The New York Jets haven't won a football game since Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011. From their tumultuous and disappointing ending to the 2011 season to the acquisition of Tim Tebow to a winless preseason, there isn't another team in the NFL who is feeling the pressure to get off to a 1-0 start. On Sunday, the Jets welcome in the division rival Bills, a team that the public narrative has going in the opposite direction of Gang Green. It seems like the majority of football observers are penning the Bills to be a team that is ready to join the higher ranks of the AFC, while the Jets are on pace to bumble their way back into the top half of the first round of next April's draft.
Wherever your loyalties lie, or however your predictions for either of these teams stand, it seems likely that as we enter Week 1, the Jets and Bills are fairly close, thus making Sunday's tilt one of the most anticipated ones of the weekend. For the Jets, it's as close to a must-win as any team can get in Week 1. Most think a loss will get the carousel in the circus started, and who knows when it will stop. A win, and sideshow takes a minor detour, for now.
Here are some key matchups that could help decide the game:
Jets' Offensive Line vs. BIlls' Defensive Line
New York's embattled offensive line gets an immediate test with the Bills' revamped defensive front, led by new acquisitions Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. Look for the BIlls to line Williams up right over right tackle Austin Howard, who makes his first start for the Jets in place of the sent-packing Wayne Hunter, especially on clear passing downs. The Jets' offensive line simply needs to keep Mark Sanchez's jersey clean in order for the Jets' quarterback to find a rhythm. And of course, we all know the Jets want to pound the rock with Shonn Greene. You can't run without good blocking.
Darelle Revis vs. Stevie Johnson
Last year, Johnson caught eight balls against Revis in the Jets' 28-24, Week 12 win over the Bills. It was largely thought to be Revis' worst game of the season - which just proves how incredibly great he is. But the Bills found success last year with Johnson, and they'll certainly try it again. The Bills have some talent in the backfield with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, but New York's run defends figures to be one of the league's best. If Revis can shut down Ryan Fitzpatrick's top target, it could be another long day for the Bills' offense against the Jets' defense.
Tim Tebow/The Wildcat vs. BIlls' Defense
How often will the Jets use Tebow and the Wildcat? How effective will it be? Since the Jets were paranoid and didn't run any Wildcat in the preseason, we'll just have to wait and see. But if Tebow can make a few big plays - something the Jets' offense sorely lacked last year and figures to again this year - the Jets might find the suffocation on their offense start to alleviate a little bit. But of course, if Tebow makes all the big plays, well, what about...
Mark Sanchez vs. The Fans/Tebowmania/The Bills/Expectations/Just About Everything
All eyes are on Sanchez as he starts his fourth NFL season. And coming off a season in which many thought he took a major step back (that's debatable, but that's what most think), fans want to see production right away. But what will be good enough for the likely bloodthirsty Jets fans at MetLife? Does Sanchez need to get the Jets' in the end zone on their first possession? Does the team need a lead at halftime? If Tebow comes in and busts off a few big Wildcat runs and Sanchez throws a pick, will the Tebow chants really start? The common opinion is that yes, they will. But there's virtually no way Rex Ryan makes any drastic change at quarterback in the middle of the first game of the season. What will be most interesting to see is how indeed Sanchez bounces back from a bad drive, a bad pick, a bad half. If he plays well from the get-go or bounces back during the game after a bad play or two, it can go a long way in not only getting the Jets a win on Sunday, but quelling some of the fears of the team long-term.