Any scenario involving the Bills breaking their 15 year playoff drought begins tonight with a win in East Rutherford, New Jersey. This will be a homecoming for Rex Ryan and the biggest test of his progression thus far as head coach. The stakes couldn't be any higher facing off against his former team. A victory puts the Bills at 5-4 and gives them an edge in a potential tiebreaking scenario that could be a huge factor when they face the Jets again in Week 17. A loss does the opposite and forces Buffalo to win at least 5 of their last 7 games to keep even a mathematical hope alive for the playoffs. Not to mention it would be a blow to the psyche of a coach and team that has yet to find consistency 10 weeks into this season.
While last week's game against the Dolphins was enjoyable, it didn't exactly leave anyone brimming with confidence. The offense put together their best game of the season, but the defense allowed Ryan Tannehill (who botched a snap for a safety for the second straight week) to throw over 300 yards while also giving up 100 yards on the ground. Lord knows we'll take a win every way we can get it, but the team faces much stiffer competition this week against the New York Jets. Their running game has been lacking lately, but Ryan Fitzpatrick is arguably a better quarterback than Tannehill and Brandon Marshall is indisputably one of the best wide receivers the Bills will face this season. If the defense continues to give quarterbacks enough time to read a book and find an open man, there is no season-scenario involving a trip to the playoffs.
Of course, none of the above is what anyone's talking about this week. All anyone can talk about is Rex Ryan. And that is totally by his design. While fans of any team he coaches for will have to put up with bad flags and questionable strategies, we don't lack for entertainment along the way. This week has been no different. From wearing a Clemson helmet to a Q&A to naming IK"Oed Geno's Jaw" Enemkpali a captain, Rex is doing everything in his power to take the weight of this game and put it all on himself. And that's exactly why guys like playing for him. The players know if they win, he'll let them steal the headlines for the rest of this week. If they lose, he'll keep all of the blame on his shoulders. It might not always be effective, but at least it's fun.
1) Playoff Potential
Oh God. Why did I even say that? I mean, if they win this game, they're totally in the mix for a wild card spot. But we're terrible in primetime. Pretty much always. And there's tons of pressure and the Bills haven't won four in a row against the Jets since '95-96 but we won the last 3 and Joe says Rex has Fitz's number and PLEASE, PLEASE JUST WIN SO WE DON'T HAVE TO TALK ABOUT DRAFT POSITION FOR THE NEXT SIX MONTHS!
2) Chris Ivory
The shock & awe at Chris Ivory’s decline is simply hilarious to me. Running backs don’t suddenly become amazing late in their careers. They either have it or they don’t. Maybe they improve with a better offensive line or a quarterback who takes some of the pressure off, but you never hear about a running back making the jump to elite status in his 6th season. (Exception that proves the rule: Any washed-up running back that Bill Belichick hires.)
And yet, to hear the Jets tell it, this is exactly what happened to Chris Ivory this season. Which is the same move your friend tried to pull in fantasy football earlier this year when he tried to sell you on a trade that revolved around Mr. Ivory. I hope you didn’t fall for it, because the rest of the league didn’t either.
His three biggest games this year were against the Browns, Redskins, and Dolphins (literally the day before they fired Joe Philbin). In his last 3 games? Ivory is averaging 1.5 yards a carry. ONE AND A HALF!! Simply incredible. And it’s not that he’s not getting chances. They’ve handed the ball to him 55 times over those three games.
Please keep giving him the ball, Chan. Please.
3) Taylor to Watkins
The better these two work together, the more it opens up opportunities for the running attack. In my eyes, it's no coincidence that their best game of the season coincided with huge games for both LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams. Clearly it's symbiotic situation, but without a deep threat, there's little chance either back would stand much of a chance against this Jets defense.
THREE THINGS TO BE TERRIFIED OF:
1) Revis Island
Of course, the above excitement could be tampered this week by the black hole that is Darrelle Revis. It's funny to me that people are talking about how he's lost a step. I'll take a slightly slower Revis over pretty much any cornerback in the league. Watkins is undoubtedly a superstar-level talent, but Revis has been smothering elite receivers since the day he entered the league. Also, he's got a Super Bowl ring. So I'm not expecting another 150+ yards from Sammy this week. (Last year in his first game against Revis, Watkins had 2 catches for 27 yards. Yikes.)
