NEW YORK JETS AT BUFFALO BILLS
SERIES HISTORY: 113th regular-season meeting. Bills lead series, 59-53. The Bills had won five in a row before getting swept in 2016. The first loss last year came in Buffalo's home opener on a Thursday night, and after the game, then-coach Rex Ryan fired offensive coordinator Greg Roman. It was a precursor of the dysfunction that was to come.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Jets couldn't ask for a better opening opponent than the Bills, who also are rebuilding/tanking(?) with their eyes on 2018 and beyond. If the optimal offensive philosophy -- running backs Bilal Powell and Matt Forte methodically wearing down the defense and allowing quarterback Josh McCown to take shots downfield -- is going to work, it will do so against the Bills, who allowed 4.5 yards per carry (tied for fifth-worst in the NFL) last year and traded cornerback Ronald Darby to the Philadelphia Eagles in August.
The Bills and Jets are going nowhere in 2017, and both teams probably realize this without saying it. Still, they'd love to get the season off to a good start, and this might be one of the best chances either team has of getting a victory. For the Bills, they are playing in two new systems, unlike the Jets, so that could be an opening-day issue. It will sound like a broken record all season, but the key for the Bills will be how they run the ball with LeSean McCoy because their passing game, right now, is simply not capable of carrying the day.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Jets WR Jermaine Kearse vs. Bills CB Tre'Davious White. If there's a team with a worse wide receiver depth chart than the Bills, it's the Jets. Kearse, who was acquired in a trade from Seattle over the weekend, certainly helps, and the Bills will try to counter him with their rookie first-round pick, White. This will be a baptism under fire for White, but this seems like a good matchup to start his career, especially given New York's problematic quarterback situation.
--Bills RB LeSean McCoy vs. Jets NT Steve McLendon. McLendon led a run defense that smothered McCoy last season. Limiting McCoy again this week would force shaken QB Tyrod Taylor to go to the air, where he is lacking reliable targets.
JETS NOTABLE ROOKIE: Safety Jamal Adams. The sixth overall pick in last spring's draft offers an NFL readiness that should enable him to make an immediate impact and solidify a long-time weakness for the Jets.
BILLS NOTABLE ROOKIE: Cornerback Tre'Davious White. The first-round draft pick was a starter the moment he walked through the door, though some of that was out of necessity after the Bills allowed Stephon Gilmore to leave via free agency. Barring injury, White will play the most snaps of any Bills rookie. Opponents will be sure to test him, but in the preseason he appeared to be up for the challenge.
FAST FACTS: Buffalo RB LeSean McCoy's kryptonite last year was the Jets' run defense. He managed only 69 yards in 20 carries during two games, both won by New York. It probably didn't please the replacement ref from 2012 who urged McCoy, then of the Eagles, to help his fantasy team during a game. ... New York QB Josh McCown will make his fifth Week 1 start -- with his fifth team. He got the call for Arizona in 2004, Oakland in 2007, Tampa Bay in 2014 and Cleveland in 2015. ... Just six of the 28 draft picks the Bills made from 2013 to 2016 are still on their roster.
PREDICTION: Someone has to start the season 1-0, or so we think. Whoever it is, according to history, has a better than 50-50 chance of making the playoffs. Don't expect either team to follow that trend.
OUR PICK: Bills, 13-10.