Seattle Seahawks (2-1) at New York Jets (1-2)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J. TV: FOX, Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver.
SERIES HISTORY: 19th regular-season meeting. Seahawks lead series, 10-8. Seattle has won the last two regular-season meetings, but has not beaten the Jets in New York since Sept. 1983. The Jets’ 32-31 win over Seattle in 1998 helped bring instant replay back to the NFL as Vinny Testaverde was credited with a 5-yard touchdown run when only his helmet crossed the goal line.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Seahawks struggled to move the ball against the strong defensive lines of Miami and Los Angeles to open the season, and the offense could be in for another tough day against a Jets defense ranked third against the run. With QB Russell Wilson dealing with left knee and right ankle injuries, the read-option and rollouts so important to coach Darrell Bevell’s playbook will likely be limited. RB Christine Michael (5.2 yards per carry) will again be the workhorse with Thomas Rawls sidelined, and staying out of constant third-and-long situations will be critical.
The Jets need production out of their ground game, with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick coming off a six-interception debacle at Kansas City last week. RB Matt Forte is averaging 3.9 yards per carry and always brings a versatile weapon as a receiver out of the backfield. Seattle allows only 3.5 yards per carry and, while the Seahawks have only one interception on the season, the Jets know they will be gambling if Fitzpatrick is forced to push the ball downfield on long passing downs.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham vs. Jets SS Calvin Pryor. After Chiefs TE Travis Kelce burned the Jets for six catches for 89 yards and a touchdown, Pryor tweeted, “I have to perform better.” Graham is finally close to 100 percent following surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon and is coming off his first game as a Seahawk with 100 receiving yards and a touchdown.
–Seahawks DT Tony McDaniel vs. Jets LG James Carpenter. A former first-round pick by the Seahawks, Carpenter signed a four-year, $19.1 million contract with the Jets in 2015. He’ll be familiar with McDaniel, who re-signed with the Seahawks in August. And Seattle will move Michael Bennett and others inside to test Carpenter’s agility on obvious passing downs.
PREDICTION: Just as Wilson was getting over an ankle injury, he suffered a sprained knee against San Francisco last week. With limited mobility against St. Louis’ stout defensive line in Week 2, Wilson managed to lead the offense to a mere three points. The Jets also boast a deep and talented D-line that will help control the field position — as long as Fitzpatrick can avoid another rash of turnovers.
OUR PICK: Jets, 20-13.
Buffalo Bills (1-2) at New England Patriots (3-0)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass. TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Evan Washburn.
SERIES HISTORY: Bills at Patriots: 112th regular-season meeting. Patriots lead series, 68-42-1. The battles date back to the original AFL days, but of late New England has dominated the Bills as much as any opponent in the Brady/Belichick era. The Patriots are 27-3 against Buffalo since 2001, including a 14-1 mark at Gillette Stadium. The Bills have often put up a fight despite all the losing, with six of the last seven games decided by one score.
KEYS TO THE GAME: New England’s offensive game plan is tough to project given the fact that there is uncertainty about whether Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) or Jacoby Brissett (thumb) will be playing quarterback. While there is some carryover in terms of what the two players do — both run boots and throw on the run — things would be a lot simpler and maybe more gimmicky with the rookie Brissett making his second start.
Either way, New England will look to remain balanced on offense. LeGarrette Blountleads the NFL in rushing yards and attempts through three games. The offensive line has been better in the first month at giving the big back room wear down defenses and hit big runs late. Assuming the score remains close or in New England’s favor, balance will again be key.
Much of Buffalo’s offensive plan will depend on the health of receiver Sammy Watkins. If Watkins is out again, you can be sure that coach Bill Belichick will concentrate on taking LeSean McCoy out of Buffalo’s attack and make Tyrod Taylortry to beat the Patriots through the air, a proposition that seems almost impossible. Without Watkins, the Bills probably won’t have a choice but to try to establish McCoy, which they did successfully last week as McCoy gained 110 of Buffalo’s 208 rushing yards.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
–Patriots LB Jamie Collins vs. Bills RB LeSean McCoy. These two might be the best all-around athletes on the field. McCoy is coming off a big 100-yard day in beating Arizona. Collins is coming off a 14-tackle performance with an interception against the Texans. Buffalo’s focus will be on running the ball with McCoy. New England will focus on stopping the run with Collins. It’s a battle that will be a first step toward deciding how the game plays out.
–Patriots QB vs. Bills HC Rex Ryan. Whether it’s Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett, New England faces Buffalo with a relatively inexperienced young quarterback. For all his faults, Ryan can dial up some interesting defensive game plans that give quarterbacks trouble. He does it in a variety of ways and how he chooses to deploy his talented unit against New England’s second- or third-string quarterback will be interesting to watch. How the youngsters respond could decide the game.
FAST FACTS: Bills RB LeSean McCoy rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns last week. He’s the only NFL player with 7,000 rushing yards (7,277) and 2,000 receiving yards (2,315) since 2010. … The Bills recorded five sacks and four interceptions in a win over Arizona in Week 3. … The Patriots have won 21 of the past 22 division home games. They have won 23 of the past 25 vs. Buffalo and are 14-1 (.933) in the past 15 home meetings.
PREDICTION: Bill Belichick simply knows how to beat the Bills in Foxborough, no matter the quarterback. LeGarrette Blount looms large in this one.
OUR PICK: Patriots, 23-21.