The Buffalo Bills would love to enter their bye week 5-3. Standing in their way is the New York Jets (1-6). New York’s record looks bad, and it is bad, but it’s also a bit deceiving. The Jets have had a brutal schedule to start the season and have faced the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. That’s a pretty rough six game stretch. Furthermore, you can throw records out the window when divisional foes face off. The Jets enter the game with extra rest and will be looking to show off their newest acquisition, Percy Harvin. There’s nothing out there to suggest that the Bills will have an easy time against New York. In fact, Buffalo will be looking for their first win in New Jersey since 2009. Here are three key matchups that the Bills must win if they hope to move to 5-3.
Matchup of the Week: Bills Offensive Line vs. Jets Defensive Line
I feel pretty confident that this matchup will determine the outcome of the game. Buffalo’s offensive line has been nothing short of disastrous at times in 2014. It wasn’t as apparent early in the season as E.J. Manuel has some mobility and was able to escape pressure at times. When Manuel was benched, the offensive line’s struggles became glaring. Kyle Orton has been very good for the Bills from a passing standpoint, but he is far from a mobile quarterback. This has led to him taking some shots from opposing defenses.
This week, Buffalo faces a Jets defense that has a great job of getting to the quarterback. Their defensive line deserves a lot of the credit for this. Mo Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson are a fearsome front three. Wilkerson and Richardson have combined for seven sacks, 13 quarterback hits and 25 quarterback hurries. Harrison isn’t known for getting after the quarterback, but he does a great job of taking on blockers. These three, along with New York’s linebackers, could stop Buffalo in their tracks.
The Bills offensive line gave up six sacks to the Vikings last week and apparently Doug Marrone had seen enough. On Sunday, Kraig Urbik will get his first start of the season at left guard. Urbik had been Buffalo’s best guard, but he found himself in Marrone’s doghouse. Getting on the field this season seemed near impossible. It took a combination of injuries and horrendous play for Urbik to get a shot. There’s no doubt in my mind that Urbik will improve Buffalo’s line. That said Urbik is only one player. Cordy Glenn, Eric Wood, Erik Pears and Seantrel Henderson will all have to step up to protect Orton. Entering the game, the Bills are ranked dead last in pass blocking and 28th in run blocking according to Pro Football Focus (Subscription Required). If Buffalo’s front five puts together a decent game, the Bills will have a good chance of moving to 5-3.
Bills WRs vs. Jets CBs
In their six losses, the Jets have allowed an opposing receiver to go over 100 yards four times. The only exceptions were the Chargers (who won 31-0) and the Patriots. The Bills have three receivers who could accomplish this feat: Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods and Chris Hogan.
Watkins of course is the most obvious choice as he’s clearly Orton’s favorite target and Buffalo’s No. 1 receiver. The first round pick is leading all rookies in receptions and is second in yards and touchdowns. Watkins is coming of off a big game against the Vikings where he caught nine passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns.
Robert Woods was quiet in Week 7, but Orton will spread the ball around. This creates opportunities for all of his wide receivers. Woods has 14 receptions in Orton’s three starts and may have his named called against the Jets.
The most surprising name on this list would be Chris Hogan. He’s seen increased playing time in the last two weeks and made the most of his opportunities. In his 68 snaps in Week 6 and 7, Hogan has caught 10 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. Orton seems to be developing strong chemistry with the wide out known as 7-Eleven.
The three wide receivers will go against the likes of Darrin Walls, Phillip Adams and Kyle Wilson. Antonio Allen could also be in the mix. Walls will likely be matched up with Watkins all game while the other corners will matchup with Woods and Hogan.
Geno Smith has a new toy in Percy Harvin, but Buffalo’s top cornerback will probably be lined up across from Decker. The Jets’ free agent addition has 24 receptions, 323 yards and three touchdowns in six games. Decker’s targets and receptions are both up in the last three weeks, catching 14 passes on 26 targets for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
Gilmore will have to be physical with Decker to slow him down on Sunday. According to PFF, Gilmore has been targeted 27 times this season. He’s given up 22 receptions for 300 yards and four touchdowns, but he’s played 383 snaps on the year. Breaking it down further, Gilmore has played 230 snaps in pass coverage. Giving up 22 receptions in that time isn’t too bad.
Decker will see his fair share of targets on Sunday. Gilmore’s job will simply be to keep the receiver in check. If he does this, Buffalo’s chances of winning will significantly increase.