Here are today’s first-half tweets for the Jets-Bills game at Ralph Wilson Stadium, in case you missed them on Twitter. Follow Bob Wischusen, Eric Allen and me for our tweets during each Jets game on https://twitter.com/nyjets.
#RL Jets gameday captains: G Brandon Moore, DT Mike DeVito, T D’Brickashaw Ferguson, WR Jordan White, CB Darrin Walls
#RL Shonn Greene has 17 yards on 3 carries, has reached 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight season.
#RL Nick Folk 47-yd FG is good. Folk now 19-for-24 on season, 11-for-13 career vs BUF. Jets lead 3-0…
#RL Jets have 2 TDs, 2 FGs on 16 opening drives this season.
#EA Entering Week 17, teams averaged 5.1 a carry on the Bills D. Jets ran 9 times on that 1st drive for 42 yards — a 4.7 average.
#RL Jets lead the NFL with 27 inside-the-20 kickoffs but ex-Jet Brad Smith doesn’t cooperate, going 27 yds on KO return to BUF 31.
#RL With BUF punt, Jets opponents have gone their last 6 opening drives w/o scoring a point. (4 TDs, 2 FGs on 16 opening drives overall.)
#RL LB Bryan Scott nabs Mark Sanchez pass, goes 20 yds for BUF TD. 2nd INT-return TD vs. Sanchez this season, 7th in his career.
#RL Lex Hilliard’s first catch in 6 games goes for 7 yds on 3rd-and-7 for 1st down at BUF 44 as 1st qtr comes to an end.
#EA Giveaways have been a problem the entire season. The Jets now have 36 and that was the 19th INT.
#RL Nick Folk 2-for-2 on FGs today, although his 23-yarder just got over the crossbar after tip by Alex Carrington. Folk on year: 20-for-25.
#EA Powell almost equaled a career-long with that 18-yard run. He had a 19-yarder vs. the Cards on Dec. 2.
#EA With 51 yards on the ground, Greene is up to 1,040. He needs only 15 yards to set a career-high (1,054 in 2011).
#RL Bilal Powell 33-yard reception wiped out by Austin Howard hold. So Jeremy Kerley goes 40 yds on third-and-16…
#RL Jets’ longest 3rd-down conversion on a pass play since Mark Sanchez-to-Braylon Edwards for 34 yds on 3rd-and-21 @ MIA in 2009.
#RL Nick Folk 28-yd FG gives Jets 9-7 lead. Folk’s first 3-FG first half since 2010 Game 5 vs. MIN.
#RL CJ Spiller 66-yd TD catch/run longest reception by opposing RB in road game since Fred Taylor 72 yds w/ Mark Brunell pass @ JAX ’02.
#RL Jets CB Donnie Fletcher has hamstring injury, his return to this game is questionable.
#RL Jets hold edges in yards (204-132), 1st downs (13-4), possession (23:04-6:46) but Bills have 14-9 halftime lead.
#RL Jets’ 23:14 first-half possession time is their most in 1st half since 2009 “Win and We’re In” Game 16 vs CIN (24:50).
Tags: Austin Howard, Bilal Powell, Brandon Moore, Braylon Edwards, Buffalo Bills, C.J. Spiller, Mark Sanchez, Nick Folk, Ralph Wilson Stadium, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Shonn Greene
Posted in Randy Lange | 152 Comments »
Here are today’s pregame tweets for the Jets-Bills game at Ralph Wilson Stadium, in case you missed them on Twitter. Follow Bob Wischusen, Eric Allen and me for our tweets during each Jets game on https://twitter.com/nyjets.
#RL Weather for Jets-Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium today: ptly cloudy, temps in high 20s (wind chill around 9°), winds gusting to 20 mph.
#RL Jets 50-54 all-time vs BUF, 23-28 in western NY. But Jets have won last 6 in rivalry, 8 of last 9, and last 4 on the road.
#RL Mark Sanchez last 6 starts vs BUF: 6-0 record, 77-for-129 passing (59.7%), 941 yds, 11 TDs, 3 INTs, 3 sacks, 101.0 rating.
#RL Ryan Fitzpatrick last 5 starts vs Jets: 0-5 record, 80-for-152 passing (52.6%), 876 yds, 9 TDs, 6 INTs, 9 sacks, 73.2 rating.
#RL Jets’ Shonn Greene needs 11 rush yds to reach 1,000 yds for 2nd straight season, 2 TDs to become 11th Jet w/ 10 rush TDs in season.
#RL BUF’s CJ Spiller in ’12 opener vs NYJ: 14 atts, 169 yds, TD. First Jets opp w/ two 40+ runs in 1 game since Barry Sanders (@ DET ’97).
#RL Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson last 10 games: 5 sacks, 3 forced FUMs, 1 FUM-return TD, 4 PDs, 3 penalties forced, 1 blkd FG.
#RL Rookie DE Quinton Coples (5.5) and Wilkerson (5.0)–former Hargrave MA teammates–are 1-2 for Jets sack leadership.
