(CBSNewYork) — The NFL season has finally started. And Sunday the New York Jets kick off their 2020 campaign on the road against AFC East rival Buffalo Bills. The division is wide open, with the departure of Tom Brady from the New England Patriots and the rise of the Bills and the Miami Dolphins. But where does this leave the Jets?
Without the benefit of a preseason, it’s harder to get a read on the Jets, who haven’t made the playoffs in a decade. The team improved as last season progressed. Sam Darnold appeared more comfortable executing an offense that didn’t produce much in the way of yards or points. He threw for 3,024 yards and 19 touchdowns in his 13 games. Running back Le’Veon Bell proved underwhelming too, averaging a paltry 3.2 yards per carry on the season.
Much of the blame goes to the offensive line, which was overhauled in the off-season. The team drafted Mekhi Becton in the first round to play left tackle and keep Darnold upright. They also signed center Connor McGovern from the Denver Broncos and right tackle George Fant from the Seattle Seahawks. At least four of the five starters will be different from last year’s opener. The unit has yet to play together in a game, so any cohesion they develop remains a work in progress. For that reason, so does the offense.
The Bills are coming off a Wild Card season, and have the weapons to win the AFC East. A lot will depend on quarterback Josh Allen. “I think Josh Allen has [improved enough to help his football team],” says White. “And he’s really shown, because he’s so mobile, and he’s a dual-threat quarterback. So that’s a big plus for him. And he has more weapons around him than Sam Darnold does with the Jets. I think Josh Allen takes that step forward that he needs to take this year.”
The Bills offense is loaded, with the addition of Stefon Diggs to a receiver group that already included John Brown and Cole Beasley. The running game will flow through Devin Singletary, who averaged 5.1 yards per carry last season. Impressive rookie Zack Moss will also compete for carries.
The Bills defense should continue to be one of the NFL’s best. They ranked in the top five against both the run and the pass. Tre’Davious White is one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks. Tremaine Edmunds is a breakout star in the making at linebacker. There isn’t a weakness to be found in this unit.
The Bills have enough talent and experience to contend for a division title, and the odds show it. “The Buffalo Bills right now, they’re co-favorites, plus-125, with the New England Patriots,” says White. “That’s, mathematically implied, a 44 percent chance the Bills are going to win the division this year. They haven’t won the division in 25 years. So it’s been a long time coming. The Bills fans have been waiting for this.”
The Jets will have their hands full. But oddsmakers believe they’re up to the task. “The Bills opened 6 1/2, and it’s still 6 1/2,” says White. “But this is interesting, 77 percent of the tickets are on Buffalo. So for every ticket the sportsbooks are writing, eight out of 10 are the Buffalo Bills. But the line is not moving. That says the wise guys are taking the Jets +6 1/2.”
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