After enduring a 23-22 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1, the Jets have their work cut out for them as they face a quick turnaround and a Thursday Night Football matchup against fellow AFC East rival Buffalo Bills.
Here are five things the team must do in order to avoid an 0-2 start to the season before embarking on a daunting five-game stretch.
Make a statement early
The Jets aren’t the only team with a brutal stretch of games ahead. The Bills (0-1) have their work cut out for them as well once the final whistle blows on Thursday. Rex’s squad will take on the Cardinals at home in Week 3 before traveling to New England to take on Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots, so there will be a fierce battle from the opening kickoff as both teams will be desperate to avoid a two-game skid to begin the season. Both Matt Forte and Bilal Powell were effective runners and pass catchers throughout the Bengals game, so expect those two to see a heavy workload.
Brandon Marshall must emerge
Marshall, who was Ryan Fitzpatrick’s favorite target last year, was quiet in Week 1, posting just three receptions for 32 yards. His most memorable moment from the opener was a key drop that would have extended New York’s final drive and possibly put the game out of reach for the Bengals. Marshall has shown the ability to be an elite No. 1 receiver after setting a franchise record for single-season receiving yards last year, and he will need to showcase that ability on Thursday. Prediction: Marshall tops 100-yards receiving and scores his first touchdown of 2016 in this game against a Bills defense that allowed 225 passing yards to Joe Flacco and the mercurial Ravens offense last week.
Reliance on the defensive front
There’s no other way to say it: The Jets secondary looked awful against the Bengals. A.J. Green unleashed his inner Randy Moss, consistently stretching the field and reeling in 12 catches for 180 yards and a score. To compound the issue, Green was matched up against Darrelle Revis for most of the afternoon and all but sank Revis Island for good. The Jets will need to rely on their stout front seven, which recorded seven sacks against the Bengals, to put enough pressure on Tyrod Taylor and allow extra defenders to be deployed into the secondary. The team might also try blitz less and drop more players back in coverage throughout the game. The Bills are not known for having a loaded receiving corps beyond the potentially limited Sammy Watkins, so the Jets may be able to fix this glaring issue on defense without having to sacrifice the ability to get to the quarterback.
Do not make this a “revenge game”
The Bills topped the Jets in the final week of the regular season last year and squashed the team’s playoff hopes in convincing fashion. The Jets played poorly in all phases of the game and despite a 10-6 record, were left watching at home come playoff time. That loss, however, should not be on the minds of this team when the take the field Thursday against their former head coach. Rex Ryan has a knack for stirring up emotions and has the ability to get the opposing team off their game plan by turning things into a pushing and shoving match. The Jets cannot be swayed by these antics, they need to remain calm and methodical in order to win this game. On paper, the Jets are the superior team, but if they let their emotions get in the way, the Bills could once again be victorious. Ryan is the king of spoilers as the Jets learned last season.
A little Fitzmagic goes a long way
Ryan Fitzpatrick played well against the Bengals, completing 19-of-35 pass attempts for 189 yards and two touchdowns along with one pick. What he did not do was showcase that “little something extra” we so often saw during the 2015 campaign. Fitz will need to make a play or two in a critical situation to help this team win, whether that comes in the form of an off-balance sidearm thrown while being hit by a defender or a seven-yard scramble ending in a near head-on collision remains to be seen.
Prediction: New York Jets 21 – Buffalo Bills 17