BUFFALO BILLS (5-2) AT NEW YORK JETS (3-5)
SERIES HISTORY: 114th regular-season meeting. Bills lead series, 60-53. The Bills beat the Jets 21-12 on opening day, behind two touchdown passes from Tyrod Taylor and 159 all-purpose yards from LeSean McCoy. Despite winning only five games last season, the Jets swept Buffalo for the first time since 2011. Still, the Bills have won six of the last eight, including two of the last three at MetLife Stadium. This is also the third straight year the teams will meet on a Thursday night; the road teams won the first two, 2015 in New Jersey and 2016 in Buffalo. The only postseason game between the Bills and Jets was in the wild-card round in 1981, a 31-27 Buffalo win at Shea Stadium.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Big news going into this intrastate battle is that the Bills punched up their offense by acquiring wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin from the Carolina Panthers for two draft choices prior to Tuesday's trading deadline. Benjamin has 32 receptions for 475 yards and two touchdowns this season. The move immediately improves the Buffalo passing game. The team doesn't have a single wide receiver with 200 yards after they traded top wideout Sammy Watkins to the Los Angeles Rams before the season. In 40 NFL games, Benjamin has 168 catches for 2,424 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The Bills' defense stifled the Jets on opening day in Buffalo, limiting Josh McCown and Co. to 11 first downs and 214 yards, 38 on the ground. RB Matt Forte was held to 16 yards and, after he complained about his lack of usage last week against the Atlanta Falcons, the Jets might try to get Forte more involved. If that happens, the Bills will be ready as they have been excellent against the run all season, ranking third in the NFL. When McCown passes, the Bills need to put some pressure on because that has not been a strong suit; they rank 29th in sacks per pass attempt.
Buffalo RB LeSean McCoy had a big day in the first game, with 159 yards from scrimmage. After slipping into a four-week funk, McCoy has been dynamic in the last two, totaling 242 yards rushing. The Bills would love to pound the Jets on the ground as New York ranks 27th against the rush and may be playing without DE Muhammad Wilkerson, who is battling a couple of injuries.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Jets TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins vs. Bills linebackers. The Bills did not face Seferian-Jenkins in the opener as he was serving a suspension. Since activated, he has become the Jets' top receiver, with 31 catches, though his average is just 6.5 yards per reception. The Bills' linebackers aren't great in coverage, though, and SS Micah Hyde will have to play a role in covering Seferian-Jenkins.
--Bills RT Jordan Mills vs. Jets DE Leonard Williams. Mills is the weak link on Buffalo's offensive line, and Williams is the stud on the Jets' front, especially with Muhammad Wilkerson slowed by injury. The Jets will rely on Williams to put heat on Tyrod Taylor, and Mills has to hold up. It will also be vital in the run game, too, that Mills at least gets some push on Williams and gets him moving the way he wants.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Bills LB Matt Milano. He has burst on the scene is forging a reputation as a ballhawk in the Bills' defense. He took over as the starter when Ramon Humber went down with a thumb injury in Week 4 against Atlanta. Since then, he has one interception, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and a return for a touchdown, a 40-yarder last week against Oakland. Milano also has been in on 14 tackles, two for lost yardage. The fifth-round pick was expected to be a special-teams player and backup this season, but he has seized the opportunity to play. When Humber returns, possibly in two weeks, coach Sean McDermott may have a tough call to make.
FAST FACTS: The Bills improved to 5-2 with a 34-14 win over Oakland last week. Buffalo is aiming to close the first half of the season with a 6-2 record, which would be the team's best start since 1993 (7-1). ... Buffalo leads the NFL with a plus-14 turnover differential and is tied for the league lead with 17 takeaways. ... Bills S Micah Hyde ranks first in the NFL with five interceptions and has four interceptions in his past four games. Hyde's five interceptions are the most by a Bills player through seven games since Jairus Byrd (five) in 2009. ... Jets QB Josh McCown ranks second in the NFL with a 70.5 completion percentage (179 of 254). McCown has posted a completion percentage of at least 60 percent and thrown multiple touchdown passes in four consecutive games -- making him the first player in franchise history to accomplish the feat. ... Jets WR Robby Anderson had six catches for a career-high 104 yards -- his first 100-yard game -- and a touchdown last week against Atlanta.
PREDICTION: The Bills had enough firepower to jettison the Jets before adding WR Kelvin Benjamin. Home field won't even be much of an advantage for Jets.
OUR PICK: Bills, 35-21.