The 5-3 New York Jets host the 4-4 Buffalo Bills on Thursday Night Football in a critical AFC East game. Let’s quickly review how the Jets can potentially take advantage of this match-up on both sides of the ball…
The Glass Half Full – The Bills have been inconsistent stopping the run and will be without Kyle Williams, while the Jets will get Nick Mangold back. Ryan Fitzpatrick gets rid of the ball quickly, which should help negate some of Buffalo’s blitzes. The Bills don’t have a slot corner who can match-up with Eric Decker. Darrelle Revis is the best possible answer to Sammy Watkins. Rex Ryan is 2-18 in his last 20 games the week after a win. There is a reasonable chance Rex is already looking ahead to the Patriots next week.The Glass Half Empty – The Jets are a banged up mess in the secondary right now. Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy’s speed will cause issues for the linebackers. Brian Winters is starting, which is not optimal against the Bills defensive line. The Jets running game has been non-existent the past three weeks and they aren’t built to be one dimensional. Fitzpatrick has struggled against Rex Ryan defenses in years past and so has Chan Gailey.
Offense – The Jets need to target Nickell Robey frequently, particularly if he ever finds himself matched up with Eric Decker or Brandon Marshall in the slot. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s strength this year has been regularly getting rid of the ball quickly. I’d expect a high amount of quick slants, hitches and screens to both the receivers and running backs tonight. The best way to beat a Rex Ryan defense is to play uptempo so he can’t make substitutions, use a quick release passing attack and go after the middle of the field with your slot receivers or tight ends.
Everything above will be easier if the Jets can field a respectable run game. Look for Chan Gailey to go back to more spread looks to get Chris Ivory in space. The Bills have been inconsistent against the run and getting Fitzpatrick in 2nd and manageable will be critical. This feels like a high volume target game for Decker and I’m curious to see if the Jets take a few shots down the seam to Kenbrell Thompkins from the H-Back position if they can get him matched up on a linebacker. Similar to last week, even if the run game is slow the Jets must stick with it to keep the defense honest.
Defense – Everything begins and ends with stopping the run. Greg Roman’s offense does not function without a productive rushing attack that is keeping everything on schedule. If the Jets can repeatedly force 2nd and long or 3rd and long, they will be in good shape particularly since they have Darrelle Revis to match up on Sammy Watkins.Three other major focus areas need to be keeping Tyrod Taylor in the pocket and wrapping him up when they have the opportunity. Second, they have to track both LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams as pass catching options out of the backfield. The wheel route is coming and probably coming more than once. Finally, Charles Clay is a difficult player to cover in the middle of the field. It will predominantly be on Marcus Gilchrist to slow him down. If the Bills are going to beat you, let them beat you with Taylor throwing from the pocket to Robert Woods and Chris Hogan.
Overall – This is going to be a close, defensive centric game. Can the Jets out rush Buffalo? Can they win the turnover battle? If the answer to both those questions is yes, they are looking at 6-3 and a friendly path to a wild card spot.