Just how good are the New York Jets? Coming off of a 2006 campaign in which head coach Eric Mangini led his team to a 10-6 record and made the playoffs. But us Bills fans knew better - we even tried to dispel the "Mangenius" moniker back in July, because we knew the Jets weren't as good as advertised. Thus far in 2007, we've been proven right - the Jets are 1-2 (with their losses, admittedly, coming against two solid teams in New England and Baltimore). Their lone win came last week against the winless Miami Dolphins.
Even with their struggles this season, the Jets provide a more-than-formidable challenge for the beat up Bills this weekend. Just what are the Jets all about? Let's examine the Gang Green...
Offense: QB Controversy Brewing?
Pennington, Clemens duking it out: Last season, when the Jets came into Buffalo and pulled out a 28-20 victory in Week 3, Chad Pennington had his way with the Bills' secondary. Working a chain-moving passing game and underneath routes all day, Pennington was able to carve apart a young Bills defense, leading to a dominating offensive performance for the Jets. Even with Pennington's job status in question (a Week 1 injury gave way to a strong performance from Kellen Clemens against the Ravens), he'll get the start this weekend and, given the Bills' injury status defensively, could have another surgically precise day. We may have to concede high completion rates and first downs - as long as we can eliminate deep passes to Laveranues Coles and long catch-and-runs by Jerricho Cotchery, however, we may be able to contain the passing game.
Wild card at tight end: Keep an eye on Jets TE Chris Baker - the young veteran has been making plays for Jets quarterbacks thus far this season, including some acrobatic catches in the corners and back of the end zone. Given Pennington's penchant to throw underneath, coupled with the Bills' lack of experience at linebacker, Baker could be very hard to control this Sunday for the Bills.
Don't Forget About Jones: It's hard to talk about the Jets' offense without mentioning Thomas Jones. New York's offensive line has had some growing pains early in the season, but the fact remains that Jones is a tough matchup for the Bills (just take a look at what he did to us as a member of the Bears last season - 22 carries, 109 yards). He's a quick, tough runner who is just now getting healthy - and he wants the ball more against the Bills' soft run defense. Backup Leon Washington's explosiveness only increases the effectiveness of Jones; Jones wears down defenses while Washington hits the home runs. When Jones returns to full health and the offensive line comes together a bit more, the Jets could have a very explosive running attack. For now, they're still trying to fit all the pieces together.
Defense: Struggling to Limit the Score
Giving Up Tons of Points: In three games, the Jets have given up 86 points - 38 to the Pats (that's a little trend the Patsies have going for them), 20 to the Ravens (led by Kyle Boller, of all people) and 28 to the Dolphins (Ronnie Brown absolutely blew up in that game). That total is seven more points than the 79 the Bills themselves have surrendered - against better teams, in my humble opinion. If there is a week for the Bills to finally hit double-digit points offensively, this is definitely it - the run game should be effective, the option to play-action should be prevalent and the opportunity for big plays has not yet been as great for the Bills this year.
Is it the 3-4 Scheme? There is a contingent of Jets fans out there (we'll be interviewing one tomorrow here) who don't believe the Jets are running the correct scheme for the team's best talent. Eric Mangini, a disciple of Bill Belichick, prefers a flexible 3-4 scheme, and he's hard-nosed like his ex-boss, so he's going to run it regardless. Thus far, the Jets have not been able to stop the run or the pass (they rank 20th against the rush but 30th against the pass), so Buffalo has a good shot at picking up large chunks of yardage this weekend. Don't mistake this as poor personnel, however - names like Jonathan Vilma, Shaun Ellis and Eric Barton always have, and always will be, playmakers. That's why protecting the ball will be of the utmost importance on Sunday.
Special Teams: Second to One
A test, to be sure: When Pro Bowl kick returner Justin Miller went down for the season with a knee injury, many experts thought the Jets' return units would suffer. Then Leon Washington returned a kick for a touchdown last week, proving the fact that other than the Bills, the Jets have the league's strongest special teams units. These guys are one of a handful of units league-wide that can cause problems for our coverage teams; Washington is very shifty in space a hard downhill runner, making him especially dangerous on kick returns. This unit will test the mettle of the Bills' special teams - especially since there's been so much turnover amongst our coverage units with reserves pressed into full-time defensive duty.
Still Have an Edge: As strong as the Jets' special teams are, the Bills still have an advantage here. His name is Brian Moorman. Our fan-favorite punter has the ability to neutralize punt returns, pin the Jets deep and make Pennington, Jones and company work for their yardage (not that they'll have to work that hard). Moorman is going to be fine, but there is a small amount of pressure on Rian Lindell - he may have to resort to some directional kicking on kickoffs to limit Washington in that department. As long as our coverage units are technically sound - and we see continued big plays from Terrence McGee (who is expected to play) and Roscoe Parrish in the return game - the Bills' special teams should once again excel.