1. Handle the pressure. Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel has not seen a lot of blitzes in the first two weeks against New England and Carolina. That could change today. The Jets blitzed on 34.1 percent of their plays in 2012, 11th most in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. It’s a good bet they’ll try to rush Manuel and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. The Bills’ rookie has handled the pressure well in the first two weeks. According to Pro Football Focus, Manuel has been pressured on 21 of his 73 dropbacks. On those plays, he’s completed 12 of 17 passes, with three more dropped and one sack taken. That’s worked out to an accuracy percentage (counting drops) of 88.2 percent, second in the NFL.
2. How do Geno and his crew bounce back? Jets skill-position players did rookie quarterback Geno Smith no favors in a Week Two loss to New England, dropping six passes. Smith, though, didn’t fare much better, throwing three interceptions against the Patriots. He completed only 9-of-24 passes against New England when facing a four-man rush. He’ll need to take much better care of the ball today against the Bills. The Jets can help Smith by shortening his routes. In the fourth quarter against New England, he threw six passes that went at least 10 yards in the air, completing one.
3. Maintain drives. The Jets’ defense is very good at forcing three and outs. It has done so nine times, a total that is tied for fourth in the NFL. The Bills need to put themselves in third-and-manageable situations. That means running back C.J. Spiller needs to do work on first and second down. The Jets’ run defense has been stout the first two weeks, holding Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin and New England’s Stevan Ridley to a combined 105 yards. Spiller gashed the Jets for 325 yards from scrimmage last year.
4. Find an answer at left guard. Through the first two weeks, Colin Brown has the unfortunate label as the worst guard in football according to Pro Football Focus. The website has charged him with eight quarterback hurries allowed and considers him to be the worst run-blocking guard in football by a wide margin. The Jets have a stout defensive line with Muhammad Wilkerson, Kenrick Ellis and Sheldon Richardson. With Doug Legursky’s knee injury improving, Brown’s hold on the job for the Bills could be tenuous.
5. Mario must win rematch. Mario Williams’ career with the Bills got off to a forgettable start last season when he failed to make any sort of impact against journeyman right tackle Austin Howard in the Jets’ blowout victory. Williams complained about Howard’s tactics after the game. Williams, though, is coming off the best game of his Buffalo career, a 4.5-sack effort against Carolina in Week Two. When motivated, he’s darn near unblockable. Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will likely move Williams around before the snap, forcing the Jets to identify him and figure out how they’re going to block him.
Outlook: At 2-1, the winner of today’s game will be one of the early-season surprises in the NFL. Given the familiarity each coaching staff has with one another, it has the look of a close, defensive game. Turnovers will play a key role in deciding the outcome, and the Jets’ Smith has been more apt to do that in the first two weeks.
Prediction: Bills 20, Jets 18