The New York Jets head into Thursday Night Football in Week 2 looking for some revenge against a familiar divisional rival, the Buffalo Bills. These teams had a memorable showdown at the end of last season, but they've both had some rough results in Week 1.
Last year, the Jets entered Week 17 with one clear goal. Win, and they would secure a wild card spot in the playoffs, capping off a fantastic debut season for new head coach Todd Bowles. Unfortunately, they ran into a pesky Bills team that came to play despite being eliminated from contention. Buffalo's defense rose to the occasion, forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick into three interceptions and holding on for the 22-17 victory, keeping New York out of the postseason.
For the Bills, that win was only a small consolation. Despite finishing 8-8, Rex Ryan didn't quite live up to his boisterous expectations, and Buffalo's playoff drought extended to 16 years. The Bills are determined to break that ignominious streak this year, but their 2016 season also started off on a down note.
Buffalo opened the season against the Baltimore Ravens, who shut down Tyrod Taylor and the offense en route to a 13-7 win. Taylor, fresh off signing a new six-year deal worth up to $92 million, had a poor outing. He threw for just 111 yards on 15-of-22 passing and did little with his legs, running for just 11 yards on five attempts. The Ravens specifically game-planned to take away Taylor's running threat, and the Bills' offense had no answers as a result.
Another problem for the Bills is the health of star receiver Sammy Watkins. His surgically repaired foot is reportedly acting up again, and although he plans on playing Thursday night, his effectiveness will be an ongoing concern. Complicating matters is the possibility of being covered by Darrelle Revis, who's still a good cornerback even after getting roasted by A.J. Green last week.
The Bills still have LeSean McCoy in the backfield, and he's one of the team's few bright spots right now. McCoy had 16 carries for 58 yards, scoring Buffalo's lone touchdown last week. If Watkins is limited, the Bills will have to rely on Shady even more, but that could be a tough task against a Jets defensive line that's getting Sheldon Richardson back from suspension.
The Jets are asking questions of their own after a Week 1 letdown. Despite holding a lead over the Cincinnati Bengals for the majority of the game, New York let it slip away and Cincinnati escaped with a 23-22 win on the road. Fitzpatrick made his return after a long offseason standoff with the team, but despite throwing two touchdown passes he couldn't finish the comeback. He tossed an interception on the Jets' final drive of the game.
The good news for the Jets is that Matt Forte still has some tread on his tires. The 30-year-old running back signed with New York after a long and distinguished career in Chicago, but there was some doubt that he could continue producing at a high level at his age. Forte quieted a lot of the concerns with a strong showing in Week 1, rushing for 96 yards on 22 carries and catching five passes for an additional 59 yards. His receiving ability will be a strong asset for offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who likes having multi-faceted running backs in his spread offense.
But if there's one person looking to bounce back, it's Jets receiver Brandon Marshall, who had a forgettable season debut last week. Marshall had just three catches on eight targets for 32 yards, including a critical drop on the Jets' last possession. The Jets need the 32-year-old to be on top of his game this week, as he and Eric Decker go up against a pair of top-level corners in Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby.
These teams know each other well from their previous battles, and both will be eager to avoid an 0-2 start to the season. There may not be a lot of points scored, but primetime divisional grudge matches are always worth tuning in for. This should be a solid debut for Twitter's groundbreaking NFL streaming deal.
Time: 8:25 p.m. ET
Place: New Era Field, Orchard Park, N.Y.
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
The Bills opened as 2.5-point favorites, according to OddsShark. The line has since decreased to 1.5 on most sites, but New York remains the underdog.
Both teams are coming off a short week and the Bills' best receiver could be limited, so there may not be a lot of points scored. This game might be decided in the trenches, and Richardson is coming back to fortify New York's defensive line. Without a reliable home run hitter on offense (outside a hobbled Watkins), the Bills could be stuck having to rely on McCoy to break plays, while Fitzpatrick does just enough to feed Marshall, Decker and Forte. Jets 17, Bills 13.