When the Jets and Bills met for the first time this season in Week 9, the game featured two teams with winning records battling for position atop the AFC East. Three weeks later, both sit at 5-5 and both are in dire need of a win.
The Bills come into MetLife Stadium riding a three-game losing streak in which they have been outscored, 106-26. A year that had started so promisingly has taken an abrupt turn for the worse, and Buffalo is left scrambling to save its season. The Jets are also looking to stop the bleeding after consecutive losses have dropped them to .500 and in danger of missing the playoffs.
“It’s always a tough game between us and the Bills,” said CB Darrelle Revis. “We’re familiar with them, they’re familiar with us, and we know they’re going to bring it. It’s a must-win for them, too. Both teams know what’s at stake this Sunday.”
After shoring up early-season defensive woes, the Jets have settled in and are playing their traditionally stout defense. A masterful performance in Denver was marred by the late-game 95-yard touchdown drive led by QB Tim Tebow. Nonetheless, the Green & White think they learned something about themselves – and the Bills – after that clinic earlier this month in Orchard Park, N.Y.
“If you can disrupt the short passing game and defend the run, you can stop them,” said Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. “I think that’s the blueprint that we kind of laid out. If you watch, there have been a lot of similar elements of our game plan against them in the last couple of games.”
Coming into the Week 9 tilt, the Bills had averaged 380 yards of total offense per game. The Jets defense mauled Buffalo, holding them to 287 yards of total offense. The Bills possessed the football for only 22:08, easily their lowest possession time of the season.
“If you have the ability to match them 1-on-1, get in the passing lanes early and get decent pressure on the quarterback, that helps,” said Pettine. “We have the challenge of how much do we stay the same, knowing they’ll adjust.”
The Bills will have to adjust without the NFL’s third-leading rusher, RB Fred Jackson, who fractured his fibula in their 35-8 loss in Miami on Sunday. He was ruled out of this week’s game on Wednesday, then placed on season-ending IR shortly thereafter.
Jackson will be replaced by C.J. Spiller, the multithreat second-year speedster. Drafted as a running back out of Clemson in 2010, Spiller has seen an increased workload as a wide receiver since Jackson tightened his stranglehold on the tailback position.
“We have to make some adjustments in our matchups because you are essentially taking a player with wide receiver ability and putting him in the backfield, so you can’t really play him the same way,” said Pettine. “That’s the one advantage he gives them is that he’s both.”
Despite the Pro Bowl-type season Jackson was enjoying prior to his injury, Pettine sees the Bills as a more dynamic passing attack than a damaging rushing squad.
“I think their run game is fairly straightforward,” said Pettine. “I would say the pass game has some complexity to it. They can throw out of two-backs, they can throw out of one-back. It’s a lot more empty backfield than most teams. They have a lot of routes that are very complementary to each other, that are all predicated on what coverage you’re in.”
The win at Ralph Wilson Stadium was one of the best games the Green & White have played all season. Both sides of the ball stepped up to earn the road victory at a critical juncture in the season. Now at another crossroads, the Jets need to duplicate that effort at MetLife Stadium.
The defense is playing well, but has not lived up to the “elite” moniker the coaching staff wishes to apply to its squad. According to Pettine, there is a hurdle in the way.
“We’re close, but if we want to be elite, it’s the closing-games part of it. The inconsistency has led us to where we’re a good enough defense to be 5-5. You are what your record says you are. We’ve had opportunities to close out some games and we haven’t been able to do it.”
Rex Ryan at today’s news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center laid out his 16-player injury report, with only two players listed as questionable and the rest as probable for the Bills.
The two questionable players are important pieces to the Jets’ offensive puzzle, though — RB LaDainian Tomlinson and WR Jeremy Kerley.
“With LT, I never know if I should put him questionable or doubtful,” Ryan said. “He’s in that range. He’s probably right in the middle there. I think he’d play, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll go,” but what are we going to get? What’s going to happen to him if we play him? That’s a balancing act. We absolutely have to win, but we have to win the rest of ‘em, too.”
Kerley seemed a little closer to returning to action, although he did not participate in today’s shorter practice either. Ryan called his rookie WR a “gametime decision.”
LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson (ankle) was added to the Jets’ list but he practiced full and is listed as probable. Click here for the Jets’ complete injury report for the game.
The Bills are listing six players as out for the Jets, including three that they’ve placed on IR this week — Jackson, WR Donald Jones (ankle) and CB Terrence McGee — plus S George Wilson (neck), WR Naaman Roosevelt (shoulder) and K Rian Lindell. Dave Rayner has been kicking for the Bills since Lindell hurt the shoulder trying to tackle Joe McKnight on his long kickoff return to start the second half at Buffalo three games ago.
Probables after full practices today in Western New York are WRs Stevie Johnson (shoulder) and David Nelson (illness) and T Demetrius Bell (shoulder).
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Darrelle Revis, Jeremy Kerley, LaDainian Tomlinson, MetLife Stadium, Mike Pettine
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