By Tyson Rauch
On Sunday the New York Jets (5-4) travel north to face the Buffalo Bills (3-7) at Ralph Wilson Stadium. These two teams met back in week three with the Jets winning 27-20 as Geno Smith threw for 331 yards while Bilal Powell grounded out 149 rushing yards. This week Gang Green enters the match-up rejuvenated coming off of a bye while the Bills are trying to regroup following a disappointing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Stick to the game plan
The Jets offense has had the most success when the game plan is built around the power running game. When the ground game gets going it wears down the opposing defense and takes pressure off of rookie quarterback Geno Smith and the passing game. Buffalo enters the game with the 23rd ranked rush defense, which should make New York’s plan of attack very obvious. Look for the Jets to pound running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell early and often against the Bills.
While the Bills defense may struggle against the run, they have no problem getting after the quarterback. Buffalo is ranked 15th against the pass and second in the NFL for sacks with 33. The Jets offensive line must do an excellent job in terms of blitz pick up and pass protection. Keep an eye on right tackle Austin Howard and left guard Brian Winters as they will be tested by Mario Williams (11 sacks), Jerry Hughes (6 sacks), Marcell Dareus (5 sacks), and Kyle Williams (5 sacks).
The Jets passing game should get three playmakers back on Sunday as Santonio Holmes and Jeff Cumberland return from injuries and Kellen Winslow comes back from suspension. The return of Holmes should offset the injury to wide receiver Jeremy Kerley while Winslow and Cumberland will provide Geno Smith a with a safety valve that can take advantage of mismatches in the middle of the Bills defense.
Stop the run
Defensively the game plan for the Jets is pretty obvious: stop the run and get after rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel. The Bills seventh-ranked ground attack is led by running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Gang Green’s front seven must do a consistent job of controlling the line of scrimmage and getting into the backfield. This could be another big day for New York linebackers David Harris and Demario Davis.
The Bills passing game has been a mess as quarterbacks have been coming in and out of the lineup due to injury. E.J. Manuel returned to the lineup last week but struggled against a physical Steeler defense. The Jets should take the same approach as Pittsburgh by playing aggressive at the line of scrimmage and forcing the rookie into bad decisions. Gang Green must remain aware of Manuel’s ability to scramble and move around the pocket.
Throw the records out
When these two division rivals play you can throw the teams’ records out as they mean next to nothing. This will be a hotly contested game between two teams that do not like each other. It is safe to expect a very physical match-up that will put a lot of pressure on the rookie quarterbacks. The outcome of the game could be determined purely by the play in the trenches.
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Tyson Rauch is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.