As long as the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills have existed, they have occupied the same division. First they were rivals in the AFL Eastern Division. Since 1970, they have competed in the AFC East. The rivalry has overtones in the fault lines of New York State. The downstate and upstate regions have deep divisions politically, culturally, and economically. There is a level of distrust between residents of the two regions. The Bills are not the team of everybody in the upstate region, and the Jets surely are not the only team that claims the hearts of people in New York, its suburbs, and Long Island, but the rivalry is enhanced by these divisions to at least some extent. Since 1984, the Jets have played their home games in New Jersey, which has led some to claim the Bills are New York's only team so there is an element of this in the rivalry.
Some memorable moments:
1973: In the final game of the season, Bills running back O.J. Simpson both breaks Jim Brown's single season rushing record and becomes the first back in NFL history to run for 2,000 yards in a season in a 34-6 Buffalo rout of the Jets at Shea Stadium.
1981: In the only Playoff game between the two teams, Buffalo jumps out to a 24-0 lead in the second quarter before a furious Jets rally cuts the deficit to 31-27. Going for the win, Richard Todd was intercepted on the 2 yard line with under 10 seconds to play to seal the victory for the Bills.
1993: With the Jets needing a win to clinch a Playoff spot, kicker Cary Blanchard misses three field goals, including one with 42 seconds left, in a 16-14 Bills victory. The Jets ended up missing the postseason by a single game.
1998: The Jets grind out a 17-10 win in Orchard Park Week 16 to clinch their first ever AFC East title.
2002: The Jets win a wild opener in Orchard Park by a 37-31 overtime score. The game was decided on the opening kickoff of the extra period. Chad Morton returned it for a touchdown, his second kick return for a touchdown of the day, after Drew Bledsoe engineered a game-tying touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter to tie the score in his Bills debut.
2008: The Jets beat the 5-2 Bills 26-17 in Orchard Park, helping to send the then first place Bills into a spiral during which they would close the season out with two wins in their final eight games. This included a 31-27 loss to the Jets Week 15. Trying to run out the clock late in the fourth quarter with Buffalo up 27-24, J.P. Losman is strip sacked from the blind side by Abram Elam. Shaun Ellis returns the fumble 11 yards for a touchdown.
2009: Despite rushing for 318 yards in the game, the Jets lose to the Bills 16-13 in overtime mainly due to two killer penalties in the extra period and five Mark Sanchez interceptions. Later in the year, the Jets get revenge by beating the Bills 19-13 in Toronto. GGN helps the NFL promote travel to the game by informing readers this would be one of only two chances to see an NFL game in person outside the United States that year. Amazingly enough, the NFL has yet to ask for GGN's help since.
2011: In a game similar to the 2008 contest, the Jets beat the Bills in Orchard Park by a 27-11 score. The game was not as close as the score indicated. The Jets totally dominated. Both teams entered the game 4-3. The Bills went into a downward spiral again after this game and finished 6-10.
The rivalry in focus:
Even though these teams are in their sixth decade of competing in the same division, this rivalry lacks heat. Jets fans don't have much animosity towards the Bills. he level of hatred is nothing approaching what the fans feel for the Patriots, Dolphins, and Giants. There seems to be some level of hostility for the Jets from the Buffalo side, but it does not on the surface approach the degree of distaste Buffalo fans feel for other teams. There is a good reason for that. These teams have never been good at the same time for any extended stretch.
The Bills dominated the AFL in the mid-1960's. The Jets were an afterthought. A few years later when the Namath Era launched, the Bills had fallen back to earth. In the Sack Exchange days of the 1980's, the Bills weren't very good. A few years later when Jim Kelly took the Bills to contender status and eventually four straight Super Bowls, the Jets were down. In the 2000's when the Jets achieved moderate success, the Bills were one of the least successful teams in the league. The games where something meaningful has been on the line for both squads have been few and far between. In the fifty plus years these two teams have competed with each other, only four seasons have ended with both teams sporting a winning record.
At some point, I see this rivalry increasing in intensity. These clubs play each other twice each season. There are the upstate-downstate dynamics. It is only a matter of time before the Jets and Bills are both good at the same time for some stretch and start playing big games against each other. Meaningful contests against a team you see frequently breeds contempt. The hatred will start flowing.