Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
While still early in the NFL season, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets have taken similar paths so far. Both teams decided at the beginning of the season that they would start their rookie quarterback. They have both also squeezed out one-point wins in the dying seconds of a game against a team from the NFC South, and lost close games to the New England Patriots. Last but not least, both teams’ defenses have been their offenses best friends this season. Going into Sundays game at MetLife Stadium the two teams seasons are looking identical, but that will all change once the final whistle has blown.
Before I start to make predictions for the game itself, I would like to remind my readers from Buffalo that after two weeks of solid play from the Bills, I have written skunk preview articles both times. What I mean is that I’ve written two pessimistic preview columns and the Bills outperformed my guesstimate both times. In other words, my weekly preview column has turned into a reverse-jinx in my eyes. Keep that in mind.
As mentioned above, both E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith have orchestrated winning drives in the final seconds of games this season. Last week Manuel showed his ability to come through in the clutch when he connected with Stevie Johnson for a two-yard touchdown pass to lead the Bills past the Carolina Panthers 24-23. The week prior, in his NFL debut, Smith lead a drive that setup a Jets winning field goal with two seconds left in a 18-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Smith’s game winning drive was helped by a late Lavonte David personal foul penalty that put them into field goal range with two seconds remaining… but a win is a win.
Both the Bills and Jets have fallen just short against the AFC East powerhouse Patriots already after two weeks of action. Buffalo was edged 23-21 after a last second field goal gave the Patriots the win with no time remaining. The Jets dropped last Thursday night’s game 13-10 in a sloppy match-up that the Jets easily could have won, if not for three fourth-quarter interceptions by Smith.
The quarterbacks may deny it, but going into Sunday they know that the games major debate is which team got the better field general in the draft. And you better believe they’ll be playing to prove that they’re the better signal caller.
Bills fans are ecstatic about their solid play at quarterback. Buffalo feels they have finally found their first consistent starter at the position since Jim Kelly. I’m starting to understand the Cleveland Browns rationalization in trading Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for a first round draft pick. That first round draft pick will be used to pick a franchise quarterback to resurrect the organization.
But this is the first regular season away game of Manuel’s short NFL career. The quarterback has never experienced what it’s like to come into another NFL teams house. I don’t imagine the New York faithful are pleased the Bills have found a quarterback, an issue the Jets have shared with Buffalo over the years. And I have a feeling they’ll want to take that out on Mr. Manuel by making a whole lot of noise. The tougher the twelfth man is on Manuel, the better their rookie quarterback Geno Smith will look (and possibly play) in comparison. It’s a game that will come down to rookie quarterbacks and defenses, and this Sunday in the Jets house, I see them holding a slight advantage over the Buffalo Bills. Both teams have played close games so far this season, and I see this one coming down to a field goal as well. Who picked the better rookie quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft? I’m ready to find out!