Football fans can rejoice, as the NFL is back and the Buffalo Bills against the New York Jets is just one of many fantastic games on the first Sunday of the 2012 NFL season.
This AFC East battle will establish the top contender for the New England Patriots’ championship belt. The Pats look ready to run away with another division title unless one of these teams can get off to a fast start.
The Jets have been in the news all summer with their dramatic quarterback situation, while the Bills have remained out of the spotlight. However, important additions in Buffalo may be what the team needs to break a 12-year playoff drought.
Here is everything you need to know about the game.
When: Sunday, September 9, 1 p.m. ET
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
Listen: WGR AM 550, Sirius 106 (Buffalo), ESPN FM 98.7, Sirius 93 (New York)
Spread: Jets-3 (according to Sports Book)
Bills Injuries (via ESPN, as of Sep. 5)
CB Ron Brooks, Out, Foot
CB Terrence McGee, Probable, Knee
DE Mark Anderson, Probable, Groin
QB Brad Smith, Questionable, Groin
Jets Injuries (via ESPN, as of Sep. 5)
TE Dustin Keller, Probable, Hamstring
What’s at Stake
Both of these teams started off the season with wins last year but went on to have disappointing years. Consistency will be important for both the Bills and the Jets this year, and a win or a loss in this game will not mean much by December.
Still, a division battle in the season opener makes this more than just a regular-season game. Both teams are looking to prove they are playoff-caliber teams, and this game will be their first chance to make their cases.
Only desperate fantasy owners in deep leagues will have a Jets offensive player in their starting lineup. Shonn Greene is the Jet with a chance to produce decent numbers in this game.
For the Bills, the situation in the backfield must be monitored. Fred Jackson opened up the 2011 season as one of the best running backs in the league, but he is 31 years old and C.J. Spiller may begin to cut into his carries. Those with either player on their team will learn more about how Buffalo will use their backs this year.
Bills Player to Watch: Mario Williams, Defensive End
The $100 million man will start to earn his massive paycheck this Sunday, and the Bills will see if they got what they paid for. Williams has an extremely rare combination of size, strength, speed and agility that makes him capable of taking over a game.
Considering the Jets’ woes along the offensive line, Williams may be disrupting Mark Sanchez frequently in this game. If he is a constant presence in the backfield, the New York offense will struggle.
Jets Player to Watch: Darrelle Revis, Cornerback
It has been nine months since the Jets played a meaningful NFL game, and this may have been enough time for many to forget just how smothering Revis is when covering wide receivers. He is a future Hall of Famer in his prime, and he will continue to put opposing players on Revis Island this season.
The Jets’ star corner is the best football player in this matchup. Unless the Bills can use unorthodox formations to move Stevie Johnson away from Revis, the Buffalo wideouts will have few catches in this game.
What They’re Saying
The New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta brought up the question on everyone’s mind regarding the Jets. If Buffalo gives Sanchez trouble, he will be in for a long month, as he will take the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans in the next 30 days.
Can Sanchez withstand Tebowmania? The fourth-year quarterback will have every opportunity to bounce back from a maddeningly inconsistent 2011, but will fans clamor for the ultra-popular Tebow if the Jets struggle? The schedule-makers did no favors for Sanchez, who will face four elite defenses in the first five weeks.
For the Bills, there is finally optimism surrounding one of the most downtrodden NFL franchises over the past decade. Mark Gaughan of BuffaloNews.com shares his thoughts.
Everyone who follows the Bills knows the streak. It’s the longest in franchise history, the longest current streak of its kind in the NFL.
A dozen years without a playoff berth.
Finally, the Bills and their fans think they have their best shot to return to the postseason since their last berth, in 1999.
Key Matchup: Jets Tackles vs. Bills Defensive Ends
D’Brickashaw Ferguson is still one of the better left tackles in the league, but the team should be worried about the other side of the offensive line. Austin Howard will be the starter after an atrocious season from Wayne Hunter.
Howard will have the remarkably difficult task of trying to block Mario Williams, and Conor Orr of the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that the Jets’ coaches are having Aaron Maybin line up offsides in practice to simulate the challenge the right tackle will face.
The Bills also brought in Mark Anderson this offseason, and he is a talented pass-rusher as well. Buffalo has the talent to take advantage of a depleted Jets offensive line, and losing the battle in the trenches will be devastating for New York.
Prediction: Buffalo 20, New York 13
With both teams boasting tough defenses and lacking firepower on offense, this will be a low-scoring game. As is the case with most NFL games, turnovers will make the difference, and Buffalo wins by making fewer mistakes.