New York Jets (5-6) at Buffalo Bills (4-7)
Thursday, December 3, 2009.
Rogers Centre, Toronto, CA, 8:20 PM – NFLN
The Jets finally got off the skids last week with a 17-6 win over the Panthers. They were able to smother a struggling quarterback, get ahead early, and hide their quarterback from making mistakes. This week, they will try to do the same thing against a Bills team that intercepted Mark Sanchez five times in their first matchup. Buffalo is coming off its most impressive game in a while, a 31-14 victory over Miami. While their playoff hopes are likely over with 7 losses, they would like to keep the good feelings going under new coach Perry Fewell and get out of the AFC East cellar.
When the Jets have the ball…
Just like Carolina, the Buffalo defense can be run against but is pretty stout against the pass. In the first matchup between these two teams, the Jets threw too much, and Sanchez killed them. How else can you explain running for 318 yards as a team and losing? Sanchez was 10-29 for 119 yards and 5 interceptions. It’s safe to say that can’t happen again.
And it’s largely Brian Schottenheimer’s responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen. Rex Ryan took a bigger role in the offense last week, giving Sanchez a system on how aggressive to be on a particular play, a red light - yellow light – green light type of system. If everything goes to plan, Sanchez will rarely get a green light to be too aggressive.
The Bills are dead last in the NFL at stopping the run, so if the Jets do anything other than pound the football, Schottenheimer should be fired. Run, run, and run some more. Give Jones the ball, give Shonn Greene the ball, and only throw the ball sparingly. The Jets have the advantage in the front seven, and they should take advantage of that.
When the Jets do throw the ball, they should be conservative. Take a shot or two deep with Edwards or Cotchery from time to time, but make sure it is deep, and that an interception isn’t that painful with field position. That’s part of the reason that the Jets’ defense held up in the first game: the interceptions didn’t give the Jets that great field position. Dustin Keller should be the recipient of a number of shorter, chains-moving receptions.
The Bills have been good against opposing teams at slowing down passing games, so if the Jets are smart, they run all the time. If Sanchez controls the football, and he’ll probably be extra careful this week, the Jets should be able to run the ball between the twenties and give themselves enough opportunities to score.
When the Bills have the ball…
Ryan Fitzpatrick has outplayed Trent Edwards since taking over the starting job, and Buffalo has actually thrown the football down the field a bit and taken advantage of their strengths more with him at quarterback and Fewell as head coach. An offense with Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, Lee Evans, and Terrell Owens shouldn’t be as bad as it was earlier this year.
One thing Fewell has done is play Fred Jackson more at runningback. He’s been more productive than Lynch when given playing time, and unlike Dick Jauron, he will give him every chance to be a bigtime back. He’s a versatile back who can run inside and outside and also catch the ball, and the Jets will focus on him and Lynch.
The Jets’ secondary has made headlines recently, whether they are lauding Darrelle Revis’s play or wondering what’s wrong with Kerry Rhodes. Revis will likely see a lot of Terrell Owens, and like he has done with good receivers all year, he will shut Owens down. Rhodes won’t start, but he will play more, and he will be a key playmaker, since the Jets may struggle covering Lee Evans with the likes of Drew Coleman.
The Jets’ defense played very well last week against Carolina, and they are allowing just 12.3 points-per-game, excluding touchdowns given up on offense and special teams. They only allowed 16 points to Buffalo in 4.5 quarters with a self-destructin quarterback. Buffalo is playing better, but Fitzpatrick is a JAG quarterback, and the Jets should be able to hold the Bills down enough.
The Jets’ special teams are merely average without Leon Washington returning kicks. Jay Feely is an accurate kicker from close, and Steve Weatherford has been decent. The Bills’ Rian Lindell has a big leg and has hit 85% of his kicks this year, while Brian Moorman is having another fine year. He possesses rare athleticism for a punter, so he could be a threat for a fake at any time. The Bills have had a returner by committee returning kicks. Fred Jackson had been receiving the bulk of the work, but with his expanded role in the offense, he might not be back there anymore.
Both teams played more spirited football a week ago in getting important wins. Something has to give this week, and unless Mark Sanchez gives the game away, it’s probably Buffalo. Playing in Toronto, Canada hurts Buffalo’s home field advantage, and the Jets seem to have finally figured out that they need to pound the football and hide their quarterback to win. The Bills don’t have a ton of firepower offensively with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, but they will probably linger around. In the end, the Jets’ defense should be enough to hold the Bills down and come away with revenge.
Jets 19, Bills 9