Ordinarily, I would say that a game this early is not a must win. For the Jets, though, getting a victory on the road in Buffalo would be monumental while a loss would leave a lot of work. The Bills could take a large lead over the Jets at the halfway point, and coupled with the Patriots win and the Jets’ earlier loss to New England, would be on the way to owning the tiebreaker.
So while most teams sitting at 4-3 could still have a chance by splitting the next four, the Jets may not have that luxury. They have to win 2 out of 3 against Buffalo and New England over the next month–and they cannot afford a loss against a team like Denver on the road. The tiebreakers in the AFC East, which will likely send two teams and has a small chance at 3, will be decided for the Jets in the next month. Fail to either sweep Buffalo, or split the series at home against New England, and they will be in a large hole.
The Bills have relied on a good offense keyed by 30 year old Fred Jackson, and an opportunistic defense that leads the league in turnovers. Last week, the team had as many sacks in one game as they had all year. The Redskins’ line and John Beck helped that, but Marcel Dareus also flourished in the nose tackle role with Kyle Williams out, and leads the team with 3.5 sacks.
The Jets are right behind the Bills in turnovers forced, and Darrelle Revis and the pass defense is among the league’s best. The team has struggled to run the ball consistently, something they have done well in the past against Buffalo. The keys to this game–turnovers, and who can generate scoring chances off them; whether the receivers besides Stevie Johnson, who will likely face Revis, can make big plays for Buffalo, and whether the Jets can run the ball better to get Sanchez in favorable passing situations.
Seattle at Dallas: Dallas tries to rebound from the failed Philadelphia experiment, while Seattle tries to keep San Francisco from winning the division outright before Thanksgiving by getting to 3 wins.
Cleveland at Houston: The Browns’ backfield is a mess, and Chris Ogbonnaya, who is from Houston, played at Texas, and was on the Texans’ practice squad and briefly on the active roster earlier this year, will now get a chance against his hometown and former team.
Atlanta at Indianapolis: Atlanta should win this game, but sometimes these cross-conference games against bad opponents are dangerous. The Colts have played worse in recent weeks after some competitive games earlier.
Miami at Kansas City: These teams aren’t as far apart as the record, and this is a dangerous trap game for the Chiefs off a 4 game win streak and going against a winless opponent. Last year, it was a winless Buffalo team that lost in overtime in Arrowhead. Miami had a little better success in the red zone after horrific performances there that cost them games early, but the defense is struggling to hold leads.
Tampa Bay at New Orleans: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde meet near the French Quarter. Tampa Bay has alternatively played decently and very poorly, while the Saints have had brilliant games coupled with what happened last week in St. Louis.
San Francisco at Washington: The Redskins got embarrassed last week and the offense is a wreck with injuries. I expect a better effort, but I think it is going to have to largely come from the defense. The 49ers are in an unfamiliar role of now being expected to win, so this is one of those hurdles an emerging team must overcome.
[photo via Getty]