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No team has had a longer playoff drought than the Buffalo Bills, but they think things will change this season after signing the top defensive free agent this offseason, former Texans DE/LB Mario Williams. The Jets, meanwhile, missed the playoffs last year and the pressure might be on head coach Rex Ryan. And all eyes are on a certain backup QB for the Jets named Tim Tebow. How will the club use him?
The subject of countless New York tabloid back pages and the topic of nearly every press conference involving any member of the Jets, Tebow has owned this offseason. He’s the Wildcat quarterback in a secretive scheme that Gang Green apparently created and won’t share. Last season with Denver Tebow completed only 46.5 percent of his passes, but he was a major threat on the ground with six touchdowns to go with his 12 scoring passes.
In the preseason, the Jets looked like the NFL’s worst team, losing all four games and failing to reach the end zone until third-string quarterback Greg McElroy’s 6-yard touchdown toss in last week’s finale. And the Jets ended last season ugly as New York lost three in a row while Mark Sanchez threw seven of his 18 interceptions and only five touchdowns while compiling a 60.3 passer rating. That took much of the luster away from Sanchez’s best statistical season in the NFL.
New York getting its fourth-year signal-caller on track early could go a long way to a Week 1 victory. With Sanchez’s favorite target, Dustin Keller, limited (at best), we should look for Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley on the perimeter, as well as Joe McKnight out of the backfield to move the chains through the air. Look for offensive coordinator Tony Sparano to pound the football with a physical ground attack but utilize early screens, option and shallow crossing routes to give Sanchez confidence in the opener.
Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick started strong last year and then landed a big contract extension, but he and the team went sharply downhill from that point. Fitzpatrick turned the ball over way too much, something that’s been blamed on increased risk-taking thanks to defensive shortcomings. The defense is better, but it won’t matter if Fitzpatrick’s decision making remains the same.
Buffalo has two excellent ball carriers (Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller) who averaged more than five yards per carry in 2011 largerly due to a physical offensive line. New York’s front seven (especially their defensive line) is stout. If the Bills can run the ball effectively (on early downs) they will have the upper hand but if Ryan’s defense can force long yardage 3rd-down conversions New York will come out on top.
The Jets have won seven of the past eight in this series and won 28-24 in the most recent meeting last November when Sanchez threw four TD passes.
BILLS NOTES: Head coach Chan Gailey has 3-1 record on Kickoff Weekend … QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (3,832 in ’11) joined Drew Bledsoe (4,359 in ’02) & HOFer Jim Kelly (3,844 in ’91) as only Bills QBs to reach 3,800 passing yards in season. Had career-best in passing yards (3,832) & TDs (24) last year. Completed 26 of 39 passes (66.7 pct.) with 264 yards & 3 TDs vs. 0 INTs & 111.5 rating in last meeting at NYJ (11/27/11) … RB Fred Jackson averaged 137.6 scrimmage yards per game (934 rush, 442 rec.) last season (10 games). RB C.J. Spiller averaged career-best 5.2 yards per carry (107 att., 561 rush yards) last season …WR Stevie Johnson registered team-best 1,004 receiving yards last year & became 1st Bills WR to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (1,073 in ’10) … TE Scott Chandler (6) tied Pete Metzelaars (6 in ’92) & Jay Riemersma (6 in ’98) for most TD catches by TE in single-season in team history … DEs Mark Anderson & Mario Williams will make Bills debut. Williams had 2 sacks in last game vs. NYJ (w/ Texans on 11/21/10) … S George Wilson tied career-high with 4 INTs last season. S JAIRUS BYRD has 4 INTs in 6 career games vs. Jets … Rookie CB Stephon Gilmore (1st round, No. 10) will make NFL debut
JETS NOTES: Ryan has 2-1 record on Kickoff Weekend …Club aims for 6th straight win vs. Bills … In past 2 vs. Bills, QB Mark Sanchez has 410 passing yards with 5 TDs vs. 2 INTs & 91.4 passer rating … RB Shonn Greene had career-best in rush yards (1,054) & TDs (6) last season. Greene is averaging 90.3 rush yards per game (54 att., 271 yards) in past 3 vs. Bills …TE Dustin Keller led team in catches (65) & receiving yards (815) in ’11. Tied career-high with 2 TD receptions vs. Bills on 10/3/10 & 11/27/11 …WR Santonio Holmes tied career-best with 8 TD catches last season (8 in ’07 w/ Pit.). Aims for 4th consecutive game with TD catch vs. Buf …C Nick Mangold was selected to 4th career Pro Bowl last season …CB Darrelle Revis has 4 career INTs vs. Bills, tied for most vs. any team (Mia.). CB Antonio Cromartie registered 4 INTs in ’11, 2nd-most in career (10 w/SD in ’07) … LB Aaron Maybin was selected No. 11 overall in ’09 NFL Draft by Bills … KR-RB Joe McKnight posted NFL-best 31.6 KR avg. last season.
WAGERWEB.COM TRENDS: Bills are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games in Week 1. Bills are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall. Bills are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 vs. AFC. Bills are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 vs. AFC East. Bills are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 road games. Jets are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games in September. Jets are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games overall. Jets are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 vs. AFC.
INJURY REPORT: BILLS: DNP: G Kraig Urbik (low back). LIMITED: WR Stevie Johnson (groin), WR Brad Smith (groin). JETS: OUT: T Dennis Landolt (right knee). DNP: TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), S Eric Smith (hip/knee). LIMITED: LB Nick Bellore (shoulder), DE Mike DeVito (calf), RB Joe McKnight (hamstring), G Brandon Moore (hip), DT Sione Po’uha (low back), LB Bryan Thomas (ankle). FULL: S Josh Bush (concussion), LB David Harris (ankle), WR Santonio Holmes (ribs), S LaRon Landry (heel), CB Ellis Lankster (quad), WR Chaz Schilens (ankle).