1. Make Geno turn it over. Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has led the Jets to a 5-4 record. He has a 58.1 completion percentage, and is averaging 7.34 yards per attempt. Smith, however, has had his issues with turnovers. He has thrown 13 interceptions – which is tied for third most in the NFL —– and fumbled six times. Partly because of that, the Jets have a turnover margin of minus-10 on the season, which is third worst in the NFL. New York has taken away the ball only seven times, while the Bills have recorded 16 takeaways. Led by Mario Williams and emerging pass rusher Jerry Hughes, the Bills have 33 sacks this season, second most in the NFL. New York has given up 31 sacks, which is fourth most.
2. Take away the deep ball. Smith and the Jets beat the Bills in Week Three by taking advantage of a weak secondary. New York hit four plays of more than 40 yards — four! — including touchdown passes of 69 yards to Santonio Holmes and 51 yards by Stephen Hill. The Jets particularly abused Bills cornerback Justin Rogers. Buffalo’s secondary will look different today, though, as cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Jairus Byrd are back in the lineup. Both played 100 percent of the defensive snaps last week against Pittsburgh. Gilmore, however, has not looked like himself yet this season as he struggles getting comfortable playing after missing time with a broken wrist. It’s hard to imagine him having a worse game than Rogers had in Week Three, however.
3. Connect on one with EJ. The Jets successfully forced EJ Manuel to make his completions come along the sideline in Week Three – something the Bills’ rookie quarterback could not do. Manuel did not give his receivers much of a chance, sailing several of his throws out of bounds. If the Jets come in with the same game plan — and there’s no reason to change it — Manuel will have to hit one of those throws. He’ll be playing without his top two receivers in Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods. That means the Bills will start the game with plenty of speed on the outside with T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin. A long one to one of them will force the Jets to respect the Bills’ passing attack.
4. Stick with it. That would be a huge benefit to the Buffalo offense, because running the ball today will be a chore. The Jets lead the NFL in rushing defense, allowing just 73.6 yards per game. Bills running back C.J. Spiller gained only 9 yards on 10 carries in Week Three. Especially on first down, it’s miserable to run against New York, which his holding opponents to 2.86 yards per carry. That inevitably leads to third-and-long situations. The Bills were miserable against New York in their first meeting, converting only 4 of 22 third downs.
5. Handle the conditions better than New York. Today’s forecast calls for 40 mph winds. That could make for absolutely wacky results in the kicking game. Bills punter Brian Moorman did not handle the winds well last week in Pittsburgh — he had a net average of only 24.2 yards on nine punts — so he’ll need a better performance today. Depending on which way the wind is going, any field goals could be important today.
Outlook: The Jets’ defensive line features three first-round draft picks in Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Coples. They do a magnificent job of limiting what opposing teams can do in the run game. Given the weather today, that’s what this game should come down to.
Prediction: New York 20, Buffalo 17