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New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for vs Buffalo Bills

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New York Jets: 5 Things to Watch for vs Buffalo Bills

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The New York Jets head into their Week 3 matchup against the Buffalo Bills sitting at 1-1. With their rivals to the northwest having the same record, this game represents a good chance for one of these teams to take a big step forward in the AFC East.

It is far too early to discuss playoff potential for either of these franchises, but being at 2-1 after three weeks would be a huge boost for both. Rex Ryan is coaching for his job this season, and he needs every win he can get. This looks to be one of the most winnable games on the Jets’ schedule.

All eyes will be on the quarterback position, as the first two QBs taken in this year’s draft do battle. EJ Manuel and Geno Smith are still both very raw, but one of them will leave this game with a big first win in what figures to be a long rivalry.

For the Jets, the defense will again be asked to carry the load and put the team in position to win the game. The defense has been excellent thus far in this young season, ranking 2nd in the NFL in total defense. They have given the Jets a great chance to win both games, but the offense has only come through once.

The offense will be expected to improve from week to week, especially Smith. The run game has started to come to life, and Santonio Holmes is beginning to look like his old self. The Jets haven’t cracked 20 points yet, but if they can do that this week they’ll have a great chance to win.

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Mentor vs Protege

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One of the most intriguing storylines in this matchup is between the defensive play callers, Jets head coach Rex Ryan and his friend and protégé, former Jets and current Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Ryan will want to make sure that the student knows he still has few things to learn.

Both coaches are licking their chops at the prospect of facing a rookie quarterback, and expect the blitzes to come early and often. This has the potential to be a low-scoring, turnover filled game, and both Ryan and Pettine will do their best to make that a reality.

If the Jets want to win, they have to force Manuel to turn the ball over. Expect Ryan to dial up some unique and creative blitz packages to throw the rookie off. The Jets’ defense has more than enough talent to stop the Bills and force some turnovers.

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Battle of Rookie QBs

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The biggest headline here is of course the quarterbacks. Both Smith and Manuel have nearly upset the New England Patriots and gotten a last second win over an NFC South opponent. In their first matchup with each other, ball security will be crucial.

Smith has to bounce back from his three interception fourth quarter against the Patriots. The Jets cannot survive more turnover filled performances like the one they received last Thursday. Smith has to be smart with the ball and not force throws.

Smith is still fighting for his job, but a strong game and a win could end all that talk. He has shown glimpses of his potential, but it is time for him to put a complete game together.

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Deep Passing Must Improve

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets have struggled to get big plays through the air in the first two weeks, averaging just 6.4 YPA, good for 22nd in the NFL. The return of Jeremy Kerley will make a big difference, as will the continually improving health of Holmes.

However, Stephen Hill could be the key figure for the Jets. He has the speed to get behind defenses and the size to create mismatches. However, he has been very inconsistent, and he fumbled last week following a 37 yard catch. Those mistakes can’t happen.

Smith was short on several deep balls last week, and two were intercepted. He must improve his timing and accuracy. If the Jets can’t threaten opponents down the field, their offense will be completely ineffective.

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Defense Can't Allow Big Plays

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets may need big plays on offense, but they certainly can’t allow them on defense. C.J. Spiller is one of the premier breakaway threats in the NFL, and the Jets must contain him. They have had mixed results against Spiller in the past, but they can’t afford to allow a big game.

The pass defense has given up a few deep completions already this season, and they must improve. The Jets will be at their best if they can force Manuel to be accurate and throw underneath, as long as they have sure tackling.

The defense has very little margin for error because of how low scoring the Jets’ offense is. Allowing one big play in this game could mean the difference between winning and losing.

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Commit to the Run

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The Jets started to find success in the run game against the Patriots, with both Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell being effective between the tackles. The Jets then inexplicably abandoned the ground game, and it might have cost them their chance to win.

Offensive coordinator Marty Morhinweg needs to be patient enough to stick with the run, especially if it’s working. On third and short, the ball needs to be in Ivory’s hands, as he is excellent at picking up tough yards.

A strong rushing attack will take the pressure off Smith and put the Jets in the best position to succeed. It may not be Mornhinweg’s favorite style, but if it works that’s all that counts.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google