If there's anyone who understands this, it should be his former coach Rex Ryan. Rex even had the displeasure of scheming against him last season when he played for the Patriots, so hopefully he can give Greg Roman some nugget of wisdom that gets Watkins room to breath. The dropoff after Revis in the secondary is considerable, so other guys like Clay, McCoy, and Woods should get a few chances to make plays. But as I said, without a deep threat, moving the ball will be much harder for all involved.
2) Offensive Line
3) Brandon Marshall
Yes, Ryan Fitzpatrick has struggled against Rex Ryan defenses in the past. But he's also never had a receiver who can do this...
Let me guess. You just said "Kenny Who?" Exactly.
WHY YOU SHOULD HATE THEM:
Full disclosure... I don't really hate the Jets. Not now. Not ever. What have they ever really done for me to hate them? They've got Joe Namath wagging his finger and then 40-some years of bouncing between abjectly terrible and moderately watchable. Their best quarterback of this century was Mark Sanchez. Ryan Fitzpatrick is their current quarterback because their awful first round pick, Geno Smith got his jaw broken over a friggin' plane ticket. As I said when we faced the Bengals a few weeks back, a team has to actually do something for me to work up the energy to hate them. And the LOLJets have done nothing. If anything, they've been mildly entertaining to follow.
But fuck Fireman Ed. God, was he awful. I never understood the appeal of this egomaniac leading an infantile chant to rile up fellow fans who he then bitched about on his way to "retirement" (see: not being able to afford tickets). Stay gone. Forever. Please.
DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH & FUGAZIS
@Tha_Scizz – Who else digs in the mine and pulls out Garrett Celek as a diamond when he goes and scores 2 TDs?!? I’m real excited about this Jets/Bills special edition and good looks on the continued love. Keeping it brief because we’re enemies this week in a battle for AFC Wild Card relevancy. Let’s go.
Diamond 1 – Shane Vereen. When he was with the Patriots, certain games were known as “Vereen” games where they would pass more. This could not be more applicable for Shane and the Giants than against his former team on an offense that will have to rely on Eli to keep up. The Giants backfield is Muddier Waters than the Daily Fantasy laws or Redman’s album (that’s the entire album, you’re welcome), but the one thing that IS defined is that Vereen will get passing down work and targets. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a little extra designed for him in a “revenge” game, and the Pats love to give up those garbage time points – they count just the same.
7 Rec, 90+ Combined Yards, TD
Diamond 2 – James Starks. All signs point to this being the get-right game for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Two straight road losses at Denver and Carolina (who are a combined 15-1) don’t mean the Packers aren’t a great offense and Super Bowl contender. The only thing that’s actually concerning is Eddie Lacy turning into all time Fugazi Trend Richardson 2.0. In the midst of this, James Starks has looked good and has stand-alone value as more than just a Lacy handcuff. Good things will happen when you’re on the field with ARod putting up 40, which will happen Sunday against the Lions charity – the word defense is too stout.
120+ Combined Yards, 2TDs
Fugazi 1 – Marcus Mariota. Listen, I ride with the Ducks and think Mariota will be a good NFL Quarterback. But he still is coming off an injury and just did his latest damage against Rob Ryan and the Saints defense that is near the bottom of the league in any measure. This narrative of rallying around a new coach worked a bit in Miami, and Malarkey is 1-0 in Tennessee, but I expect Marcus to come back to Earth against a Red Hot Carolina defense. The rookie has nobody who can beat ascending corner Josh Norman, and the running game is literally between Antonio Andrews and David Cobb coming off I.R. Bad spot for the Titans offense, Fuggettoboughttit.
<230 Passing Yards, 2 INTs
Fugazi 2 – Charcandrick West. The undrafted rookie out of Abiline Christian (Big Shout to the Wildcats of the Southland Conference) has gotten over 20 carries each of the last two weeks and looked good, but that was against the aforementioned Detroit charity. Andy Reid had time on the bye to use his Punk, Pass and Kick skills to scheme weird random shit for D’Anthony Thomas against Denver in this division matchup – not the Sharknado (let it play for the trailer to Sharknado 2 – seriously). We know the Broncos defense is the best in the league straight up and West will go south.
<70 Rush Yards, 0 TD
FUN FACT: The last time the Bills won a fourth straight game against the Jets, Frank Reich was wearing white & green and TODD COLLINS threw a touchdown pass to... wait for it... Steve Tasker.
It's time to break that streak...
Bills 27, Jets 21
YEAH I ALWAYS PICK BUFFALO TO WIN! IT'S CALLED FUN! TRY SOME!