#RL Jets K Nick Folk: 18-for-23 on FGs this season. Career vs BUF: 10-for-12. @ Ralph Wilson: 7-for-9.
#RL Bills K Rian Lindell: 21-for-22 on FGs this season. Career vs NYJ: 25-for-27 on all FGs, 17-for-17 on FGs from 42 yds/closer.
#RL Jets HC Rex Ryan is 5-0 since ’10 vs BUF HC Chan Gailey. Gailey is 0-6 all-time vs Jets (0-1
#RL NYJ inactives: QB Greg McElroy CB Ellis Lankster LB Bryan Thomas C Caleb Schlauderaff TE Dustin Keller WR Chaz Schilens (6 inactives).
#RL Jets roster at 52 players, including RB John Griffin, signed from practice squad during the week. Griffin is active, will wear No. 21.
#RL BUF inactives: QB Tarvaris Jackson WR Kevin Elliott S Da’Norris Searcy G Keith Williams DT Jay Ross T Chris Scott DE Mark Anderson
#RL CB Donnie Fletcher, LB Ricky Sapp, DT Damon Harrison also active for Jets.
#RL Today’s referee is Terry McAulay. It’s his 11th Jets game as ref since ’01. Jets have won 4 of last 5 he’s officiated in.
#RL Jets wearing white jerseys, white pants for today’s game. Jets in white/white: 2-3 this season (wins vs BUF, STL), 16-12 u/ Rex Ryan.
#RL Jets D has held opponents to 6 conversions on their last 58 3rd downs. (0-for-2 vs NE, 0-15 vs ARZ, 2-16 @ jax, 2-13 @ TEN, vs SD 2-12)
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Mark Sanchez, Muhammad Wilkerson, Nick Folk, Ralph Wilson Stadium, Rex Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Shonn Greene
Posted in Randy Lange | No Comments »
Almost enough time has passed now for Sunday’s Jets-Bills game to be just another season-opener for Aaron Maybin.
“It’s not necessarily over. Something like that ‘s never over,” Maybin told me this afternoon in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center locker room about being cut by the Bills less than 13 months ago. “As a player you never … give me a minute to say this the right way … you never forget the way you felt when a team let you go, when you feel like you had an opportunity taken away from you.”
But let’s not push the revenge angle too hard for Maybin’s third meeting against the team that took him 11th overall in the 2009 draft. It’s not exactly like that.
“Do I hold any contempt or resentment towards that organization? No,” he said, in fact without any seeming contempt or resentment. “They drafted me. A part of the reason my life is what it is right now, they gave me an opportunity to play the game I love at the highest level you can reach in this profession.
“I don’t think I’m ever really going to get over how the whole situation out there transpired because that wasn’t how I wanted it to work out. I wanted things to go well. But it was what it was. Me being in the position I am now with this team, I’m just excited to be blessed enough to still have the opportunity to do what I love on an every-day basis and it’s to go out and compete against the team I started at.”
In other words, no hard feelings, but here comes No. 51 at you again.
That’s kind of how Maybin played the Bills last season. In his first encounter, back up at Ralph Wilson Stadium, which he called home his first two NFL seasons, he pressured Ryan Fitzpatrick into an interception late in the first half and forced LT Andy Levitre into a holding penalty in the fourth quarter.
Then three weeks later at MetLife Stadium, Maybin picked up some of the gold currency of his pass-rushing trade, two sacks of Fitzpatrick to force three-and-outs, plus a half-tackle for loss of C.J. Spiller and a 15-yard penalty on RT Erik Pears for unnecessary roughness.
But Maybin is still mindful of trying to not turn Sunday’s third rematch with the Bills into a personal crusade.
“The games against Buffalo have never been about me. I never wanted myself to be a distraction. I didn’t want the attention to be centered on me just because of the storyline,” he said. “I think that’s doing a disservice to my teammates and my coaching staff because it makes all the work we’ve been putting in, not just for this game but for the start of this season, seem like it’s less important than it really is.”
Maybin remains a dangerous component to the Jets defense, not because of who the opponent is but because of who he is, a guy who wants to make big plays, as a pass-rusher, a punt-rusher or elsewhere, to help his team win and launch them past all the offseason and preseason blah-blah-blah and headlong into the 2012 season.
But as he reminds in case we forgot, “This game is always going to be a game I get charged up for. I don’t think that’s ever going to go away.”
Similar to DT Sione Po‘uha’s self-prognosis earlier in the week, TE Dustin Keller today left no doubt he thinks he’ll be ready to rock and roll vs. Buffalo despite his hamstring. “If everything keeps going the way it’s been going, I’ll be fine for the game,” Keller said today. “It’s getting better.”
Head coach Rex Ryan sounded cautiously optimistic regarding QB Mark Sanchez’s favorite target for the last two seasons combined (averaging 6.7 targets and 3.8 catches a game for the Jets’ 35 games in 2010-11). “Dustin looked decent running yesterday. I don’t think he was ready to play and run 100 percent,” Ryan said. “I’m still hopeful he’ll play against Buffalo. We’ll see.”
