The coach in Buffalo might want you to believe so, but it is not Super Bowl week in New York. However, the New York Jets (5-3) do play a huge game against the Buffalo Bills (4-4) on Thursday night. The game will kickoff at 8:25 and will be broadcasted locally on CBS. For the out of towners, the game will be played on NFL Network.
It’s hard to put into words how big this game is. At 5-3, the Jets are in the driver seat for a wild card position. A win against Buffalo would not only improve that, but could really punt a dent into the Bills hopes.
Hey, anything to shut Rex Ryan up, right? Lets dig into the matchup a little more.
Getting to know the Bills
Buffalo has had a very odd season. They made a statement week one by dominating a Colts team many figured were going to be very good. In week two, a furious comeback against the Patriots wasn’t enough to pull out a win.
From there, the season has been a mess of injuries. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, running backs Karlos Williams and LeSean McCoy and wide receiver Sammy Watkins have all missed time with injuries. The result is losses to the Giants, Bengals and Jaguars and a narrow victory against Tennessee.
The Bills are pretty healthy bunch now. Taylor is back, and promptly played a Tyrod Taylor game last week; he went 11-12 for 181 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 44 yards. On the season, Taylor has completed 78.1 percent of his passes for 1,278 with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.
Watkins welcomed back Sammy Watkins, the second year pro out of Clemson. Watkins had a breakout performance with eight receptions for 168 yards and a touchdown. As some may remember, Watkins had the best game of his career at MetLife Stadium last year, where he was tearing past wide receiver Salim Hakim for big gains. He’ll get the literal opposite of that Thursday, where Darrelle Revis will likely shadow him.
As it always is with Rex Ryan, the Bills want to “ground and pound.” They have a nice running back duo in LeSean McCoy and rookie Karlos Williams. McCoy is dealing with a shoulder injury, but is expected to play Thursday. McCoy won a rushing title in Philadelphia, but to be honest, Williams has been the better back this season. He’s averaging 6.6 yards per carry. That duo will again be tested against a jets defense that’s number one against the run.
The Bills ranks 15th in total defense on the year. They’re good against the run (opponents average about 90 yards per game) but show a vulnerability against the pass. The Bils biggest problem is their pass rushers are underachieving. Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams but have just three sacks on the season. Two of Hughes’ three sacks came last week against Miami. The Jets better hope that duo doesn’t find their groove Thursday.
The Walking Wounded
Thursday games are always dumb, but this one is going to feel really bad if the Jets lose. New York has a few guys (Willie Colon, Calvin Pryor, Bilal Powell) who might have played on a Sunday but likely won’t suit up on Thursday.
The loss of Pryor makes for a real interesting conundrum. The Jets lost safeties Antonio Allen and Jaiquwan Jarrett in the preseason, and Pryor’s backup, Dion Bailey, suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday. That means either Rontez Miles, who was just activated from the practice squad, or a combination of corners will play safety for the Jets.
Cornerback Dee Millinier was activated from the PUP list and will dress for the game. Some suggest that he could see some time at safety. If not cornerback darrin Walls did practice their this preseason. Either way, the Bills will probably try and push the ball down the field.
On the offensive side, the line is really banged up, and it’s showing. Center Nick Mangold wasn’t even able to finish the game against Jacksonville. Guard Willie Colon hasn’t played in several weeks. Without those two, the Jets running game has struggled big time. They ran for just 29 total yards against the Jaguars.
Someone on the Jets offense needs to step up. Whether it’s a lineman who wins a matchup, a back who finds the running lane, or a third wide receiver who becomes that extra dimension, it has to happen. Too often, the team has had to rely on Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing to Brandon marshall and Eric Decker.
It’s not a bad system to rely on. Fitzpatrick has generally avoided *the* mistake and Marshall and Decker have done nothing but step up in big moments. However, good teams always find different ways to win in tough moments. With how banged up New York is, Thursday seems like one of those games.
Bring back Westhoff
Last year, Jets fans started a petition to fire GM John Idzik. Can they do the same to bring back Mike Westhoff. The Jets special teams stinks, and the most reliable part of it is out for the year. Nick Folk suffered a quad injury and was placed on injured reserve. New York signed Randy Bullock, who was cut by Houston after week three this season. Not ideal.
As for Ryan Quigley, just please punt the ball out of bounds. Teams get an automatic 15 yards on every return.
The Rex effect
Obviously, former Jets coach Rex Ryan will make his return to the first place he called home. He’s stirring up the fan base by naming IK Enkempali a captain for the game while taking shots at some of his former players.
Rex is who he is. He’s going to talk a big game, and then probably burn both of his challenges in the second quarter. The response to him is probably going to be very negative. With that being said, he brought two great years to this franchise and rejuvenated a fan base who needed him. I’ll always choose to mostly remember the positive with him.