The Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets are having oddly parallel seasons so far. Both teams sport one-point wins over NFC South opponents and one-score losses to the New England Patriots, and both teams are helmed by rookie quarterbacks. In fact, both teams are incredibly reliant on rookies. The Jets and the Bills have had more first-year players take offensive and defensive snaps than any other teams in the league.
The youth that will be on display Sunday suggests that both teams are in rebuilding modes, but after Sunday one of the two will be 2-1 on the year with quiet hopes of a resurgent season. That should be reason enough to keep an eye on this matchup despite the fact that neither team was expected to do big things before the season began.
Meet the Jets
The Jets still have a mess on their hands on offense. Geno Smith threw three fourth-quarter interceptions against the Patriots last week in an ugly Thursday night loss. He doesn't have appear to have a reliable passing target at the moment, and running backs Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory are averaging just 3.1 and 3.0 yards per carry, respectively.
Unsurprisingly, the Jets have been much better defensively. They currently rank No. 2 in the NFL in total defense, behind only the Seattle Seahawks. Opponents are completing less than 50 percent of their passes, and rushing for less than 60 yards per game. Those are solid numbers, even if the defense was helped by bad weather against the Patriots.
Meet the Bills
E.J. Manuel has posted very encouraging numbers in his first two NFL starts. He is currently completing better than 68 percent of his passes, with three touchdown passes to one interception. One of those touchdowns was a game winner last week against the Carolina Panthers. With C.J. Spiller and Stevie Johnson providing support, there are reasons to be optimistic for Bills fans.
Defensively, Mario Williams is a potential show stopper. He earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors by recording 4.5 sacks last week. The pass rush will need to remain outstanding against a weak Jets offensive line because the secondary could be very limited. Jairus Byrd and Stephon Gilmore are still very much questionable for Sunday's game after being marked inactive in Week 2.
Local Takes: Jets
Do not misunderstand the point. Geno will have to hit passes under pressure for the Jets to win. It just might not be realistic for him to play spectacular as a passer when the Bills bring the heat. He can make up for that by rushing effectively. That can move the chains, flip field position, and extend critical drives.
Of course, the same is true on the other side. The Jets need to contain E.J. Manuel as a runner. They will be showing him exotic looks as well. They cannot allow him to get loose.
Local Takes: Bills
Despite the gap between the two that exists almost exclusively because Manuel has avoided big mistakes and Smith hasn't (and the fact that Manuel has a game-winning drive on his CV and doesn't play for the Jets certainly helps), the gap between the two as passers isn't huge. Manuel is the hotter hand right now, but those anointing him while simultaneously writing off Smith as a bad job may end up grievously mistaken, and possibly as soon as Week 3.
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Give me another week of football and I'll be able to come up with some perverse logic that the #NYJ are the best team in the league.— Gang Green Nation (@GangGreenNation) September 15, 2013
In 18 career games with the #Bills, Mario Williams has 15 sacks. Half (7.5) have come in two games: last year in Indy, last week vs. CAR.— Buffalo Rumblings (@BuffRumblings) September 18, 2013
@MMehtaNYDN -- Jets beat writer
@mikerodak -- Bills beat writer
Through 2 games, the Bills have gotten 1 play off every 21.8 seconds of possession, fastest of any NFL team: http://t.co/eX72KGbx9x— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) September 19, 2013
From the Week 3 picks
Haha, I skipped this game initially. Oversight or Freudian slip? [Thinks about mother issues, bourgeois things] Nope, just plain oversight. And I apologize for that. Fans of the Jets and Bills have suffered enough only to face one more trifling indignity for being left out of a weekly picks column by some guy on the internet.
The lines here are confused. Some book have the Bills as one-point underdogs; another one has the Jets as three-point favorites. Both of these teams have played better than expect. Geno Smith and EJ Manuel are taking the more traditional route of rookies throw into the fire, getting the dink and dunk treatment. Marty Mornhinweg's offense, so far, looks like a good fit for Smith (if only they'd abandon that stupid wildcat).
The most interesting matchup here is Rex Ryan and a darn good Jets defense (no, really) against Mike Pettine, Ryan's former defensive coordinator with the Jets and long-time ally from his Baltimore days. The chess match should be fun to watch. However, the Jets have an edge because of the secondary. Injuries have wrecked Buffalo's unit. Either way, this might be the most entertaining Jets game, or Bills game, you'll see all season.
The pick: New York
The Bills are favored from 1-2.5 points heading into the game, according to Odds Shark, depending on which sports book you consult.