Keller was limited in team drills today after not participating Wednesday. S LaRon Landry (heel), who was a full participant Wednesday, did not work in team drills today — as part of a season-long plan to give Landry’s foot one day of no team drills during the week — along with S Eric Smith (hip/knee), who’s not a likely participant Sunday. RB-KR Joe McKnight (hamstring) and LB Nick Bellore (shoulder) were full-go’s today, as was rookie WR Stephen Hill, who was added to the list with a calf situation.
Two changes on the Bills’ short I-list: WR Stevie Johnson (groin) went from limited to not participating, while G Kraig Urbik (low back) reversed that, going from DNP to limited.
Tags: Aaron Maybin, Buffalo Bills, Dustin Keller, Eric Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick
Posted in Randy Lange | 50 Comments »
The Jets defense paid the Bills and then some this afternoon. Faced with the duty of stopping an explosive Buffalo offense, they smothered Freddy, Fitzy and the gang at their house and helped the Jets earn a critical 27-11 divisional road victory in Orchard Park, N.Y.
These Green Monsters registered three takeaways in the Week 9 triumph and made a Bills outfit, a unit that had averaged 34.3 points a game in three games at Ralph Wilson Stadium, appear utterly helpless much of the day. In fact, at one point in the third quarter, the Jets had their three turnovers and the Bills had managed just three first downs.
It all started with a shutout in the first half, keeping the home faithful almost silent. Aaron Maybin, a first-round pick of the Bills in 2009, should have received two assists on a pair of picks. His pressures helped force Ryan Fitzpatrick into two critical second-quarter mistakes. The Harvard product stepped up and never saw OLB Calvin Pace over the middle near midfield. Pace registered his third career interception and the Jets were in business 87 seconds before intermission.
“We showed a certain look and then squeezed back to the inside, and we got the route,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “Great design by Mike Pettine and Bob Sutton on that one, and Calvin did a tremendous job.”
Set up in plus territory at the Bills 39, the visitors failed to capitalize as Nick Folk’s 50-yard field goal attempt sailed right. Undeterred, the Green & White intercepted another Fitzpatrick toss intended for Nelson as David “Hitman” Harris bobbled and then corralled it on the Bills’ side of midfield two plays later.
Mark Sanchez couldn’t handle the ensuing shotgun snap and the ball went right back to the home squad. But this fearsome unit, playing without DT Mike DeVito, held on downs and was the reason the Jets held a 3-0 lead after 30 minutes.
“We had a lot of self-inflicted wounds in the first half, especially on offense,” said S Jim Leonhard, a former Bill. “We moved the ball up and down the field. Defensively we had a good beat on them. They were struggling to get yards.”
In the first half, Fitzpatrick was just 4-of-12 for 24 yards in addition to the two picks. Coverage was stellar throughout and the Jets allowed just 73 yards in the first half while the Bills were on the field for 9:13.
Sione Pouha, playing without his pal DeVito, delivered a crushing blow to Bills Nation early in the third. His pop of Freddy Jackson resulted in a loose ball that Leonhard recovered at the 19. Three plays later, LaDainian Tomlinson scored the game’s first TD and the Jets went up, 13-0.
“It was nice getting that turnover and kind of jump-starting everything,” said Leonhard.
But the lead felt like 30-0 because the explosive Bills were bottled up by the Green Machine. Stevie Johnson’s first reception — a career-long 52-yarder — in the third came against, surprisingly, Darrelle Revis and set up a field goal. The NFL’s most dominant defender blanketed Johnson when the game was tight and Antonio Cromartie made Donald Jones invisible.
“We know how to play here,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “They spread us out to run the ball and they do different things. Our back end did a tremendous job.”
Sanchez and the offense got rolling late and it was blowout city for a second consecutive season in Western New York. Jackson never got on track and was held to 82 yards on his 18 carries while Fitzpatrick had another rough experience against the Rex Ryan/Pettine unit.
It seemed like nobody was ever open when the game was in doubt (Fitzpatrick had a passer rating of 2.8 in the first half) and he finished 15-of-31 for 193 yards. The Bills had the ball for just 22:08 and were 3-of-11 on third down.
With Buffalo down, 20-3, and crawling to get close, Bart Scott and Pace stopped Jackson on fourth-and-1 from the Jets’ 16. It was fitting the Madbacker was in on the stop because the Jets played mad as hell.
“It’s totally attitude,” said Pouha, who led the team with seven tackles and played alongside youngsters Muhammad Wilkerson, Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua and Martin Tevaseu up front. “It’s ‘Jets-itude,’ the way we look at it. Play like a Jet, going out there in attack mode. I think today kind of displayed what Jets football is all about.”
New York’s AFC representative is 5-3 at the season’s midway point and will get another crack at the Patriots next week at MetLife Stadium. The Jets have won three in a row and indeed look like a team ready for another run.
