By: Dan Moriarty (@moriartysports)
#Bills WR Stevie Johnson is OUT and will not play Sunday against the Jets.— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) November 15, 2013
After not missing a game the last three seasons, Bills top wide receiver Stevie Johnson will miss his second game this year. Head coach Doug Marrone made it official Friday saying that after missing practice all week Johnson will sit Sunday when the Bills host the New York Jets. Injuries have plagued Johnson the last three years but he’s always been ready on gameday to take the field. That hasn’t been the case this year and Johnson’s recent groin injury will sideline him Sunday, forcing him to miss his second game of the season. Earlier in the season Johnson missed the Bills game against the Bengals after suffering a back injury against the Browns. He leads the Bills with 41 catches for 471 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Without their leading receiver in the lineup the Bills will turn to TJ Graham, Marquise Goodwin, Chris Hogan and Marcus Easley to try and carry the load. Also notably absent from that list is this year’s 2nd round pick out of USC Robert Woods. Woods suffered a high ankle sprain two weeks ago against the Chiefs and hasn’t been on the field since. The loss of Johnson and Woods this weekend will make things awfully difficult for rookie quarterback EJ Manuel who is coming off his worst performance of the season. The Bills go into this game against the Jets already struggling to throw the football and are currently ranked 29th in the league.
Before his atrocious performance a week ago, the worst EJ Manuel had played this season was Week 3 against Rex Ryan and the New York Jets defense. One of the lone bright spots in that game was Stevie Johnson with his 6 catches for 86 yards. As good as the Jets have been against the Bills since Rex Ryan became coach, the one guy who could consistently win his matchups was Johnson. That was the case even when he was going up against top corner Darrelle Revis. He isn’t having a great season because of his constant injuries and the shuffling of quarterbacks but his loss is a devastating blow on Sunday.
Earlier in the season when Johnson missed the game against the Bengals, the Bills offense was able to step up as a whole and make plays despite his absence. TJ Graham stepped up the most, posting 4 receptions for 74 yards, in one of the finest performances of his young career. The Bills will need Graham to win some battles on the outside on Sunday, as well as fellow speedster Marquise Goodwin. With Johnson out, Chris Hogan will probably take a majority of the snaps in the slot. The slot is where Stevie Johnson was able to carve up the Jets defense in their first meeting this year. The most veteran skill guy on the field Sunday for the Bills will be TE Scott Chandler, who Manuel should look for as often as possible.
This is a huge game for EJ Manuel to see where he is in his development and how he rebounds from his awful outing last week. It’s the first time we get to see Manuel go up against a defense for a 2nd time and it just so happens that it’s one of the better defenses in the league. Manuel also goes head to head with Geno Smith, the quarterback selected after him in last year’s NFL Draft. So far Smith has been the more productive player and has his team at 5-4 coming off their bye week. The Jets record has a lot to do with the play of their dominant defense but Smith has been under center for every start this season. I think Manuel’s in for a long afternoon without Stevie Johnson and Robert Woods. This Jets D got after the rookie and sacked him 8 times the last time they played and this one could get just as ugly. This is an incredibly difficult situation for the rookie signal caller to have to step into. Right now these are two teams going in different directions this season. The Jets are coming off a bye and are energized after signing 9 time Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed. The Bills on the other hand are beat up and coming off their worst game of the season. What kind of fight does this Bills team have in them? We find out on Sunday. Considering their performance last week and the injury circumstances this week, a win this weekend would be their most impressive of the season.
Prediction: NY Jets 20, Buffalo Bills 13