Sunday's matchup between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills features two rookie quarterbacks, two aggressive and complex defenses and, in all likelihood, a good deal of sloppy offensive play in what shapes up to be a low-scoring contest.
It's in games like that, when similar factors cancel each other out, that a team's star players need to prove themselves matchup-proof. Time will tell if the Jets have such a player - some of their current personnel gave a previous version of Buffalo's defense fits last season, particularly in Week 1 - but the Jets already know that they will be focusing first and foremost on C.J. Spiller.
In two games against the Jets last season, Spiller was dominant. He accumulated 325 total yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns against the Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine defense, running for 169 yards in the first game alone. His two scores were a 56-yard run in Week 1, and then a 66-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass right up the middle of the field in Week 17.
It should be noted that Spiller was the go-to back in six of the eight quarters in those games, as fellow runner Fred Jackson was injured early in Week 1, and had landed on IR by the time Week 17 rolled around. Spiller recorded 26 touches in the Bills' season-ending win last season, a figure that he's unlikely to replicate this Sunday with Jackson healthy and stealing about 40 percent of his reps. Spiller has logged 22 and 19 touches in the Bills' first two games this season, respectively; Jackson's presence has not yet dramatically impacted Spiller's workload yet.
Spiller is coming off of a 16-carry, 103-yard performance against the tough front seven of the Carolina Panthers. He averaged 6.0 yards per carry against the Jets last season, but that figure was aided in a big way by his Week 1 performance; the Jets held him to just 59 rushing yards on 24 carries in the season finale, even while giving up the big screen play.
Also worth noting: it wasn't all good news for Spiller against the Jets last season, as he lost a fumble in each of the two contests.
Jets linebacker David Harris was asked earlier this week for his assessment on rookie quarterback EJ Manuel as New York was beginning prep work for this Sunday. His response was telling.
"He's gaining confidence," Harris said of Manuel on Tuesday. "He's mobile, but he'd rather be a pocket passer first. But it all starts with C.J. Spiller. As we found out first-hand last year, he's a pretty dangerous guy with the ball in his hands."
Spiller is the Bills' biggest personnel advantage heading into their matchup with the Jets by a pretty considerable margin. He has proven himself matchup-proof in the past, slicing through some of the NFL's better defenses with ease - including the Jets' defense - and it would be lovely if that trend continued on Sunday.