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Calvin Pace, Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Fred Jackson, Rex Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sione Pouha
Posted in Eric Allen | 85 Comments »
The Jets have a pivotal game Sunday in Buffalo and Calvin Pace will discuss the matchup with Jets Nation Friday afternoon at about 12:30 p.m. After the Green & White finish their last full workout of the week, Pace will take questions from fans on newyorkjets.com, twitter.com/nyjets, and facebook.com/Jets.
The Pace chat will be broadcast live simultaneously on newyorkjets.com and Facebook.com/Jets. Pace, who is tied with former Bills LB Aaron Maybin for the team lead with three sacks this season, has racked up three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble in his career against the Bills.
Pace and his teammates will be challenged by a Bills club that is averaging 30.1 points an outing. Buffalo also sports a 4-0 record at home and has averaged 34 points in games played at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
But something has to give because the Jets defense ranks third in the NFL with 16 takeaways and also is limiting opposition quarterbacks to a league-low 60.5 passer rating. The pass rush has been consistent all season, having collected 18 sacks, and Pace and company will attempt to disrupt the red-hot Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Calvin Pace, facebook.com/jets, Fred Jackson, newyorkjets.com, Ryan Fitzpatrick, twitter.com/nyjets
Posted in Eric Allen | 10 Comments »
Updated, 6:33 p.m. ET
Rex Ryan called today’s outdoor session to fully kick off Buffalo Week “a real man’s practice” as the Jets put on their full pads for one of the last times during the week this season and did a little old-fashioned thudding.
“That was a real practice. We had a lot of fundamental periods, getting back to that hitting and tackling,” the Jets head coach said at today’s news conference. “Really, I want to make sure we do a good job of tackling. That’s something that, coming off the bye week, that’s an emphasis.”
It’s not just because tackling is generally a very important defensive skill. The Jets need to stop the Buffalo offense before it gets going.
Fred Jackson has the longest run in the NFL this season — that 80-yard TD scamper 2½ weeks ago against the Giants — the second-most rushing yards (721) and a 5.5-yard average per carry that is the best among the 18 RBs with 100 carries. C.J. Spiller, meanwhile, is coming on with 7.1 yards a carry for his 15 carries. And the Bills’ offense is No. 1 in the league with a whopping 7.1-yard average for each of its 201 first-down plays.
“Tackling? I think it is very important for this game,” DT Sione Pouha said. “Fred’s an effective runner. He’s not just going to get tripped up by a forearm.”
“I always thought Fred was a quality back,” said LB Bart Scott, “and obviously the Bills thought he was a quality back, too, if they got rid of Marshawn Lynch, who I thought was one of the better running backs around. He’s been very underrated. I think now he’s starting to get the credit he deserves. That’s something that comes from winning.”
Ryan and CB Darrelle Revis were among those who like the game plan to try to hold Jackson, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and company and the Bills fans in check.
“We just have to realize where Jackson’s at at all times,” Revis said. “When they’re in the shotgun, he’s back there a lot of the time and runs the ball out of the shotgun. The guys up front, I have trust in them that they’re going to stop the run.”
“Swagger Lost and Regained” was a theme of some reporters today. Ryan believes the Jets are regaining that swaggaliciousness they were noted for the previous two seasons. “I think we’re getting it back. I really don’t think we lost it, but winning these past two games certainly helps,” he said. “The style of play is back to playing New York Jets football, so that’s important.”
More opportunities for Joe McKnight, the NFL’s leading kickoff returner, in the offense? “I think he will” get some more chances, Ryan said. “I think he’s earned it. He’s done a great job even as a receiver. They’re using Spiller a lot as a receiver, too. When you get an explosive athlete, you try to find ways to use him. I could see us using him a little more this week.”
Some are nervous about the Jets’ 0-2 record in the game after the bye week in the Ryan regime, and Rex acknowledged his “history” but also touted the practices this week and the game plan for the Bills. One player who’s not concerned about any bye week “trend” is WR Santonio Holmes, who said: “I think this is the best part of football. Once you get that bye week out of the way, everything pretty much lies in front of you, knowing that you control your own destiny. And I think that’s where we are right now.”
Ryan ran down his list of injured players for the first official report of the week, and it was topped by two who did not practice except with strength coach Bill Hughan on the sidelines — DTs Mike DeVito (knee) and Kenrick Ellis (ankle).
“We’ll see how it progresses” with DeVito,” Ryan said. “I expect him to do more tomorrow. He pushed it quite a bit with Bill. Hopefully he doesn’t have soreness and we’ll get him ready to roll.” Rex’s view on DeVito and Ellis after Thursday’s practice will give a better indication of their availability for Buffalo.
Four other Jets were limited: David Harris (ankle), Nick Mangold (ankle), Isaiah Trufant (hamstring) and Calvin Pace (groin). D-linemen Marcus Dixon (knee) and Ropati Pitoitua (knee) were full-go in team drills.
