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Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
The Buffalo Bills have missed the playoffs for an NFL-worst 12 straight years, but could be a surprise participant in 2012 as expectations in western New York are running high. The New York Jets, who host the Bills on Sunday, know all about hype and this season will be no exception. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez will be under intense pressure to ignite an offense which didn’t score a touchdown in 15 drives under his watch during the preseason. Tim Tebow was no better (13 of 36 passing in the preseason), but could save the day as the Jets are expected to unleash him in a Wildcat package which will feature arguably the most famous backup quarterback in history. Sanchez was sacked 39 times last season – fifth-highest in the NFL – and the Bills will be coming hard with free agent defensive ends Mark Anderson and Mario Williams.
ABOUT THE BILLS (2011: 6-10): Buffalo signed pass-rushing specialists Anderson and Williams, who combined for 15 sacks last season, to a unit which totaled 29 in 2011 as only Tennessee (28) and Tampa Bay (23) had fewer in the NFL. The Bills also signed top running back Fred Jackson and No. 1 wideout Stevie Johnson, who became the first Bills receiver to record consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, to contract extensions. Johnson did not practice Wednesday because of a groin injury. The biggest question mark will be quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who completed 62.0 percent of his passes with 24 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in 2011. Fitzpatrick signed a eye-popping six-year, $59 million contract extension in October, so the Bills have plenty of confidence in the seventh-round pick in 2005 out of Harvard. The Bills were 1-5 in the AFC East last season. Bills coach Chan Gailey is 3-1 in openers.
ABOUT THE JETS (2011: 8-8): New York, which missed the playoffs last season after finishing one victory away from the Super Bowl in 2009 and 2010, saw its running game slip to 22nd in the NFL at 105.8 yards per game in 2011 after finishing fourth at 148.4 in the previous season. Part of the reason the Jets brought in Tebow was to take pressure off Sanchez and provide a wrinkle to an offense that clearly needs help, but that might backfire when the antagonists among the New York media and fans scream if Sanchez gets off to a poor start. Shonn Greene, who rushed for a career-best 1,054 of the Jets’ 1,692 yards last season, will again be a workhorse. Coach Rex Ryan, who is 2-1 in openers, will also need all he can get from his defense, which features linebacker Aaron Maybin (team-leading six sacks in 2011), a former Bill, and a secondary led by cornerback Darrelle Revis.
1. The postseason has included at least five new teams from the year before for 16 straight seasons.
2. The Jets (23-29) and the Bills (21-31) have the worst records in Week 1 among AFC teams.
3. The Bills are 5-1 against the spread in the last six meetings at New York, but the Jets have won seven of the past eight overall meetings, including 28-24 in Week 12 last season.