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Saturday, September 21, 2013
W2W4: Bills at Jets

By Mike Rodak

NEWARK, N.J. -- The Buffalo Bills were one of just three teams to open with back-to-back home games. With a 1-1 record, they travel Sunday to face the New York Jets.

It's the second divisional tilt in three games for the Bills, who were edged in their opener by the New England Patriots. If the Bills can improve to 2-1, they'll keep pace in the AFC East with the Dolphins and Patriots, who enter the weekend 2-0. If they drop to 1-2, then they will sit at the bottom of the division before heading home to meet the Baltimore Ravens.

This game features a matchup of the NFL's top two rookie quarterbacks this season -- EJ Manuel of the Bills and Geno Smith of the Jets -- as well as a reunion of two old friends. Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine coached 11 seasons under Jets coach Rex Ryan, and the two defensive-minded coaches will try to scheme against each other's offense Sunday.

Here's what to watch for:

1. Spiller's impact: Bills running back C.J. Spiller had 325 yards from scrimmage in two games against the Jets last season. After a slow start in the opener, Spiller came on strong last week against the Panthers, breaking open a pair of big runs while eclipsing the 100-yard mark rushing. The Jets boast the NFL's third-best rushing defense heading into Week 3, allowing an average of 59.5 yards through two games. The Bills have the NFL's fourth-most effective rushing offense. Something will have to give on Sunday, which could help decide the game's outcome.

2. How do rookies fare? On the surface, it may seem that Manuel and Smith will be in for a long day, playing against two defenses that have ranked in the top half of the NFL in points allowed through two games. But both quarterbacks have the advantage of seeing the general framework of the other team's defense in practice each week; Pettine and Ryan run essentially the same system. Practice and games are two different animals, so it will be worth monitoring how each quarterback responds to what could be blitz-heavy packages in game action, but you almost have to wonder if the Ryan-Pettine effect is overplayed. Both teams figure to be run-first on offense, but maybe this game will feature more passing than first anticipated.

3. Mario vs. Jets O-line: Jets outside linebacker Antwan Barnes said Wednesday that he expects his offensive line to hold up against Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who set personal and team records with 4.5 sacks last week. Barnes, of course, won't be out there having to block Williams: that duty will fall to Austin Howard, who handled Williams well last season. Williams played a big part in disrupting Cam Newton last Sunday, and if he can get to Geno Smith, you'll have to wonder if it leads to some chippiness after plays between the Bills and the Jets, who had a fracas with the Patriots late in their Week 2 game.