ORCHARD PARK — Different year, same opponent. And the Jets are hoping a different result.
The Jets open the season against the Bills for the second straight year, kicking off their season Sunday at Bills Stadium. A year ago, the Jets had a 16-0 lead in Week 1 at MetLife Stadium. Then, they collapsed in the fourth quarter and lost 17-16, sending the team into tailspin.
A few days later, quarterback Sam Darnold was diagnosed with mononucleosis, which he surely played with in that loss.
“Thanks for reminding me,” Darnold said jokingly this week when asked about looking back at that game.
A year later, the Jets believe they are a better team than the one that stumbled that day. Just three offensive starters for the team that day are expected to start Sunday.
“It was good just to be able to look back on that and see all the improvements we made throughout the year and then in this offseason, all the different things that I learned from the mistakes that I made, not only from that game, but the other weeks that followed that,” Darnold said. “I continued to improve throughout the year, and I feel like all that experience just kind of all builds up and it leads to better games ahead. And so, I think I am going to take that experience and run with it.”
The Bills enter this season as the favorites to win the AFC East in the minds of many. They have largely the same team back that went 10-6 and made the playoffs. They added wide receiver Stefon Diggs to give quarterback Josh Allen another weapon and are expected to have one of the best defenses in football.
It is an immediate challenge for a Jets offense that revamped its line and wide receiving corps in the offseason. Second-year coach Adam Gase is promising better results on offense this season. They can’t be any worse after finishing dead last in total offense a year ago.
“I mean, it was atrocious everything last year, just throw it out, all the stats were terrible,” Gase said this week.
The Jets enter this season with very little expected from them. They could send a message with a win over the Bills.
“We have a great challenge in going up and facing a division opponent, an opponent that was in the playoffs last year,” general manager Joe Douglas said early this week. “So, I know that there’s a lot of hungry guys that want to go out there and just prove a lot of people wrong, frankly. … I’m excited for the season and I’m excited about these group of guys we have going up to Buffalo this weekend.”
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