Buffalo’s injury report has nine players on it. Did Not Practice: G Andy Levitre (shoulder), T Demetrius Bell (shoulder), NT Kyle Williams (foot), RB Johnny White (illness). Limited: T Chris Hairston (ankle), WR Donald Jones (ankle), CB Aaron Williams (chest). Full: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (chest).
Ryan was asked about rookie practice squad WR Scotty McKnight, who was placed on injured reserve. “It was really unfortunate,” the coach said of the Monday practice injury. “He ran a route, broke across the middle, caught a ball, and then went down. I think he has a significant knee injury, an ACL injury. The young man was working hard and I thought was really improving. It was just unfortunate.”
Tags: Bart Scott, Darrelle Revis, Fred Jackson, joe McKnight, Mike DeVito, Rex Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Sione Pouha
Posted in Randy Lange | 2 Comments »
The Jets have a sterling mark at home, but they haven’t tasted a road victory as November commences. And now after a bye week, they have a tough challenge ahead as the Bills lie in wait in Western New York.
“We do have our work cut out for us, but I feel confident,” OLB Calvin Pace said this week. “We’ve been some places that nobody gave us a chance to win and came out with a win.
“The thing to playing on the road, I just look at it like when we’re getting booed or people are talking crazy to me — I just think they’re cheering for us. You just have to take that mindset that if you play well enough, you can eventually make it your home field because the crowd will bow down and you can switch the momentum back to your side.”
The 5-2 Bills, one of the NFL’s early surprises near the midway point, own a 4-0 record at home. They dominated the Washington Redskins by a 23-0 score in Week 8, but that contest was played in Toronto.
“We do have some challenges in front of us, but I think we do a good job of staying in the moment,” said Pace, who is tied for the team lead with three sacks. “This week is about Buffalo. Everything else doesn’t matter if we don’t take care of business this week.”
The Jets will play host to the New England Patriots in Week 10 and then travel to Denver for a Thursday night game against the Broncos to start Week 11. Then the Bills will visit New Jersey in Week 12 for a return matchup.
Chan Gailey’s crew is a confident bunch and the Bills’ offense has been clicking all season. The wagons have circled as the Jets’ next opponent is averaging 30.1 points per game.
“You have to give credit to the players. I think they have bought in what Chan Gailey is trying to do and it’s working,” Pace said. “Fred Jackson has been there for a long time, [Ryan] Fitzpatrick has been there, Stevie Johnson. They have guys who know the system and it’s working for them.”
Fitzpatrick owns a 67.7 completion percentage and has thrown four of his 14 TDs to Johnson. Jackson is putting up MVP-like numbers, having rushed for 721 yards and six TDs and added 353 receiving yards.
“I haven’t had a chance to watch them too often, but I do know Fred Jackson is a hell of a running back who still doesn’t get the credit he deserves. We watched plays today and it seems like everything he was running — screen passes, straight run plays — were like for 20 yards or more,” said Pace. “He is very effective and Fitzpatrick is a good quarterback. He does the right things and you definitely respect his game.”
The Jets have won five of the past six in the series and they’ve won the past three they’ve been visitors. The Bills need this game not only to stay ahead of the Jets in the standings and hold serve at home but to take that next step as an emerging contender. New York’s AFC representatives have steadied themselves after their 2-3 start and now find themselves just one game out of first place behind the Bills and Pats.
“It’s going to be pretty loud. They definitely want to beat us and they probably think it’s overdue. It’s still in New York, so hopefully we’ll have some Jets fans come up and give us some support,” Pace said. “It’s a situation where I think we have to go out there and set the tone and put an end to all that. It’s an environment where if you let them get started, it’s going to be tough, it really is, so we have to go out there and set the tone early.”
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Calvin Pace, Chan Gailey, Fred Jackson, Ryan Fitzpatrick
Posted in Eric Allen | 60 Comments »
“We’ve got to find a way to win our division.”
That was the decree from Jets head coach Rex Ryan more than seven months ago in Indianapolis. That statement kind of got lost that cold day at the annual NFL Combine because Ryan also guaranteed a Super Bowl win in 2011, but the Green & White know their best shot at getting to America’s Heartland in February is to win the AFC East.
The Patriots are two-time defending division champs, finishing 10-6 in 2009 and 14-2 in ’10. After taking three of five contests (including a 28-21 triumph at Foxboro in the AFC Divisional Round last January) against Bill Belichick and the Pats, Ryan issued a challenge to the rest of the league when training camp commenced in August.
“I think we have to find somebody out there to beat New England besides us, and I think that would help,” he said. “Anybody out there that wants to sign up for it? Are you good enough as a team to beat the New England Patriots? Forget about us, are you good enough to go out and beat the New England Patriots? I’m challenging the league.”
The Bills proved good enough to beat the Patriots — at least on Sept. 25 in Orchard Park, N.Y. — as they came from behind for their heartstopping 34-31 win. Last Sunday was an odd day in the division as the Jets would go on to drop a 34-24 decision in Oakland, marking the first time both of the division’s top dogs have lost on the same weekend since Nov. 15, 2009.
