The Jets have a bookend schedule for the first time since 2008 as they will open and close the regular season in divisional matchups with the Buffalo Bills. While the Jets won both meetings last season, the Bills' defense should provide a tougher task this year with key additions in free agency as well as the draft.
The good news for Jets fans is that the Bills allowed 5.9 yards per play and finished 28th among NFL defenses in 2011. The bad news is that Gang Green averaged 4.8 yards per play on offense and also finished 28th in the league.
While the Jets' well-rounded defense should once again answer the call -- they finished top 10 in both Total QBR and yards per rush allowed last year -- the offense will try to erase a preseason in which the team managed one touchdown in four games.
Let's take a look at three areas to focus on during Sunday's home opener:
1. In 2011, the Bills finished 27th in the NFL in sacks: They averaged one sack for every 19 opponent dropbacks. That number was even worse in the two matchups against the Jets, as the defense managed only one sack in 65 dropbacks, all taken by Mark Sanchez. Expect a tougher task in the opener as the Bills roll out new signings Mark Anderson and Mario Williams as defensive ends. Anderson recorded 2.5 of his 10 sacks for the Patriots against New York and the Jets allowed 21.5 sacks from defensive ends last season, fourth-worst in the NFL.
2. The Jets need to return their focus to the run game this year, especially against the Bills. The team fell to 30th in the NFL last season averaging 3.8 yards per rush after leading the league in rushing yards in 2009. That season Shonn Greene led qualified players with 2.6 yards after contact per rush, but last year averaged 1.9 yards to finish 31st in that same category. The run will also set up play-action, a favorite of Sanchez and glaring weakness for the Bills' defense. Sanchez finished fourth among all passers behind only Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton in play-action pass attempts last season. Meanwhile, the Bills allowed a Total QBR of 80.8 when opponents used play-action and finished 31st among NFL defenses.
Ryan Fitzpatrick Passing vs Jets
By Distance, 2011 Regular Season
3. The Jets' defense will face Ryan Fitzpatrick, who averaged just 7.5 air yards per attempt to finish 32nd among 34 qualified quarterbacks. (Tim Tebow's pass attempts traveled an average of 12.3 yards in the air to lead the NFL last year). Watch for the underneath routes: The Harvard grad attempted the fourth-most passes that traveled 10 yards or fewer in the NFL and had his best success against the Jets with shorter passes in 2011.