Find how to watch the Bills and Jets in their 2019 NFL season opener.
Le’Veon Bell is set to make his Jets debut as the running back looks to hit the ground running in the team's season-opener against the Bills on Sunday in a clash of AFC East rivals.
Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million deal with the Jets in the offseason as the marquee free agent at his position, with $35 million guaranteed. The three-time 1,200-yard rusher sat out all of 2018 rather than sign a franchise tag tender for a second straight season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
First-year coach Adam Gase opted to hold out his new franchise running back from New York’s four exhibition games, content to increase his workload each week of camp. At his best, Bell is a dynamic dual threat out of the backfield, totaling 75 or more receptions and at least 1,800 total yards from scrimmage in three seasons.
He'll upgrade a Jets offense that looks to continue making improvements under second-year quarterback Sam Darnold. The third overall pick in 2018, Darnold showed promise late in his rookie season after returning from a foot injury, throwing for 931 yards and six touchdowns over his last four games. That was highlighted by a 27-23 win at Buffalo in Week 14 in which he directed a game-winning drive in the final 2:31.
The Jets, who went 4-12 in 2018 and missed the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season, will be without tight end Chris Herndon. He will begin serving a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. A fourth-round pick last year, Herndon finished with 39 catches for 502 yards and four touchdowns.
Much is expected of the Jets offense with Gase’s arrival, and there is a significant amount of pressure on the new coach—his hiring came nine days after being fired by the Miami Dolphins. Gase went 23-25 during three seasons in Miami and missed the playoffs in the last two after guiding the Dolphins to a wild-card berth in 2016.
Long known as a quarterback whisperer who helped get the best out of late-career Peyton Manning and the mercurial Jay Cutler, Gase was unable to coax the same kind of play from Ryan Tannehill with the Dolphins. However, Gase now has the chance to mold Darnold, whom the Jets are hoping will be their cornerstone for at least the next decade.
Buffalo took a step back in 2018, failing to follow up on its wild-card appearance en route to a 7-9 finish. The Bills began a rebuild on the fly with a rookie quarterback of their own in Josh Allen, who took over as a starter in Week 2 and went 5-6 while missing four games mid-season with an elbow injury.
Allen, who went four spots behind Darnold at No. 7 in the draft last year after Buffalo traded up to get him, finished with 2,074 passing yards and 10 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. But his 52.8 completion percentage must improve if the Bills are going to make a second trip to the postseason in three years after missing out the previous 17.
Both of the Bills’ top two picks this year are expected to be starters, with No. 9 overall pick Ed Oliver lining up at defensive end and second-rounder Cody Ford at either guard or tackle on the offensive line. With the release of veteran running back LeSean McCoy, third-round selection Devin Singletary will likely get plenty of playing time with 36-year-old Frank Gore.
The Bills are a fairly young team with 25 players having two or fewer years of experience, including seven rookies. One position with a veteran presence is kicker, where Stephen Hauschka signed a two-year extension last week, ahead of his third season with Buffalo and 12th overall.
That stability could prove vital in a close game given the Jets are unsettled at the position after Taylor Bertolet was among the final cuts for their 53-man roster. Cody Parkey, of “double-doink” fame after missing a potential game-winning field goal for the Chicago Bears in last year’s wild-card round, reportedly was in camp last weekend, and New York signed Kaare Vedvik off waivers after he failed to stick with the Minnesota Vikings.
How to Watch
Date: Sunday, Sept. 8
Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
Live Stream: You can stream the game on fuboTV (try for free)