Welcome back, football fans! As we settle in for the upcoming 2012 season, I’d like to take a quick look at two of our beloved New York teams: the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills. (I’m passing over the Giants not because I’m a Jets fan — I don’t hate the Giants — but because they’re the defending Super Bowl champs, and that should speak for itself).
Both the Jets and the Bills are coming off lackluster 2011 seasons, but both teams have strived to improve areas in which they struggled last year, and bolster areas in which they excelled. Here’s my take on some of the pros and cons each team carries with them into the season.
New York Jets
Pro: Elite defense
Ever since Rex Ryan took over as head coach in 2009, the New York Jets have fielded excellent defensive squads. This year looks to be no different. Projected as a top-five defense, the Jets have made some interesting signings during the offseason that will only boost the team’s defensive potential.
Rookie defensive end Quinton Coples, a first-round draft pick, has been perhaps the most talked about addition to the defensive squad. Coples’ capacity to get at the quarterback greatly improves the team’s pass rush ability, a defensive aspect that the Jets struggled with last year. With three sacks already recorded through the preseason, Coples looks set to boost the Jets’ defensive line to a new level. With other acquisitions like safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, the Jets seem ready continue their streak of defensive dominance.
Con: Lackluster offense
Let me start by saying that the Jets scored only one touchdown through four preseason games.
Their offense was ranked dead last in total yards per game and points scored per game.
While the preseason often has little or no bearing on the regular season, it’s still depressing to see a team struggle to get even one drive going.
With an uninspiring receiving corps that features a crowd of inexperienced players and multiple injuries, the Jets will have trouble moving the ball through the air. With no receivers able to stretch the field, the “ground and pound” offense Rex Ryan hopes to reestablish this year will struggle against defenses primed for the run.
Hopefully the wildcat offense that’s been under wraps this preseason, under the direction of Tim Tebow, will provide the spark needed to jumpstart the Jets’ offense. The unpredictability and confusion the packages may cause might give the Jets the boost they need.
Pro: Running game
The Buffalo Bills are entering the 2012 season with a squad of all-star running backs.
Fred Jackson is coming off a season in which he rushed for over 900 yards and recorded over 400 receiving yards. These numbers may seem slightly underwhelming, but don’t forget the fact that Jackson played only 10 full games. A season-ending broken fibula injury in week 11 halted his bid for a record setting year.
Backup C.J. Spiller, however, picked up the slack when Jackson left the field, rushing for 446 yards over the last six games. By the end of the season, the Buffalo Bills ran for an average of 120 yards per game. With both Jackson and Spiller back this year, and at full health, expect Buffalo’s running game to be on point again.
Con: Quarterback issues
Ryan Fitzpatrick is the big question mark on the Buffalo Bills offense. He’s exhibited both flashes of brilliance and undeniably lackluster performances throughout his seven-year career. Take last season for example. Fitzpatrick led the Bills to a 4-1 record to start the 2011 season, throwing for 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions. But Fitzpatrick’s season, along with the Bills’ season, went downhill from there, as he ended the year with 24 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and a 79.1 quarterback rating.
With such an unpredictable quarterback at the helm of the offense, and with no real replacement in sight, Ryan Fitzpatrick remains the biggest liability on the Bills. Until he becomes a more solid, reliable quarterback, the Bills will struggle in the passing game.