While Buffalo’s 3-0 start has been most impressive, it is way too early to make this a three-horse race. Meanwhile, the Dolphins are stuck in last place at 0-3 and they’ve already given themselves little wiggle room if they want to be in contention come December.
Let’s take a spin around the division.
BUFFALO BILLS (3-0)
Offense: 3rd overall (4th rush, 11th pass)
Defense: 26th overall (24th rush, 24th pass)
Reasons for Hope: This offensive explosion has been extraordinary. The Bills are averaging 37.7 points, 431 yards and 155 rushing yards per contest, which ranks first, third and fourth, respectively, in the league. Ryan Fitzpatrick is completing 65 percent of his passes while Fred Jackson is averaging 101 yards per game and 6.4 yards a carry. They have repeatedly spread teams out, helping a line that entered the season a huge question mark, and let Fitzy survey the field, or pounded away with Jackson. Both Stevie Johnson and David Nelson have 20 catches and even Donald Jones is coming off a 100-yard receiving effort. Belief is a funny thing and the Bills just became the first team ever to come back from 18-points-plus deficits to win in consecutive weeks.
Reasons for Concern: The lights are still out for Shawne Merriman because the Bills rank dead last in sacks with two. The team is a plus-5 in the turnover department and the DBs made a quartet of interceptions against Tom Brady, but they are thin at CB as veteran Terrence McGee (hamstring) and rookie CB Aaron Williams (collarbone) are both out with injuries. Can this defense get better because there is probably no way the offense can stay this hot? But you should take the Bills seriously because the upcoming schedule appears manageable.
Next Four Foes: @ CIN, vs. PHI, @ NYG, Bye, vs. WAS (Toronto)
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (2-1)
Offense: 1st overall (13th rush, 1st pass)
Defense: 32nd overall (10th rush, 32nd pass)
Reasons for Hope: Losing early to a division rival, on the road, is commonplace for the Pats. Before they blew the 21-0 lead at Buffalo, the Pats lost in Week 2 to the Jets in both ’09 and ’10. Brady has been tremendous, completing 70 percent of his passes for 1,327 yards with 11 TDs and a 113.8 passer rating. Wes Welker not only has a ridiculous 31 receptions but he’s averaging 14.8 yards a catch and has scored four times. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been phenomenal in his own right, averaging 16.5 yards a reception and scoring five times.
Reasons for Concern: Is it fair to criticize anything offensively? After all, when will Brady toss four interceptions in a game next? Don’t be fooled by the Pats’ solid rush ranking — they don’t scare you on the ground and the lack of balance could be a concern. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and former Jets back Danny Woodhead combined for just 37 yards on 15 carries in the loss to the Bills.
But the primary reason for concern obviously is the defense. Ranked dead last overall, the Pats don’t get consistent pressure and the secondary and linebackers have been torn up in coverage. Devin McCourty, the Rutgers product who had seven interceptions his rookie season, has really struggled. Sure, the Pats played without four defensive regulars — S Patrick Chung, rookie CB Ras-I Dowling and DTs Albert Haynesworth and Mike Wright — in western New York, but there are a ton of question marks. You would expect to see improvement on this side during the year, but have the Pats become the Indianapolis Colts? Fascinating couple of weeks ahead for the Men of Belichick starting on the coast in Oakland and then coming home for the showdown with the Jets.
Next Four Foes: @ OAK, vs. NYJ, vs. DAL, Bye, @ PIT
MIAMI DOLPHINS (0-3)
Offense: 12th overall (7th rush, t-14th pass)
Defense: 30th overall (16 rush, 30th pass)
Reasons for Hope: Rookie back Daniel Thomas, a Kansas State product, is making a strong case to be the Dolphins’ No. 1 running back as his 41 carries, 202 yards and 4.9 average far outpace Reggie Bush’s 27-69-2.6. The Dolphins are seventh in rushing, picking up 129.7 yards a game in their winless start. Wideout Brandon Marshall has been solid with 17 receptions and a 15.4-yard average.
Reasons for Concern: Chad Henne has been sacked 11 times and he’s completing just 56.5 percent of his passes. The offense has moved the ball but has struggled in the red zone and is averaging just 17.7 points per contest (27th in the NFL). Wasn’t this defense supposed to be better? A month ago, Vontae Davis said he and Sean Smith were the best corner tandem in the league, but teams aren’t having difficulty finding holes in the secondary. Many in the media have also questioned whether the Dolphins might make a coaching move and replace Tony Sparano if they lose this week at San Diego.
Next Four Foes: @ SD, Bye, @ NYJ, vs. DEN, @ NYG
Tags: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Reggie Bush, Rex Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Shawne Merriman, Tom Brady, Tony Sparano
Posted in Eric Allen | 21 Comments »
Rex Ryan was right about Joe McKnight getting “a ton of playing time” against Buffalo today at NMS.
The Jets head coach and his staff have decided to rest RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene for the Bills, meaning that fourth-round rookie McKnight will get his first career start and will get the bulk of the carries against the Bills’ 32nd-ranked run defense.
