After proving themselves superior to the previously 5-1 New Orleans Saints in their last game, taking on the last-place Bills may seem like a cakewalk. However, as good as the Jets have looked at times, it is important to remember that they have been blown out by lesser teams and are just a few missed field goals away from possessing a much bleaker record.
For the Jets, who have yet to string together two wins in a row this season, no team should be taken lightly.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of matchups that fall into the Jets hands, especially as they start to get several key offensive players back from injury and suspension following the bye week.
Let's take a look at exactly what the Jets will need to do in order to take one step closer to the playoffs and get to 6-4.
Antonio Allen vs. Scott Chandler
In their last meeting, the Jets played stellar defense throughout the game—until Scott Chandler was finally able to break their coverage to get a game-tying touchdown late in the game.
Chandler, who has historically given the Jets plenty of problems against Rex Ryan's defenses, will be ready for this week's game, but the Jets will be much more prepared to match up against him thanks to the emergence of second-year free safety Antonio Allen.
Allen burst on to the scene after he was able to go toe-for-toe with Rob Gronkowski, limiting his effectiveness and actually getting a pick-six in the process.
Most of Gronkowski's production came when he was not covered by Antonio Allen.
Allen would follow up his impressive game with another masterful performance against Jimmy Graham of the Saints. Here, he shuts down Graham in a one-on-one situation:
The key to Allen's success was that he was able to be physical with these two tight ends in spite of the significant size advantage. Allen did not overpower these two players, but he bothered them enough to throw off their timing just enough to cause incompletions.
If Allen can limit the effectiveness of two of the best players at their position on his own, he should not have much trouble against the likes of Scott Chandler.
As long as Allen is able to repeat the performances he had against Graham and Gronkowski, the Jets will not have to resort to the ineffective zone coverages they were forced to use in their last meeting with Chandler.
Attack Stephon Gilmore
In their first meeting, the Jets capitalized on Gilmore's injury, as they relentlessly attacked his replacement, Justin Rogers, with great success.
However, Gilmore's return to the starting lineup does not mean that they should try any different strategy. In fact, the Jets should be at least as, if not more, aggressive throwing at Gilmore as they were against Rogers.
Gilmore's return from his fractured wrist has not gone according to plan. By his own admission, lingering effects from his injury is affecting his play, he told Mike Rodak of ESPN.com:
It's not 100 percent, I wouldn't say that. It's sore after every practice, after every game...I'm just out there fighting. I don't use it like I would use it if it was 100 percent.
According to Pro Football Focus, Stephon Gilmore is currently the 101st-best cornerback in the league out of 106 (he is one spot in front of Antonio Cromartie). In 246 snaps, he has allowed a quarterback rating of 111.9 and a completion percentage of 67.7.
Stephon Gilmore had a tough game vs. Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery - 5 catches allowed in 8 targets for 89 yards and 1 TD. #Bills— Gonzalo Estradé (@PFF_Gonzalo) November 11, 2013
The last time these two teams met, Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill stole the show with big plays down the field, including this game-winning touchdown:
No matter where the Bills decide to put Stephon Gilmore on the field, they should feel confident in their ability to generate big plays. As talented as he is as a former first-round pick, he is clearly a shadow of his dominant self from a year ago.
Blitzing has developed into a trademark for Rex Ryan's defenses, but sending "the house" against the mobile EJ Manuel is asking for unnecessary trouble.
Manuel is far from being a polished quarterback, but what separates him as a threat is his ability to escape the pocket and make big gains with his feet.
EJ Manuel taking advantage of that aggressive Steelers defense. Hard upfield rush leaves middle wide open for a run. pic.twitter.com/6AXMfsey17— Erik Frenz (@ErikFrenz) November 10, 2013
At the same time, however, he is also susceptible to surrendering a lot of sacks. Like most rookies, Manuel trust his legs more than he trusts his ability to make the right decision with the ball.
According to ESPN, Manuel has been sacked on 16 of his 189 dropbacks, which equates to a 8.5 percent sack rate. This number is comparable to the oft-sacked Ben Roethlisberger, who possesses an 8.38 percent rate over his career, per Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders. Like Manuel, Roethlisberger has a tendency to want to extend plays with his legs before taking an incompletion.
As a result, the Jets should be wary in terms of how much they use blitzes. Being too aggressive in sending pressure leaves the defense vulnerable to giving up a big play; if the blitz is picked up or Manuel slips out of a tackle, there is no one left in coverage to limit the damage.
Plus, because the Jets use so much man coverage, most of the defensive backs will have their backs turned to the play. If Manuel escapes, it will be a long time before anyone notices he even left the pocket.
Besides, the Jets defensive line is playing well enough to the point where the Jets do not need to send extra rushers. With the weaknesses of the Jets defense lying in the secondary, sending extra rushers would make them unnecessarily vulnerable to giving up a big play.
The Jets are much better off rolling the dice on their elite defensive line getting pressure on their own, all while minimizing the possibility of Manuel generating a big play.
Keep Pounding the Rock
Based on the way the Jets ran the ball last week against the Saints, the Jets would seem foolish to abandon their old game plan and pound the rock with a reinvigorated Chris Ivory.
With Kellen Winslow, Jeff Cumberland and perhaps even Santonio Holmes having a strong chance to return to action this week, it will be tempting for the pass-happy Marty Mornhinweg to want to play with his new toys, but he must use restraint when working against the 22nd-ranked run defense in the league.
The last time these two teams met, it was Bilal Powell who had a career day on the ground, going for 149 yards and averaging 5.5 yards per carry in the process.
Nearly two months later, and it is Chris Ivory who has stolen the show as the Jets new workhorse back.
Not only should the Jets be able to move the ball on the ground to sustain offense, but it will slow down the Bills pass rush that features Mario Williams. It will also force the Bills to play with more eight-man boxes, forcing stud free safety Jarius Byrd to have to cover more ground, limiting his effectiveness.
The key for the Jets is to run the ball off tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, they have averaged nearly twice as much running in the right "C" than any other gap along the interior, which is a compliment to how well right tackle Austin Howard has played in the run game.
|Left "C"||Left "B"||Left "A"||Right "A"||Right "B"||Right "C"|
Pro Football Focus
If they don't have initial success with the run, it makes little sense to keep ramming their heads into a wall—after all, there are a lot of favorable matchups for the Jets in the secondary, especially if Holmes is in the lineup. The key is to find a healthy balance that rides the Jets' momentum in the run game while generating big plays through the air.
On paper, this is a game that the Jets should win against a three-win team that is still breaking in a rookie quarterback who is coming off an injury.
However, as we have seen time and time again this season, the young, largely inexperienced Jets are more than susceptible to having a letdown game. While they may be able to compete with any team in the league, they were vulnerable to losing to any team as well.
As long as the Jets play the game to their strengths (while avoiding any disastrous turnovers, of course), they should not have too much trouble marching on to their sixth win.
Advanced statistics provided by ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required).