1. Protect Kyle Orton. When the decision was made to bench EJ Manuel, it came with the understanding the Bills would lose a significant amount of mobility at the position. That’s been the case, as Kyle Orton has been sacked 13 times in three starts (Manuel was sacked six times in four). Thus, pressuring Orton will be an obvious point of emphasis for Jets coach Rex Ryan today. He excels at bringing pressure from everywhere, and this year is no different, as the Jets rank tied for sixth in the NFL with 20 sacks. Like the Bills, they get good pressure from the interior of their defensive line, where the duo of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson reside. They have seven of New York’s 20 sacks.
2. Don’t get one-dimensional. It will be tempting for the Bills to rely on the passing game. The Jets have a weak secondary, having given up an NFL-high 18 touchdowns through the air, with just one interception. Opposing quarterbacks have a 108.3 passer rating against New York, the second highest in the league. Orton has thrown for at least 280 yards in his first three starts, and without Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, it would make sense to throw the ball a bit more. But Anthony Dixon has proven capable of providing positive yardage – averaging 5.1 yards per carry on his 27 attempts this season – and Bryce Brown has flashed potential in his brief professional career. They need a steady diet of work to keep the Jets honest.
3. Wrap up. The Bills’ run defense had its worst effort of the season last week, allowing Minnesota rookie Jerick McKinnon to become the first running back to rush for at least 100 yards against them. The problem, according to Bills coach Doug Marrone, was blown tackles. He counted at least nine, uncharacteristic for his team this season. That will need to get better – especially when it comes to slowing down New York’s newest addition, Percy Harvin. The speedy receiver, acquired in a trade with Seattle, will certainly look to spark the Jets’ offense. Expect to see New York try to get him the ball in space early and often, either through reverses, sweeps or bubble screens. The Bills can’t let Harvin get going, which in turn would ignite the crowd.
4. Win on third down. The Jets’ defense has struggled getting off the field. Opponents have converted first downs 46.6 percent of the time, ranking New York 27th in the NFL. The Jets have also given up 11 touchdowns on third down, the most in the NFL. Last week against New England, the Jets gave up a touchdown on a third-and-19 play. Under Orton, the Bills have made only incremental improvements on third down, going from 35.1 percent heading into Week Five to 37.0 percent heading into Sunday. That still ranks only 25th in the NFL.
5. Pin them deep. The Jets are going three-and-out 29 percent of the time, which ranks 30th in the NFL. If the Bills can force them to go on long drives, they should have a good chance to win the field-position battle. Buffalo punter Colton Schmidt will need to have a good game. He has 14 punts downed inside the 20-yard line, which is tied for second in the NFL. Kickoff specialist Jordan Gay has 23 touchbacks, which ranks tied for eighth in the league. He’ll also need to pin the Jets deep.
Outlook: Four of New York’s six losses are by one possession, so they’ve been in games. But the fact remains: They’re 1-6. Despite Ryan’s dominance against the Bills (7-3 overall, 4-1 at home), this is a game Buffalo needs if it wants to make a playoff push.
Prediction: Bills 20, Jets 17.