The 16-game NFL season means that very few games can be marked off as throw-aways for any team trying to make the postseason.
Rarely, however, is a Week 2 game a must-win of sorts for any team.
This is where the New York Jets find themselves on Thursday as they prepare to face the Bills in Buffalo for their Thursday night game.
After losing to the Cincinnati Bengals 23-22 in Week 1, the Jets find themselves in somewhat of a dire position in Week 2, thanks to a brutal schedule. Following Week 2 in Buffalo, the Jets go on the road to face the Chiefs in Kansas City, the Seahawks back at home, the Steelers in Pittsburgh, then the Cardinals in Arizona. The cumulative 2015 record of the Jets’ first six opponents is 64-32. Ouch.
The Jets could be in serious danger of getting off to an 0-6 start, which would all but eliminate them from playoff contention. Even if they were to then run off a 10-game winning streak to finish the season, it may not matter — they finished 10-6 last season and missed the playoffs.
The Bills stand out as the easiest opponent in the Jets’ first six games, but playing in Buffalo is no easy feat. The Bills beat the Jets in both meetings last year, including a Week 17 game in Buffalo, where the Bills intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick three times in the fourth quarter, eliminating the Jets from postseason contention.
Fitzpatrick, much like the Jets as a whole last year, hasn’t had success against Rex Ryan-coached teams. In two matchups with the Bills last year, Fitzpatrick threw for 374 yards with a 43% completion rate, four touchdowns, and five interceptions. Fitzpatrick has gone 1-8 over his career vs. Ryan-coached teams.
It’s an equally important game for the Bills. The Bills also began the season with a loss. Should they lose to the Jets in Week 2, with the Cardinals and Patriots as their Weeks 3 and 4 opponents, respectively, the Bills could also be looking at an 0-4 start. According to Wall Street Journal’s Jim Chairusmi, since 1990, only 12 teams who have started 0-2 have ever made the playoffs.
Heading into the game, the two teams seem to have different attitudes. According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis admitted the Jets have “a bad taste” in their mouths because of the way the Bills ended their season last year. Meanwhile, Ryan, presented with the above stat, told reporters, “Oh my goodness. Both teams dropped their first one, so I get it. But I don’t think win, lose, or draw, the season in the long run will be altered too much.”
With both teams seemingly still chasing the Patriots for AFC East supremacy while facing brutal early-season schedules, this Thursday Week 2 game seems as important as any in recent memory.