NY Jets at Buffalo Bills (pk, 40.5 o/u)
No team wants to start the year 0-2. No team wants to lose to a division rival. No team wants to play on Thursday Night Football. All three of those misfortunes are going to befall either the New York Jets (0-1 SU, 1-0 ATS) or Buffalo Bills (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS) tonight when they meet at New Era Field (RIP Ralph Wilson Stadium) in Buffalo (8:25 PM Eastern).
While the Jets and Bills come in with identical 0-1 records, they have to be feeling very differently about their Week 1 performances. The Jets looked like the better team throughout their 23-22 home setback to the Bengals. If kicker Nick Folk hadn’t missed a makeable field goal and an extra point, the New York press is writing an entirely different narrative this week.
Offseason acquisition Matt Forte was great in the ground game (22 carries for 96 yards) and, as expected, proved a threat on dump-offs and screens, as well (five receptions for 59 yards). Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t phenomenal under center (19-35, 189 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) but his statline would have been better if Brandon Marshall (three catches for 32 yards) had made some plays and not suffered a costly drop late in the fourth-quarter on the would-be game-winning drive.
The Jets have to be feeling especially good about their defense. Yes, Darrelle Revis was exploited by AJ Green to the tune of 180 yards and a touchdown. But the front-seven dominated, sacking Andy Dalton seven times and holding the Bengals to just 57 total rushing yards and 3.0 yards-per-carry.
They did that all without defensive end Sheldon Richardson, who returns from a one-game suspension this week.
The performance from Revis was a bit concerning, but you have to remember that Green is a generational talent. The Bills have a similar style of receiver in Sammy Watkins, who torched Gang Green last year as Buffalo swept the season series. However, Watkins (four receptions, 43 yards in Week 1) is laboring under a foot injury and remains questionable for Thursday’s game.
I’d bank on him playing, but don’t expect him to be at full speed, especially on a short week.
If I’m right about that, it’s truly awful news for Buffalo. The team looked lost on offense against the Ravens in Week 1, amassing just 160 total yards in a 13-7 road loss.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor didn’t live up to his new contract, going 15-22 for 111 yards and no touchdowns. The ground game sputtered as well; lead back LeSean McCoy had 58 yards on 16 carries, though he did manage to punch it into the end zone for Buffalo’s lone score of the game.
The pass rush was the lone bright spot for the Bills. They were able to get to Joe Flacco four times and forced one turnover. They’ll need to get similar pressure on Fitzpatrick tonight otherwise I expect New York’s talented receiving corps to cause problems for Buffalo, even though the Bills have a strong CB tandem in Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore. Their safeties are susceptible, as evidenced by aging Mike Wallace blowing by Duke Williams for a 66-yard touchdown. And the Jets now have Quincy Enunwa to pair with Marshall and Eric Decker, meaning Buffalo will have to go beyond Darby and Gilmore when it comes to covering New York’s deep threats.
The trends all favor the Bills in this one. They’re 5-0 straight up and ATS in the last five head-to-head with the Jets. But I can’t ignore everything I saw in Week 1. I may be succumbing to recency bias, but the Jets look like the much better team at this stage. With Watkins’ health up in the air, I can’t find a good reason to back Buffalo other than history in this pick’em game.
Pick: NY Jets.
Photo credit: Keith Allison (Flickr) CC BY-SA 2.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.