Thursday Night Football sees an AFC East matchup full of emotion for Rex Ryan, as his Buffalo Bills travel to New York to face the Jets. With the Dolphins falling behind, the winner of this game will be the one chasing the Patriots for the AFC East. Buffalo have been inconsistent this season, both through poor play and injuries. After a bye week following a last-second defeat to the Jaguars at Wembley, the Bills dominated a floundering Miami side. The team has most of its stars back from injury and will be a dangerous team over the next few weeks. Meanwhile the Jets have slumped over the last couple of weeks despite starting the season strongly. They lost to the Raiders in Oakland, which could decide whether the Jets make the post-season for the first time since 2010. Last week the Jets got lucky against a Jaguars team that should’ve beaten them. What better way to get their playoff push on track then against their former head coach?
Three Keys to the Game:
1. Can Buffalo run the ball?
Against Miami’s defensive front, LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams each rushed for over 100 yards. The Bills had 266 total rushing yards against a Dolphins defensive line that includes star run-stuffing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The Jets also have a strong defensive line full of star players, and should make life difficult for Rex Ryan’s ground-and-pound offense. But the Jets have struggled against the run over the past two weeks. They allowed 120 yards to the Raiders, then 98 yards to the Jaguars. With the Bills healthy at running back again, the Jets will struggle to win the battle up front.
2. Can the Jets get Chris Ivory back on track?
New York’s offense was incredibly well balanced throughout the first half of the season. Chris Ivory dominated opposing defenses, averaging _ yards per game until Week _. But over the past two weeks against the Raiders and Jaguars, Ivory has had just 43 yards from 38 carries. Injuries to the offensive line haven’t helped, and Ivory practised this week despite a hamstring injury. The Jets could struggle to get their running game going against the Bills. But the Bills allowed 106 rushing yards in Sunday’s win over Miami. Buffalo won because of their offense, not the defense that was supposed to be even better under Rex. If Ivory can play well through injury and the offensive line is healthy, the Jets have a good chance to win.
3. Can the Bills cover Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker?
With Ivory struggling, the Jets have had to rely on the passing game over the past couple of weeks. Marshall and Decker have been a good receiving tandem this season, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has enjoyed a mini-renaissance in Chan Gailey’s system. The Bills have struggled defensively in recent weeks, allowing 734 passing yards and five touchdowns to just one interception over their last three games. Buffalo are also struggling to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Bills have had just 13 sacks this season, tied for 27th in the league. And against a very good Jets offensive line, they will struggle to trouble Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Matchup to watch:
Sammy Watkins vs Darelle Revis
Watkins exploded in Sunday’s win over Miami with eight catches for 168 yards and a touchdown. Pro Bowl corner Brent Grimes and safety Reshad Jones had no answer for Watkins, who finally showed the talent many expected him to bring to Buffalo. Revis has been the only strong member of New York’s secondary for the past few weeks, due to injuries to his team-mates. Essentially on his own, Revis might be slightly overmatched against Watkins.
Buffalo Bills to win
The Bills may have allowed over 400 total yards to the Dolphins, but only gave up 17 points; none of which were touchdown passes. With Ivory struggling, Buffalo should be able to concentrate on Marshall and Decker, taking away Fitzpatrick’s receivers like they did to A.J. Green against Cincinnati. The Jets don’t have the weapons to cope with Marshall and Decker being covered. Tyrod Taylor and Sammy Watkins could have a big day against a Jets secondary whose only good player right now is Revis. Up front, the Bills should be able to pick up big yards on the ground with McCoy and Williams.