(WGR 550) -- Through two weeks of the season, the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets have mirrored each other from a very simple viewpoint.
Both teams have a 1-1 record, thanks to a one point win over an NFC South opponent and a close loss to a heavily favored New England Patriots squad. Both the Bills and Jets employ the same attacking, multiple front defense run by coordinators who sharpened their teeth in Baltimore. And most importantly, both teams are starting a rookie quarterback.
Besides those very basic commonalities, the Bills and Jets have much different rosters and talent levels at certain areas. The game in East Rutherford, NJ could end up being a tight one, so here are some things to look for as the contest goes on:
1) Which rookie QB will play more like one?
- EJ Manuel and Geno Smith, the first two quarterbacks selected in the 2013 NFL draft and the only two rookies starting at the position in the league, will try to guide their respective teams to a 2-1 start to the season. Manuel has only turned the ball over twice in his first two games, but has taken less chances down the field than his AFC East counterpart. Conversely, Smith has taken and connected on chances down the field, but has shown the tendency of holding on to the ball for too long, taking sacks and turning the ball over five times in the first two games. Both Manuel and Smith will be going up against defenses with some intel about what they may be up against from their franchise's defensive coordinators. If the first two weeks are any indication, Manuel may end up faring better than Smith because of a more conservative passing attack.
2) Protege Pettine vs. Rex the Mentor
- Much has been made over Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine this week and how he'll react when he's back in New Jersey for the first time since the two sides couldn't come to an agreement. How much does Pettine know about New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, and how much might Ryan have of Pettine? It's a very interesting situation that will certainly get a lot of attention. However, it may end up being a moot point because their defenses may just cancel each other out. Whichever aggressive and attacking defense can get to the other's rookie quarterback more will probably end up winning.
3) Can Spiller be Jets' regression to the mean?
- Through the first two games the New York Jets have been fantastic against the run, stopping two very impressive young running backs along the way. In Week One, the Jets held Tampa Bay's Doug Martin to just 65 rushing yards on 24 carries (2.71 yards per carry). Then in Week Two, New York limited New England runner Stevan Ridley to just 40 yards on 16 carries (2.5 yards per carry). In total, the Jets have only allowed 119 total rushing yards and just 2.4 yards per carry. However, if there is one running back that has the unique skill-set to give a stout front-seven some trouble, it's Bills running back C.J. Spiller. Going up against an impressive Carolina front, Spiller eclipsed 100 rushing yards and made them look a bit more normal based on all his cutbacks and bursts to the sideline to obtain more yardage. In 2012, Spiller had 228 of his 1,244 rushing yards come against the Jets.
4) Beware of Muhammad Wilkerson
- To this point, the biggest weakness in the starting lineup for the Buffalo Bills has been the play of left guard Colin Brown. He struggled mightily against both New England's Vince Wilfork and Carolina standout rookie Star Lotulelei, having some potential big plays be blown up because of his failure to secure the block. It doesn't get any easier for Brown in Week Three against the Jets. In fact, it may even get harder. Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson is now in his third season with the Jets, and he's on the cusp of becoming one of the next big time defensive linemen in the NFL. He moves all around the line of scrimmage (a staple of a Rex Ryan defense), but primarily will be over the left guard. Wilkerson will be the man to watch, and potentially the key to a solid defensive day for the Jets.
5) Underrated individual matchup of the day
- In the opening game of 2012, the man that had quite the impact on the outcome was slot receiver Jeremy Kerley. His matchup with then nickel corner Leodis McKelvin resulted in four catches for 45 yards and a touchdown, and also led to McKelvin's benching the very next week. This time around undrafted rookie Nickell Robey is given the task of trying to cover up Kerley, who could be a very important piece for rookie Geno Smith if he's trying to get rid of the ball a bit quicker than he has been in the previous two weeks. Robey has been impressive through the first two weeks, but has a difficult task in Week Three with Kerley.
Buffalo OUT: CB Stephon Gilmore (wrist), WR Marquise Goodwin (hand), CB Ron Brooks (foot), K Dustin Hopkins (groin) QUESTIONABLE: S Jairus Byrd (feet), G/C Doug Legursky (knee)
New York Jets OUT: T Oday Aboushi (knee) PROBABLE: TE Kellen Winslow (knee), NT Kenrick Ellis (back), HB Bilal Powell (illness), LB Garrett McIntyre (knee), WR Santonio Holmes (foot), DE Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle), T Austin Howard (ribs), G Willie Colon (knee), CB Antonio Cromartie (hip), QB Geno Smith (ankle), DE Quinton Coples (ankle), WR Stephen Hill (knee), WR Edmond Gates (knee), WR Jeremy Kerley (concussion), DT Sheldon Richardson (shoulder)
Prediction: Bills over Jets
- After struggling with this all week, in the end it was the Bills' pass rush combined with Geno Smith's tendency to hold on to the ball too long that helped make the decision. At this point in their careers Manuel seems just a bit more polished and is prone to less mistakes than Smith, but both have shown positive early signs. Smith has made some very nice deep throws and could challenge the Bills' secondary but once again, holding on to the ball too long -- much like Cam Newton did in Week Two -- might be too much to overcome if the Bills' pass rush is working.