- WHERE: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, N.J.)
- WHEN: 8:15 p.m. ET | ESPN, ABC
Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season is finally upon us, as teams return to the field after months of practice to put their offseason preparations to the test.
And for the grand finale of the opening weekend of football, we’ll be treated to a divisional showdown between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets. Two teams with aspirations of hoisting a Lombardi Trophy in February, and each receiving their fair share of media attention going into this season.
The Bills are the reigning AFC East champions, winning the division each of the last three years behind head coach Sean McDermott and quarterback Josh Allen. But though the team finished 13-3 in 2022, Buffalo failed to achieve the ultimate goal of making it to the Super Bowl, leading to a renewed sense of urgency heading into this year.
On the other side, the Jets are hoping that an offseason full of big moves can pay off immediately and get them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
A matchup between the up-and-coming Jets and the powerhouse Bills awaits us in prime time, so grab your popcorn as we break down some of the key storylines heading into the first Monday night game of 2023.
Here are four things to watch for when the Jets host the Bills on Monday Night Football:
- Rodgers-led Jets offense makes debut. Everyone knew this was coming. The single most-discussed storyline of the Jets' offseason was undoubtedly the trade to acquire quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Bringing in the four-time MVP appears to fill one of the last holes in the Jets’ lineup, and immediately catapulted the squad into the Super Bowl conversation. Thus far there have only been glimpses of Rodgers in action during the preseason, though he already looked to have solid chemistry with his receivers (not necessarily a surprise for the ones that came with him from Green Bay), including last season's Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson. In his two series in Week 3 of the preseason, Rodgers was 5-of-8 passing, and his final throw of the afternoon was a touchdown throw lofted to Wilson, creating a tantalizing preview of the duo’s potential. Monday is the first opportunity for fans and critics alike to see what Jets team led by Rodgers will look like in a full game, and a matchup with the Bills should be a sufficient first test.
- Gang Green RBs on display. The Jets acquired Rodgers to make an upgrade in the passing game. To improve on their lackluster rushing offense from 2022 they will rely on a duo of backs, one just starting a promising career and the other a four-time Pro Bowler. Second-year RB Breece Hall was on his way to a top rushing season in 2022 -- 463 yards through seven games -- before suffering a torn ACL in October. Hall has managed to get back on the field in time for Week 1 after almost 11 months of rehab, and will be trying to pick up right where he left off before the injury. Hall is set to share snaps Monday with Dalvin Cook, who the Jets signed in August after the Vikings released the six-year veteran. Cook is coming off of his fourth consecutive season of 1,000-plus rushing yards. Both players have the potential to put up big yardage, and it will be interesting to see how the snaps are distributed in this first outing. Also of interest on the other side will be Cook’s brother, James Cook, who has worked his way into the RB1 role for Buffalo after the departure of Devin Singletary.
- Can Bills break through for playoff success? With Josh Allen at the helm, Buffalo was one of the most dynamic and high-scoring offenses in the league last season. But in the late stretches of the season, things started to get a bit more bumpy, as turnover troubles and inconsistency plagued the offense, culminating in a disappointing playoff loss to the Bengals. This squad still hasn't been able to get over the hump to get to a Super Bowl, and the window to do so with this current team could be closing soon. So will this be the year? Can Allen return to form? As Buffalo kicks off this 2023 campaign, Allen will still have his favorite target in Stefon Diggs, who had 1,429 receiving yards catching passes from the QB last year. Also still available are Gabe Davis and Dawson Knox as solid options, and the unit is expected to be bolstered by the addition of rookie TE Dalton Kincaid. All the pieces are still in place, it’ll just come down to whether they can put everything together at the right time, starting with a tough test on Monday contending with the Jets’ defense, which ranked No. 4 in the league in 2022.
- Buffalo defense has slightly different look. The Bills have made a name for themselves with their consistent high-level defensive play since head coach Sean McDermott took over in 2017, most recently ranking sixth in the league in 2022. As the Bills begin their 2023 campaign and attempt to hold on to their status among the NFL’s defensive elite, they will have to contend with a few key changes to the unit that are worth keeping an eye on early in the year. Notably, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier announced in February that he would be taking a year off from coaching, with McDermott now set to call plays. There shouldn’t be too many major changes to the operation, but it could prove intriguing to see what personal touches McDermott adds to try to upgrade his unit. On the injury front, Von Miller (ACL) was unable to avoid being placed on the team's PUP list ahead of Week 1, and he will not be available for the first four weeks of the season. But though Buffalo will have to replace Miller’s production on the line, the secondary should be bolstered by the return of a trio of secondary stars. Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer and Tre’Davious White have not played all together since 2021 due to a variety of injuries, making Monday the first opportunity for the Bills to see what is possible with all three of these Pro Bowlers on the field at the same time.