The only hole on this Bills roster is under center, as they have made it clear that all three QBs — Matt Cassel, E.J. Manuel, and Tyrod Taylor — are in the mix for the starting job.
You can expect a hard fought, physical war between these two teams in a game that can go either way.
Week 11 — @ HoustonThe only sure things on this Texans roster are J.J. Watt and DeAandre Hopkins. Offensively, the QB competition that will be highlighted on “Hard Knocks” this year will yield either Brian Hoyer of Ryan Mallett — both can be good, steady players, but only time will tell. Rookie Jaelen Strong needs to step up opposite Hopkins to fill the void left by Andre Johnson and give whoever the QB may be another option. Arian Foster is an All-Pro RB if he is healthy, but he has missed 11 games over the last two seasons. Defensively, Vince Wilfork’s play tremendously declined last season, Jadeveon Clowney is coming off a knee injury, Brian Cushing has missed 22 games over the last three seasons, and there are major question marks in the secondary. I believe they have an outside shot at making the playoffs, but the answers to all of these question marks need to be positive for that to happen.
Week 12 — vs. Miami
The Dolphins are the Jets’ first repeat opponent of the season — here is what I said about them in my breakdown for when these two teams meet in week four:
The Dolphins can be a tough team to beat this year due to their balance. They were near the bottom of the league last season defensively against both the pass and the run, but the addition of Ndamukong Suh will undoubtedly help. They were in the middle of the pack offensively, but the improvement of Ryan Tannehill along with the additions of Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, and DaVante Parker will help the passing game. Lamar Miller had a very productive season last year (1,099 yards and eight TDs), and the addition of Jay Ayaji, who was the most underrated RB in the draft in my opinion, will make for a very strong run game. Miami matches up well with the Jets because they have the offensive balance to keep the defense guessing and have some success, while the one-two punch of Suh and Cameron Wake can exploit the Jets offensive line and get inside Geno’s head.This meeting with the Dolphins is a bit more favorable than the one in week four for the Jets, as it will be played in the swamps of New Jersey, rather than in England near the old Jersey.
Week 13 — @ Giants
These teams last met on Christmas Eve four years ago in a 29-14 Giants win. The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl that season, but both teams have been trending in the same direction since then.
The Giants strength this season will undoubtedly be their offense. Around the time Odell Beckham Jr. burst onto the scene last season, Victor Cruz tore his patellar tendon. A healthy Cruz will give Eli Manning a dangerous trio of WRs to throw to, with Reuben Randle being the third target. Shane Vereen was a key addition for this team in offseason, as he will be a weapon for both Manning and in a run game that already includes Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams.
The downfall of this team has been, and perhaps will be again this year, its defense. At the back end, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did not live up to the contract he received last season and Prince Amukamara could not stay on the field. There is no depth beyond those players, so Tom Coughlin needs to hope they stay healthy. An already shaky secondary also lost Antrel Rolle to free agency, who was the brains of the defense and the team’s main generator of turnovers. Jameel McClain and Jon Beason can form a solid linebacker combo, but that is if Beason can stay healthy as has only played 20 games over the last five seasons. The defensive front is this defense’s strength, but it may have lost a key piece as Jason Pierre-Paul was involved in a freak firework accident on the 4th of July that reportedly caused severe damage to his hand.
Big Blue’s offense should put a lot of points up on the board, but with this defense, a lot of shootouts can be expected.
You can look at the first quarter of the schedule and say it is tough, and you can look at the second quarter of the schedule and say it is a bit on the easier side, but you really can’t make anything of the third quarter. With the Bills’ QB issue, Texans’ questions all over the place, and Giants’ defensive questions, these games can go either way.