The first Sunday of the NFL season features a battle of New York teams as the Buffalo Bills head to the Meadowlands to face the New York Jets. Neither team was much to write home about last season with Buffalo finishing 6-10 and the Jets 4-12. Now the Jets have hit the ‘reset’ button and brought in a new head coach in Adam Gase and several big name players including running back Le’Veon Bell.
In our view, however, it is the Bills–not the Jets–that are the most improved team in the AFC East. In fact, if a few things break right the Bills could be the surprise team of the season and should be back above .500 this year. Sean McDermott is a solid head coach and bringing in Ken Dorsey as quarterbacks’ coach should help the maturation process of Josh Allen. Allen will have a new weapon at his disposal thanks to free agent pickup WR Cole Beasley.
McDermott’s strength is defense and the Bills secondary gave up the fewest passing yards in the league last year. That could be bad news the Jets and Sam Darnold–they lack depth at the wide receiver position. 5’9″ Jamison Crowder brings a good effort but he’s not the playmaker that the offense needs. Tight end Chris Herndon is serving a four game suspension for a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. That means a lot more dependency on Bell and the rushing attack but he’ll be working behind a weaker offensive line than what he had in Pittsburgh.
Huge coaching edge for Buffalo with McDermott over the Jets’ Gase. Adam Gase was hired primarily to develop Sam Darnold into a legit franchise quarterback. He says his strategy for Darnold is to ‘play like Peyton Manning’. If only it were that easy. Keep in mind that Gase’s offenses in Miami regressed each year during his tenure ranked #24, #25 and #31. Dolphins were also one of the most penalized teams in the league. Gase’s Dolphin teams were effectively shut down by McDermott’s Bills defensively averaging just 17.5 PPG against them in four games.
The Bills’ strategy for this game is simple–run the ball against a weak Jets’ defense that ranked among the worst in the league against both the pass and rush. Buffalo is the better team and they’ll get a solid outright win here. Note that the underdog has cashed in 7 of the last 8 head to head between the two teams.