Welcome to Trends to Track, a weekly look at some of the developing trends shown by the upcoming opponent and/or the Jets. Here we intrepidly or foolishly go where smarter people fear to tread and try to establish some trends which might influence the outcome of Sunday's game. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list, or even necessarily the most important trends and matchups to focus on. Rather, it is a highly idiosyncratic look at trends which caught my eye this week and might prove interesting in Sunday's game. Please feel free to supplement this article with any trends you've noticed. Now, let's get to it.
Bringing The Heat
Stopping The Run
The Bills have a great pass rush, making it difficult for opposing quarterbacks. Unfortunately for the Jets, they have an even better run defense. The Bills defense leads the NFL in rushing yards per attempt, allowing a stingy 3.2 yards per attempt on the year. Only one team has gone over 90 yards rushing against the Bills this season, the Minnesota Vikings. This Bills defense held Arian Foster below 10 yards rushing, held Stevan Ridley below 30, held Reggie Bush below 20. This Bills defense is really, really good at stopping the run. The Jets are really, really bad at winning when the running game doesn't exceed 100 yards. Unless the Jets can match Jerrick Mckinnon and the Vikings' success against the Bills on the ground, it will be extremely difficult to win Sunday's game.
Playing Take Away
The Bills are currently tied for 3rd in the NFL in interceptions with eight, and tied for 5th in the NFL in generating turnovers with 12. The Bills have generated multiple turnovers in five of the seven games they've played, failing to do so only against two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL at protecting the ball, Phillip Rivers and Tom Brady. The Jets have turned the ball over multiple times in five out of their seven games. The Jets did not turn the ball over last week against the Patriots, the first game this year the Jets went without a turnover. The Jets have gone back to back games without a turnover only once since Geno Smith took the reins at quarterback, the last two games of the 2013 season. This does not bode well for the Jets on Sunday. A team that turns the ball over at an alarming rate against one of the best teams in the NFL at generating turnovers is not an ideal matchup.
A couple of years back Chris Hogan, a big (6'2", 220), strong (28 reps@ 225), fast (4.47 40) wide receiver for the Bills, was an undrafted free agent trying to catch on in the Miami Dolphins camp. The Dolphins were on Hard Knocks that season, and in one of the episodes Hogan was prominently featured. Hogan was an all conference lacrosse player for Penn State in college, then transferred to tiny Monmouth University in NJ (of Miles Austin fame) and played mostly cornerback and a little wide receiver for a year. Consequently he had virtually no college football resume when he graduated in 2011. He nevertheless was signed by the 49ers in 2011 as an UDFA, but did not make the team. He was in the Dolphins camp in 2012 trying to make it as a long shot wide receiver. Reggie Bush dubbed him "7-11″, because apparently he was open all day. Bush kept telling his coach "just get it to #81, coach, just get it to 7-11, 'cause he's always open". Hogan failed to make the final cut for the Dolphins that year and eventually latched on with the Bills. He waited patiently for his chance with the Bills, and in the last couple of games he's finally getting his shot. Chris Hogan in his entire NFL career has 22 catches for 245 yards and a touchdown. Ten of those 22 catches, 135 of those yards, and the lone touchdown have all come in the last two weeks. Hogan is not a superstar; indeed he's barely played. But he knows how to get open and move the chains and he has really good physical tools. Since Kyle Orton took over at quarterback three weeks ago Hogan has become something of a security blanket for Orton. With the Bills' offense relying on the backs for a good portion of the passing game, and with both lead backs Spiller and Jackson sidelined by injuries last game, don't be surprised if Hogan takes up a good portion of the slack. Hogan is a name few but hardcore NFL junkies have ever heard of. If the Jets spend too much of their defensive capital trying to stop star wide receiver Sammy Watkins on Sunday, Hogan may wind up one player we have heard too much of, as in "Hogan is open again, and catches yet another ball for a first down."
On paper this Sunday's game against the Bills presents a lot of challenges. The league's most prolific sack producing defensive line against a mediocre Jets pass protecting offensive line does not bode well. All that pressure against one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL in dealing with pressure does not bode well. One of the league's top turnover producing defenses against an offense that turns the ball over constantly does not bode well. The league's best run defense against a team that must run the ball to have any chance of winning does not bode well. The trends do not favor the Jets in this game. Here's to bucking trends.