For most National Football League wide receivers, the prospect of lining up against the New York Jets’ Darrelle Revis is not enticing.
However, Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson has had a modicum of success against the star cornerback, gaining 75 yards and a touchdown in Week 12 of the 2011 season, the only touchdown Revis allowed all year.
But the New York defender, and his outspoken teammate Bart Scott, have strongly dismissed the notion that Johnson has a leg up in head-to-head play.
“Nobody’s indestructible. A lot of the time when he gives up yards, he’s got the whole half of the field with no help,” Scott said to USA Today.
“Everybody was doubling everybody else on the other side. It’s easy for (Johnson) to get (some yards).”
Revis, the All-Pro cornerback, was defensive of his own play and the idea that Johnson has an advantage.
“The success that I’ve had is the reason why maybe people criticize me a different way,” he told the New York Daily News. “You just roll with the punches. I’m not panicking over nothing. I know how to play ball. I play great ball. I’m not panicking because a guy got 70 yards.”
Rex Ryan, the Jets head coach, marvels at his cornerback’s on-field ability.
“I’ve never walked out of a game saying, ‘This player got the best of Darrelle Revis.’ Never. Never felt that way. Do you realize how special this guy is? It is amazing what we ask him to do.”
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick told the NFL Network that he will be looking for Johnson throughout the game.
“Every time they go against each other it’s an interesting matchup and you don’t know who is going to get the best of it,” he said. “(The matchup) is one that I like to get my guy the ball and they’re definitely going to be in man-to-man coverage on him so we will see how it goes.”
Johnson is currently nursing a groin injury, but is still expected to feature prominently Sunday.
Both the Jets and the Bills struggled mightily in the pre-season, with each team going winless. While there isn’t a direct correlation between pre-season and regular season success, both teams need to iron out some kinks if they are to contend for the playoffs.
The Jets have had a tumultuous off-season to say the least.
From Antonio Cromartie openly dismissing the depth of the Jets wide receiver core, to Ryan’s routinely grandiose declarations, to Revis threatening to hold out of camp, the Jets have been their own worst enemy and their focus has been severely clouded.
Buffalo enters the divisional matchup with a renewed sense of optimism, as the team made waves with the signing of star defensive end Mario Williams. Williams, and an improved secondary spearheaded by first-round pick Stephon Gilmore, will be looking to take advantage of the erratic, and often anemic Jets quarterbacks.
Between Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, the Bills personnel match up extremely well against their stateside counterparts.
Sanchez, who compiled a solid five touchdowns against two interceptions versus the Bills last season, may have yet to etch a five-interception performance against Buffalo in 2009 from his memory.
As for the much-discussed Tebow, the former Heisman winner adds a degree of versatility to the team. Tebow provides a solid running game at quarterback, and has proven ability to rally late in the fourth quarter.
Tebow’s impact will be limited in this game.
For one, he doesn’t project to get very many touches as the team’s backup, but more importantly Tebow will have to run against a Buffalo defensive line that has two formidable defensive tackles in Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, both of whom have been excellent against the run.
Many have been projected the Bills to reach the playoffs this year, and if Johnson can exploit Revis, and the Bills defensive line attacks the Sanchez-Tebow duo, the Bills will kick off the 2012 season with a bang at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.