The final game on the NFL Week 1 schedule might be the biggest with the New York Jets hosting the division-rival Buffalo Bills.
There are so many storylines and backstories to this AFC East tilt. It starts with future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers making his Jets regular season debut. He does so on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, mere miles from New York City’s Ground Zero.
On the other side, the Bills are coming off somewhat of a drama-filled offseason surrounding Josh Allen and star receiver Stefon Diggs. Clearly boasting Super Bowl talent, Buffalo needs to start this season strong after the playoff struggles of this past January.
Below, we look at everything you need to know about this primetime Monday Night Football matchup. That includes key players to watch, top storylines and a final prediction.
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets: Kickoff time, TV information and odds
- Date: September 11, 2023
- Time: 8:15 PM ET
- Television: ESPN/ABC/ESPN2
- Point spread: Bills (-2.0)
Top Buffalo Bills players to watch
Here, we look at two Bills players to watch as head coach Sean McDermott and Co. look to start the 2023 season strong on national television.
Stefon Diggs, wide receiver
Diggs was a vocal critic of the Bills’ postseason struggles this past January. It led to an offseason of drama in which there was some thought that he might not be long for Western New York. To be fair, the frustration makes sense given how last season ended against the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
Even then, Diggs has a lot to prove out of the gate against the Jets Monday night. He’s slated to go up against All-Pro cornerback Sauce Gardner. Diggs caught just 8-of-15 passes for 130 yards in two games against the Jets last season. Should he struggle here, it will likely lead to a Bills road loss and more frustration on the part of the All-Pro receiver.
James Cook, running back
Remaining on offense in Buffalo, there is certainly a need for more balance on offense. The Bills can’t have Josh Allen averaging 123 rushing attempts like he did over the past two seasons. It’s not sustainable to keep the star quarterback healthy.
That’s where Cook comes into play. He now takes over as RB1 in Buffalo following the departure of Devin Singletary in free agency. Last season saw Cook average a resounding 5.7 yards per attempt in limited action. He’s now slated to take on a Jets defense that ranked in the middle of the pack against the run a season ago. It could be an opportunity for the youngster.
Top New York Jets players to watch
As the Rodgers era starts in Jersey, let’s check in on two Jets players to watch once Monday Night Football gets going.
Aaron Rodgers, quarterback
Rodgers making his Jets debut at home on national television against an in-state rival to conclude Week 1 of the NFL season. The league knew exactly what it was doing in drawing up the schedule for this season.
However, there are some on-field question marks heading into this one. Can Rodgers rely on a shaky offensive line to protect him? Left tackle Mehki Becton has played in all of one game since the end of the 2020 season. He’s still an unproven commodity. Not necessarily the most mobile signal caller, Rodgers needs protection in order to succeed at his advanced age (39 years old). That will be key against Buffalo.
Dalvin Cook, running back
The Jets are going to ease Breece Hall back into the mix as he returns from a torn ACL the star youngster suffered as a rookie last season. That is going to put the onus on Cook mere months after the Pro Bowler signed with New York.
In no way is this going to be an easy task against a Bills defense that yielded the fifth rushing yards in the NFL a season ago. Getting something out of Cook on the ground will also take some of the pressure off Rodgers as he also makes his Jets debut.
Top Buffalo Bills storyline
Taking on a division rival who is a popular bet to place first is one thing. Doing so away from the friendly confines of Western New York on national television is a completely different thing.
Realistically, the Bills have to be seen as talented enough to win the Super Bowl. But the aforementioned playoff failures have to be on their minds heading into Monday night. An ugly performance against the Jets could initiate a downward spiral. On the other hand, a strong performance could set the stage for a big season in Buffalo.
Top New York Jets storyline
“It’s really been better that I could have expected. It feels like sometimes that I woke up inside of a dream and that this is my life playing out. I pinch myself at various times throughout the week every single week that I’ve been here.”Aaron Rodgers on life with the New York Jets
After 18 years with Green Bay, Rodgers is set to make his first start as a member of another organization. As you can see in the quote above, it really is like a new lease on life for the future first ballot Hall of Famer.
But it won’t come without a transition. Expectations are high in North America’s largest media market. We know how quarterbacks who struggle in the Big Apple are treated by the fans and the media. With all eyes on Rodgers heading into this one, the microscope is going to be on the veteran.
Prediction: New York Jets 27, Buffalo Bills 23