It could be a recipe for a breakout game for McKnight, the former Southern Cal star, taking handoffs at least for the first couple of series from his former USC quarterback, Mark Sanchez. But if he tires or gets dinged up, who carries then? Well, fifth-round rookie John Conner is listed as a fullback but one could see Conner getting some leather time as well. Aside from Tony Richardson, that’s the Jets’ RB depth for today’s game.
Also, starting cornerbacks Darrelle Revis (hamstring) and Antonio Cromartie (groin) will also rest as inactives, meaning that first-rounder Kyle Wilson will be making the sixth start of his rookie season — but only his second as a base-defense CB — and second-year man Marquice Cole will be making his first pro start.
Mark Sanchez is still in line to start at QB for the Jets but is likely to give way early on to Mark Brunell, who then probably will yield in the fourth quarter to Kellen Clemens and perhaps even a cameo role for Brad Smith behind center.
The new corners, backed up by veterans Drew Coleman and just-activated Isaiah Trufant, will be going against a depleted Buffalo WR corps. Steve Johnson is the Bills’ go-to guy and he’s active, but David Nelson and Donald Jones have been declared out with injuries, leaving rookie Naaman Roosevelt and first-year man Paul Hubbard in reserves.
Capping the Jets’ inactive list, safeties Eric Smith (concussion) and James Ihedigbo (knee/ankle) and tackle Damien Woody (knee) have also been IA-ed to get one more week to recover before the Jets return to full-strength mode for their AFC Wild Card Game next week.
This puts several Jets in position for landmark appearances. TE Jeff Cumberland and CB Trufant will be making pro debuts, second-round OL Vladimir Ducasse has played on ST in one game but for all intents and purposes will be making his pro debut, and DT Jarron Gilbert will be making his Jets debut.
For the Bills, the interesting news is that starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is being listed as the third QB due to his knee injury suffered last week vs. New England. That puts the starting job in the hands of Brian Brohm, who started only one other game in his pro career, late last season for the Bills.
Other Buffalo inactives: Jones, T Ed Wang, DT Kellen Heard, G Colin Brown, TE Mike Caussin, WR David Nelson and DE John McCargo.
Besides Brohm and Roosevelt for Nelson, the other starting shakeups for the Bills include Eric Wood for Geoff Hangartner at C, Chad Rinehart for Wood at RG, Erik Pears for Mansfield Wrotto at RT and Leodis McKelvin for Terrence McGee at CB.
And the Opponent in Round 1?
The Jets could know by around 4 o’clock who they’ll be playing in next week’s playoff game. If the Jets lose to the Bills and the Chiefs win at home over Oakland, the sixth-seeded Jets would then be going to Kansas City, Kansas City, here they come, to play the third-seeded Chiefs.
But if the Jets lose while the Chiefs lose, Indianapolis vs. Tennessee would decide whether Indy or KC is the three seed. More on that two graphs down.
And if the Jets win while the Ravens defeat the Bengals and the Steelers lose at Cleveland, all 1 o’clock games, the Jets would get the fifth seed and would play the four seed. And if KC loses, the 3 and the 4 seeds would be decided by Jacksonville at Houston and Indianapolis vs. Tennessee, both 4:15 starts.
If the Colts win, they’d get the 4 and the Jets would then be going back to Lucas Oil Stadium for the third time in a little over a year. If the Colts lose and the Jaguars win, the Jets would then be visiting ALLTEL Stadium as an 11-5 road team playing the AFC South champion Jaguars at 9-7.
There’s also a little wrinkle in the uniforms for today’s game. The Jets are wearing green jerseys and green pants for only the second time this season and the fourth time under Ryan. They won this year’s game in the final minute at New Meadowlands Stadium over the Houston Texans.
And the Bills are adorned in their white jerseys and white pants, with red and blue trim. Rare to get two teams each wearing predominantly one color.
Carl Cheffers is today’s referee. He’s presided at two previous Jets games, both victories for the Green & White — at Tennessee against the then-undefeated Titans in 2008 and at Tampa Bay last season.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Buffalo Bills, Darrelle Revis, joe McKnight, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Shonn Greene
Posted in Randy Lange | 15 Comments »
Monty Python’s Flying Circus often used to open with the phrase “And now for something completely different …” And that also applies to the Bills wideouts that Darrelle Revis and the Jets will see on Sunday at New Meadowlands Stadium.
The WR depth charts for the Bills these days? Steve Johnson and Naaman Roosevelt on one side, David Nelson, Donald Jones and Paul Hubbard on the other.
“It’s a new thing for me as well, and for the secondary,” Revis said after today’s final practice of the week at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “Their whole receiving corps has changed. Usually it’d be Roscoe Parrish, Lee Evans, [Josh] Reed, those type of guys. Now when you look on the film, it’s totally different.”
But Revis is ready to sight-adjust from Evans and Parrish, both of whom are on IR, to Johnson, who leads the Bills with impressive numbers — 77 receptions, 1,001 yards, 10 TDs.
