The Buffalo Bills have dropped five straight to the New York Jets in part because of a defense that has been unable to get any pressure on quarterback Mark Sanchez, and in part because of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's inability to get into a rhythm against the Jets secondary.
If the Bills want to prove that they are a different team than the one we saw last year, they'll have to play like a different team than the one the Jets have seen over the last three years.
Here's how they can do it.
Run The Ball from Spread Formations
This is easier said than done against the Jets defensive line, which could be one of the deepest units in the league. Between Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Sione Pouha, Aaron Maybin, Mike DeVito, Calvin Pace and Kenrick Ellis, there's a combination of players who can contribute regardless of the situation.
The Jets held opponents to less than three rushing yards per carry (tied for league low) and 90.5 rushing yards per game (ranked fifth) in the preseason, so the Bills will have their hands full running into the teeth of that defense.
Still, it's their best bet at creating mismatches in the passing game.
Attack Austin Howard
He looked solid in preseason action, holding up well against Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson. But can Howard sustain it over the course of the regular season? Defenses that are smart will put him to the test.
His Week 1 competition: Bills defensive end Mario Williams.
There's no reason to think Williams will struggle with Howard, but the Bills should exploit the inexperience of the right tackle anyway. They should take advantage of communication issues, as well; perhaps Williams shows a tendency toward the outside rush and gets Howard to go wide while the defense blitzes the "B" gap.
With what is largely a retooled secondary (specifically at cornerback, where the Bills start rookie Stephon Gilmore and sophomore Aaron Williams), the pressure will be on the Bills front four to put pressure on the Jets quarterback(s).
Get Kyle Wilson Into Bad Matchups
Their best bet may be to target cornerback Kyle Wilson, who is easily the weakest link at cornerback. Wilson played more snaps in 2011 than he did in 2010, but he gave up nearly twice as many receptions. His 48.8 percent completion rate against went up all the way to 66.7 (per Pro Football Focus).
Joe Caporoso of TurnOnTheJets.com makes a strong case for why he is "selling" on Wilson's stock:
Wilson has had a rough pre-season and patience is rightfully wearing thin with him. He is entering his third year and the former first round pick has never looked anything like one. Teams are going to pick on him with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie on the outside but Wilson must do a better job of locating the ball in the air and avoiding giving large cushions when he can’t afford to.
It's easy to see, even from a Jets perspective, that Wilson will be wearing the proverbial bull's-eye on his back, and the Bills would be wise to capitalize.
How can they do it? One way would be to put receivers in motion. That accomplishes two things:
- It creates a bit of cushion between the corner and the receiver.
- It allows the Bills to find a mismatch that works and to continue to go back to it by forcing Wilson onto the offensive player of their choosing.
A few matchup problems the Jets might want to watch for on Wilson are tight end Scott Chandler and wide receiver T.J. Graham.
Chandler is a mismatch on size alone; the Jets might try to match up linebacker Demario Davis on Chandler, but chances are slim that Wilson will go the entire game without covering him once.
When that happens, Fitzpatrick needs to be cognizant of the huge size advantage (Chandler is 6'7" and 270 pounds; Wilson is 5'10" and 190 pounds).
Graham is known for his quickness off the line of scrimmage, and his speed showed up time and time again in practices. Wilson is fast, but if he loses concentration or loses sight of the ball while trying to keep up with Graham, that could create problems for the Jets in pass defense.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.