The Week 1 NFL schedule will include the fierce AFC East rivalry between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, September 8 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The game will be available on CBS in local markets.
Based on the Week 1 NFL betting odds, the Jets are 3-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 40 points.
The Jets enter the 2019 season with a fair amount of optimism. Last year’s 4-12 campaign was a disaster, and so Todd Bowles is out and Adam Gase is in at head coach. The Jets are now expecting Gase to help develop young quarterback Sam Darnold and turn him into the team’s long-term solution at quarterback.
Just for good measure, the Jets were one of the busier teams in the free-agent market during the offseason. Most notably, they signed running back Le’Veon Bell, who is fresh off of sitting out the entire 2018 season. But the Jets also made several other upgrades on both sides of the ball, leaving many to believe that they’re poised to make a big leap after only winning four games last year.
The Bills, likewise, have a young quarterback in Josh Allen they are hoping will establish himself as a franchise quarterback in 2019. Buffalo also made a considerable effort during the offseason to improve Allen’s surrounding cast, with regard to both playmakers and the offensive line.
Of course, head coach Sean McDermott remains in charge after last year’s 6-10 record. Most Bills fans were expecting much worse than that in 2018, so there’s some reason for optimism. Plus, it’s worth remembering that the Bills are just two years removed from a trip to the playoffs in 2017. McDermott has proven that he can win in Buffalo, even if expectations in 2019 are somewhat tepid.
Finally, we can’t forget that these two teams dislike one another. With second place in the AFC East this season seemingly up for grabs, both sides will be eager to win in Week 1. Last season, the Bills dominated in a 41-10 road win against the Jets, although Darnold didn’t play in that game. When he and Allen matched up for the first time later in the season, the Jets stole a 27-23 win in Buffalo. The Bills have actually won three of their last five road games against the Jets, so home field doesn’t always mean much in this rivalry.
On paper, this game is close to a toss-up, which is usually the case when these two teams get together. That makes me want to lean toward Buffalo as the underdog. Despite questions about Allen, I think the Bills have the better defense, which makes me comfortable taking them to beat the spread and possibly win.
One surprising stat about the Bills is they gave up the second-fewest yards in the NFL last year. That’s an amazing stat considering how unreliable their offense was last season. But it makes me think that they’ll be strong on that side of the ball again, especially early in the year before offenses begin to gel. The Bills added rookie Ed Oliver to their defensive line. They also have a proven pass rusher in Jerry Hughes, a solid group of linebackers in Tremaine Edmunds, and a secondary that’s capable of creating turnovers, which is something they did at a high rate in 2018.
Admittedly, the Jets have a chance to take a big step forward offensively. Adding Bell and Ty Montgomery will be huge for a young quarterback like Darnold. Robby Anderson is a deep threat and Jamison Crowder was added as a slot receiver during the offseason. But while Darnold can push it downfield, I still worry about turnovers. He had 15 interceptions last season, nearly matching his 17 touchdowns. Darnold had the same problem in college, and I’m not sure he’s outgrown it, which could be problematic against the Buffalo defense.
On the other side of the ball, I’m far from sold on Allen. But the Bills did upgrade their offensive line during the offseason. To me, a leaky O-line was Allen’s biggest problem last year. Buffalo also added John Brown, Andre Roberts, and Cole Beasley, giving Allen a trio of veteran receivers with distinct skillsets who should be more reliable targets for the young quarterback than what Allen had last season.
Meanwhile, the Jets have some concerns defensively when it comes to their cornerbacks and outside rushers. Admittedly, they are strong in the middle with a stout defensive line, C.J. Mosley at linebacker, and Jamal Adams patrolling the secondary. But if Allen has more time in the pocket, he’ll be in a much better position to succeed than he was a year ago.
Honestly, this game could go in any number of directions. It could be a defensive slugfest that ends 9-6 or become a blowout in either direction. However, I think the safer pick is to lean toward the team with the better defense, which in this game is the Bills.