“Steve Johnson, he’s doing a great job,” Revis said. “He’s their go-to guy. They look for him all the time. So I think it’ll be a good matchup.”
For as long as he’s in there. But keep in mind that Revis (hamstring) and fellow CB Antonio Cromartie (groin) were both listed as limited in today’s team drills and questionable for the game. Head coach Rex Ryan said at his New Year’s Eve news conference that there’s a chance both starters could go or both could sit this one out before the playoffs start next weekend.
“There’s a good chance of that,” Ryan said. “If that happens, then the other guys have got to step up and go. There’s a chance, if they’re not feeling well, that it would make sense to have them healthy for the playoffs. We’re not ruling them out, but we’ll see how that goes.”
The Bills, meanwhile, are listing Nelson and Jones as out after both missed the week of team drills. So it may well be a game of attrition when the Jets DBs match up against the Bills WRs. But as Revis said:
“As of right now, I’m playing. It’s up to the coaches and what they want to do, if they want to switch some guys out or not. But I’m taking this week as a regular week and preparing for the Buffalo Bills.”
And their 2010 go-to guy.
Labor Day for Slauson
Right guard Matt Slauson was back at practice and in the locker room and looking only a little scraggly after going through one of the toughest Wednesday-Thursday sessions of his life — helping his wife, Cami, give birth to their first child after a one-day-plus labor.
“It was awesome — the longest day of your life with the best ending,” said Slauson, now a 24-year-old daddy. “The 28 hours was tough but as soon as he was born, it was amazing.”
Cami began labor at 5 a.m. today, delivered Montgomery James Slauson — who will be known as Monte — at 7 a.m., then convinced Matt on a pot of coffee and no sleep that he should go to this morning’s meeting at 8:50.
“Monte’s 7 pounds, 4 ounces and his 40 time is 4.2,” said Slauson. “I didn’t have a chance to see his length but I was told he’s very tall and has enormous feet.”
Does that make him a candidate for the NFL trenches some day just like Pop? “He might be a swimmer,” Matt countered.
Mark Sanchez remains as he was last week at this time — limited at practice but probable for the game and plugged in as the Jets’ starter by Ryan, although the coach said of the possible stint for his second-year QB, “I don’t believe it will be long.”
S James Ihedigbo and T Damien Woody are listed as out for this game. DE Shaun Ellis also didn’t practice, S Eric Smith was limited, and both are doubtful for the Bills. Other questionables besides Revis and Cromartie are NT Sione Pouha and Trevor Pryce.
For the Bills, the QB situation is a little different as Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t practice this week with a knee injury suffered against the Patriots and his availability will be a gametime decision.
“I feel OK,” Fitzpatrick told buffalobills.com today. “I haven’t done a whole lot. I’ve done the walkthroughs this week and a little bit of throwing the ball around. I’ve been hitting the treatment pretty heavy and putting some extra hours in there to do everything we can to get this thing healthy.”
If Fitz can’t go, the Jets will face No. 2 QB Brian Brohm, who would be making his first start of the year and second of his career. Besides Fitzpatrick, Nelson and Jones, G Cordaro Howard was declared out by Bills coach Chan Gailey, while seven other players on the injury report are probable.
Ryan on the possibility of 5’8″, 170-pound CB Isaiah Trufant seeing action Sunday and in the playoffs: “This young man has some talent. His brother [Marcus] obviously has talent in this league. His change of direction, all that kind of stuff, is phenomenal. The thing is, he’s little. He looks like he’s on some high school team but he’s one of the smaller kids on the team. But on the practice field he goes up against Braylon [Edwards], he’s competitive. So we’re still looking. We owe it to our football team to do what it takes. If that means this young man’s up in the playoffs, we’ve got to find out.”
Ryan on Buffalo NT Kyle Williams, a Pro Bowl first alternate: “That guy is one of the best inside players in football. We’ve definitely got to get him blocked. Fortunately we have good guards and centers. But he always plays like his hair’s on fire. He’s not surprised by any blocking patterns, he dominates consistently, and I’m happy he’s getting the recognition.”
Every Little Edge Helps
Ryan continued to insist today that “Shoot, we want to win this game,” even though there’s only a small chance the Jets could get the fifth seed with a win plus four other outcomes on Sunday. But is a victory in your last regular-season game important for getting off to a flying start in the postseason? Yes, actually.
Since the NFL realigned to eight four-team divisions in 2002 and changed its playoff formula for each conference to four division winners and two wild cards, teams that went into their wild-card game off a Week 17 loss were 10-10 (.500) while teams that went in off a victory were 24-20 (.545).
Not much of a difference, but if we include the first-round-bye teams as well, the effect is more pronounced. Teams that lost their last RS game before their first playoff game are 14-20 (.412) and teams that win their last game are 34-28 (.548).
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Buffalo Bills, Darrelle Revis, Isaiah Trufant, Matt Slauson, Rex Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Steve Johnson
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