Buffalo Bills at New York Jets: Three Keys to the Game

BY Fansided and DJ Eberle/FanSided via BuffaLowDown • December 30, 2016

Dec 24, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy (25) celebrates after running for a touchdown during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at New Era Field. The Dolphins beat the Bills 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills Week 17 matchup against the New York Jets kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. in East Rutherford.

What a week it has been for the Buffalo Bills.

From a Saturday loss that put the exclamation point on the season of ‘what-ifs’ to the firing of Rex Ryan and benching of Tyrod Taylor to the ridicule that has followed, the scene is now dark for Bills fans.

And now, Sunday features the epic matchup of E.J. Manuel versus Ryan Fitzpatrick. Just like we all imagined when the schedule was released just months ago.

One last time, here we go.

Each week during the regular season, this column will provide the three ways the Bills can secure a victory. So, without further ado, here’s the Three Keys to the Game for the matchup against the Jets, which kicks off Sunday at 1 p.m. at MetLife Stadium on CBS.

Shut Down Brandon Marshall

With Matt Forte ruled out and Bilal Powell listed as questionable heading into Sunday’s game, the Jets will be forced to turn to their passing game.

Last time these two teams met, Fitzpatrick had his best game of the season and Brandon Marshall had one of his best games of the season. Without a running game, Marshall will have his fair share of chances to make an impact.

With Stephon Gilmore ruled out for Sunday’s game with a concussion, Kevon Seymour — who is expected to start in Gilmore’s place — must step up.

With jump balls aplenty coming Marshall’s way, the Buffalo secondary can’t let Marshall get hot.

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Let E.J. Manuel Take Shots

While E.J. Manuel is a downgrade from Tyrod Taylor, the former first-round pick should still be able to take his shots against a porous Jets secondary.

The Jets rank in the bottom half of the league in both passing yards and completion percentage allowed and with Sammy Watkins and Charles Clay coming on, Buffalo should be able to continue building on its momentum from last two weeks.

Luckily for Manuel, the quarterback already has some familiarity with his top receivers, playing with Watkins, Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin in the past.

“I think it’s just playing the game fast,” Watkins said, via BuffaloBills.com. “You know he’s going to be a little more jittery and he’s going to throw it out there further. By not having timing I told him I’d rather have you over throw me than underthrow me. So I think he’s going to be prepared. He’s going to gun it. He’s going to go out there and throw the ball and whether he throws a pick or two he’s going to throw those chancy balls. That’s what you look forward to those 50-50 balls.”

Woods could prove to be a worthy outlet for Manuel Sunday, as well. According to Pro Football Focus, Woods has an impressive catch rate of 70 percent on deep passes. While Woods, hasn’t scored on a deep ball yet, his 70-percent rate comes in second for wide receivers with at least five deep-ball targets.

Woods hasn’t been able to break a deep target for a touchdown, and hasn’t had more than 34 yards on a deep target, but he’s still been one of the best of catching the deep targets thrown his way. He had a game to forget the first time around against the Jets, but should have a better performance this time around. – Pro Football Focus

Pound the Rock

The Jets bring an average run defense into Sunday’s matchup and the best way to set E.J. Manuel up for success is to run the ball.

Not only will it make his reads easier, but if the Bills can run the ball with success, the play action will also set up well.

Manuel has always struggled reading the field, but if the Jets start committing to stop the run, it will be easier to find the open receiver.

Prediction: Bills 31, Jets 10

Even though Buffalo changed its quarterback, this Jets defense is not what it used to be.

A step slower this year, the Buffalo Bills should have no problem putting up points for a third straight week.

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